AM At The Movies: ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’

Above: Tom Cruise stars in 'Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation' (Photo courtesy of Paramount/Viacom Inc)

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg and Rebecca Ferguson
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Run Time: 131 minutes

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

We’re now five films and nearly 20 years into the Mission: Impossible franchise and after the middle installment flagged, 2011’s Ghost Protocol was a massive bounce-back success and the latest offering, Rogue Nation, thankfully follows in its footsteps.

These movies are the cinematic equivalent of Three-Card Monte – you’ve got to figure out when you’re being hustled and who to really keep your eyes on. Like Three-Card Monte, it sounds simple enough – follow the Queen – but as the cards shift and distractions pop up in your periphery (and the man moving the cards cheats), you lose track of where The Red Lady went and next thing you know, you’re sucked in. What you thought would be an easy in-and-out has turned into an extended stay trying to figure out what is happening.

Agents get crossed and double-crossed, masks disguise true identities and everything you think you see may not be what is really happening. Like Three-Card Monte, these films are fun to sit back and watch, provided you’re not the guy getting hustled for $20-a-pop.

And that’s the real takeaway with the latest entry into the Mission: Impossible collection: as long as you know what you’re going to the theatre to see and your expectations aren’t ridiculously high, you’re going to enjoy the two-hours-and-change you spend watching Ethan Hunt & Co. run around trying to solve the latest puzzle and defuse the latest problem.

More than any of the previous films in the series, this one feels like they’ve found the right mix of characters and affords them all the right amount of room to work. Cruise is still the star and always will be the central figure, but Simon Pegg has settled into a strong second position as “computer guy” Benji and serving as the comedic member of the team. Jeremy Renner returns for a second tour of duty as William Brandt, the liaison between the IMF and the government and the more risk averse, less cool version of Cruise’s Ethan Hunt. It’s the right role for him as he’s (a) a better actor than the is action-star and (b) you always need a guy on the team that is believable as the “Let’s think this through; I’m not sure of it all” one that might wuss out at the last minute and it can’t be the computer guy because he’s too obvious a choice.

Ving Rhames, the only other actor besides Cruise to be in all five films, returns as Luther Stickell, who is basically a macho, less funny, more threatening version of Pegg’s computer guy. He’s perfect as a small player in the ensemble though because too much of that familiar Marcellus Wallace baritone and you think it’s about to get medieval up in here.

Rebecca Ferguson is the film’s female lead, following in the footsteps of (in chronological order) Emmanuelle Beart, Thandie Newton, Michelle Monaghan and Paula Patton. She holds up well over the duration, even if she uses the same “climb up your body and put you in a head scissors/triangle choke” move far too many times, and Sean Harris does a fine job as the soft-spoken, “give you the creeps” bad guy.

Like a Mission: Impossible films, Rogue Nation is about the action, including Cruise actually riding on the side of an Airbus as it takes off. When he started doing all these action movies, it was somewhat hard to believe Cruise as a bad ass, but he’s been doing them for so long now, you stop thinking “He couldn’t do that!” and moved on to “He’s Ethan Hunt/Jack Reacher; of course he’d be able to do that” territory. Again, correct expectations and understanding of what you’re getting into.

Here’s the real test of a good action movie for me: I showed up for Sunday night’s final showing, which started at 10:20pm PT and I was engaged throughout. After a busy weekend, a lesser flick would have lost me and my eyes probably would have gotten heavy, but there was no point between the opening action sequence and the credits rolling when I thought, “Are we done yet?”

If you’ve liked the other Mission: Impossible films – save for No. 3 because no one really likes No. 3 – you’ll love it, but even if you haven’t, Rogue Nation is a great action-packed cinematic version of Three-Card Monte that’s worth trying to figure out.

Tags: Tom Cruise

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