Film review: ‘Rogue Nation’ does the ‘Impossible’

Aug. 1, 2015, 10:29 p.m.

Tom Cruise is back in the fifth installment of the “Mission Impossible” series, showing no signs of slowing (even at 53).

“Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” builds on the immense success of “Ghost Protocol,” combining brains, brawn and technology for the ultimate adrenaline-fueled thrill ride. Though “Rogue Nation” may be the latest in a long line of seemingly unnecessary summer sequels, Christopher McQuarrie’s film succeeds where “Jurassic World” and “Terminator: Genisys” failed, exceeding expectations and easily becoming the best “Mission Impossible” film to date.

Following the closely evaded nuclear apocalypse of “Ghost Protocol,” the IMF is dissolved by CIA Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) for “reckless” behavior, blaming the IMF for the attack on the Kremlin. Hunley commands all operatives to cease missions, but Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) defies orders and continues to follow the trail of a new threat, the Syndicate, a network of highly skilled operatives dedicated to the establishment of a new world order. Naturally, Hunt gathers his team — Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) — and joins forces with Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a disavowed British agent, to take down this emerging terror.

The story is magnificently paced by writers McQuarrie and Drew Pearce (“Iron Man 3”) at just over two hours long. Though the film run is not exactly short, each and every scene is motivated and vital, contributing to the plot. What may seem like a minor, obscure detail is often later revealed to be a significant part in the baffling puzzle.

Tom Cruise proves that he still possesses all the hallmarks of super-stardom. Even after almost two decades, Cruise manages stunts like hanging outside an airplane in flight, and pursuing stolen files in a high speed motorcycle chase across Morocco. Some crows feet aside, he very much possesses all the qualities that made him successful years ago: At 53, Cruise is still slick as an oil spill.

Cruise is also very adept at driving the plot forward — everything he does is eye-popping and never banal, matching the tempo of McQuarrie and Pearce’s script. It’s captivating to see him pull off an extraordinary stunt in one scene, then five minutes later, be involved in a romantic encounter with Ferguson. This amazing versatility ensure the film’s never boring and it’s in movies like this that we’re reminded time and time again why Tom Cruise is one of the most breathtaking actors in Hollywood.

While Cruise is the film’s obvious star, the supporting cast does not disappoint either. The very likeable Pegg adds some much needed humor into the film, including a scene where he’s playing a videogame in the CIA office when he’s supposed to be working. The Anglo-Swedish Ferguson possesses character depth that not even Cruise boasts. While some characters feel relatively shallow, Ferguson is able to deliver on multiple emotional fronts, with constant betrayals and a genuinely mystifying background.

In the end, however, it is the film’s action that makes “Rogue Nation” tick. All the action, from intense brawls to a harrowing escape from a prison, is incredibly effective; everything is visually attractive and the camerawork is impressive, with some of the slow motion shots in scenes like the motorcycle chase adding to the suspense.

The creative ingenuity behind all the technology shows that the series that is constantly able to innovate and think outside the box. Even though the most memorable scenes in “Rogue Nation” are the action segments, the creativity of the technology will also be sure to pique the curiosity of moviegoers with gadgets like a laptop hidden inside a thin, seemingly ordinary pamphlet and a rifle concealed in a flute. These are nice touches that make the film a whole lot more interesting in general, especially when you can’t have action scenes for the entire movie.

All in all, “Rogue Nation” is in the running for one of the best action films of the summer. While that title probably goes to “Mad Max,” Tom Cruise proves that he still has the fire in him to succeed. Everything about this film, including the action and technology, makes the lengthy wait since “Ghost Protocol” very much worth it.

Contact Andrew Choi at andrewyoonchoi ‘at’

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