This summer, there are few thrills as great as watching Tom Cruise literally leap into action. Whether he’s clinging to the side of a plane in flight, racing through crowded Casablanca streets in pursuit of a dangerous foe, or throwing himself off the catwalks of Vienna’s iconic opera house to thwart an assassination attempt, Cruise is positively breathtaking as Ethan Hunt. And in “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” the megastar has finally found a partner who could carry the franchise’s mantle — if he ever dares to retire.
The fifth installment in the “Mission: Impossible” series has Hunt chasing down an elusive band of terrorists known as The Syndicate. But just when he needs his team most, the IMF is dissolved under order of the CIA. So once more Hunt and his crew must save the day while ducking formerly allied intelligence agencies.
Fans thirsting for action action ACTION will be glad to know that plane stunt teased on trailers, commercials and posters happens in the opening sequence. However, “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” doesn’t let up from there. The script, co-written by director Christopher McQuarrie, includes a mind-boggling heist, worldwide repercussions, threats against a world leader and so many exciting escapes that I actually lost count. And Cruise, who just turned 53, doesn’t miss a step, radiating enthusiasm and charm while pulling off fight choreography with a mastery that reaffirms him as one of the world’s greatest action stars. But the pleasant surprise of “Rogue Nation” is that Ethan Hunt isn’t even its coolest character.
Remember when we all thought “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” was setting up rising ingendude Jeremy Renner to take over the franchise? Well, while Renner is in this movie, he’s relegated to exchanging stern glances and pissing-contest dialogue with Alec Baldwin’s CIA bigwig. Snatching his presumed franchise inheritance is Swedish stunner Rebecca Ferguson, who does so with enviable style and boundless energy strutting in with killer cool heels that she kicks off (take note, “Jurassic World”) for the first of many intoxicating action scenes. As Syndicate operative Ilsa Faust, Ferguson proves a perfect scene partner for Cruise, matching his charm, vibrancy and action prowess blow for blow, shot for shot and barrel roll for barrel roll. Their shared scenes are a violent dance, hypnotic and alarmingly alluring.
Her femme fatale is Hunt’s foil, sharing in his frustrations with government oversight, driven by a desire to change the world. But even when Faust teams up with Hunt and Benji (a warmly goofy Simon Pegg), that wicked smile keeps the audience guessing about which side this agent is really on. And when it comes to the action scenes — which repeatedly have this petite woman taking on bigger, brawnier men in hand-to-hand combat — Ferguson is not only convincing as a lightning-fast fighter, but she actually runs circles around Cruise. And that’s not a dig, because Cruise is still a force of nature as Hunt.
Between the two of them, “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” delivers the kind of setups and payoffs that will have audiences cheering. The only false step the two make is a moment where they leap away from their intense and complicated relationship to have the predictable “run away with me” bit, which feels trite after so much richness and originality.
Nonetheless, “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” is awesome. The editing makes the action scenes electric, although McQuarrie’s pacing gets a big shaggy in its third act. But this is a minor trespass, especially in a movie so wall-to-wall exhilarating. Cruise is phenomenal and fun, Pegg brings welcomed laughs and irreverence, and Ferguson is absolutely outstanding.
While “Mission: Impossible” movies have a habit of ditching “the girl” after one movie (“Ghost Protocol”s token Paula Patton doesn’t even garner a mention in this one), the franchise would be mad to jettison Ilsa. Consider Ferguson launched. And consider “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” a must-see for summer fun.
“Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” opens Friday nationwide.
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