Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation–Second Best Chapter of Long and Thrilling Franchise

mission_impossible_rogue_nation_posterIt’s a pleasure to report that Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation, the latest chapter in the action-adventure franchise, is the second best film in the series, sharply directed by Christopher McQuarrie, offering the kinds of thrills expected by now from Tom Cruise’s adventures.

Trailers:

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At 53, Cruise (born in July 1962), who originated the role of Ethan Hunt almost two decades ago (19 years, to be exact) is in top form, reaffirming his commitment to his fans of delivering some stunning adrenalin-rush stunts, showing the coolness and devil-may-care that we associate with major action stars (such as Steve McQueen).

Industry early reports point to soft tracking, but such analyses are often inaccurate or downright wrong.  The previous chapter, “Ghost Protocol,” directed by Brad Bird, also had a slow start, but due to strong reviews and positive word-of-mouth, went on to become the series’ highest-grossing entry, grossing $700 million worldwide.

Our Grade: B+ (**** out of *****)

mission_impossible_rogue_nation_1_cruiseIn each installment of this continuously entertaining spectacle, Cruise showcases at least one set-piece that takes your breath away, as you might have seen in the aggressively publicized trailers and extensive promos of the movie.

As writer and director, McQuarrie understands that Cruise’s signature show-stopper is the real McCoy.  The film opens with a shot of Cruise leaping onto the wing of a Russian cargo plane speeding down a Minsk runway, and then rather incredibly clinging by his fingernails onto its side after it takes off.   The jaw-dropping sequence continues when Cruise parachutes out of the aircraft equipped with bombs laced with VX nerve gas. This act tops the striking sight of Cruise hanging from the side of the world’s tallest skyscraper, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa in Mission: Impossible–Ghost Protocol.

mission_impossible_rogue_nation_3_cruiseReteaming with Cruise as Hunt’s fellow agents are Jeremy Renner as William Brandt, Simon Pegg as whiz-kid and comic relief Benji, and Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell.  It’s quickly established that Hunt and his top-secret IMF posse are going through rough times.  The reason: The government, represented by the CIA Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin, in very solid supporting turn), tired of and dissatisfied (to say the least) with his particular take on espionage and style of action and is calling for their retirement.

Following the conventions (clichés by now) of such generic movies, there is always one more–presumably last–mission–precipitated by the rogue terrorist organization, The Syndicate is led by Solomon Lane (Sean Harris, from Prometheus),  who is the heavy of the piece.  It may be relevant to point out that, narrowly conceived, the villain is not a particularly intriguing character (but this is a minor complaint about a movie that offers a lot of pleasures).

On the run from the CIA, Hunt is captured by Lane’s henchmen and rescued from a beating by the beautiful  and mysterious Syndicate femme, Ilsa Faust (Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson, seen to an advantage in Hercules) who quickly slips away from Hunt and hightails it to Casablanca.

Asking whether Ilsa be trusted to work both sides, while Hunt and his crew work their way up the Eurobaddie food chain to Lane and clear their names back in the U.S., is a rhetoric question at this juncture of the franchise’s long and successful history,

This thriller is, as usual, globe-trotting, jumping from Vienna all the way to Casablanca, including such sites as an in-flight military aircraft and underwater depths.  Each chapter makes a point to reaffirm Hunt’s qualities as a movie hero: good at what he does (the best of the best to quote a line from Top Gun, the 1986 picture that made Cruise a mega-star three decades ago), fast on his feet,  fearlessly bold, and above all, loyal to his friends.

And yes, there will be a six chapter.  Mission Impossible is Cruise’s only reliable ticket to stardom (and the bank); in fact, the viability of his career depends on it. Moreover, unlike other studios (Universal, Disney, Marvel), Paramount doesn’t have many franchises.

I began by stating my pleasure in giving the film a most positive review and will end by saying that it’s an even greater plesure to write aboyt Tom Cruise as an actor and star, after a series of scandals in her personal life and bad publicity regarding his involvement in Scientology.

End Note:

The references to the 1943 Oscar winning Casablanca are both explicit and implicit. Ilsa, the film’s femme fatale, is the name of Ingrid Bergman’s character in that cult movie.