With Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames. Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity. 131 minutes.
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION is the summer movie we’ve been waiting for: filled with action, exotic locations, and enough plot twists that you simply can’t check your brain at the door. Reminiscent of the early James Bond movies, it features an international conspiracy that employs modern high-tech but isn’t over-the-top unbelievable, and our group of good guys having to fight against all odds.
At the film’s start, CIA director Hunley (Alec Baldwin) is having the Impossible Mission Force (IMF) shut down. William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) is told that his top priority is to bring in Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), whom Hunley feels is a rogue agent. Hunt and his team, including Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), don’t play by the rules, but they get the job done. Hunt’s problem is that he is on the trail of a mysterious group known as “the Syndicate,” a terrorist organization headed by an ex-British spy (Sean Harris) and operated by former agents from around the world, all of whom are presumed dead.
Indeed, early on we see Ethan captured and ready to be tortured by a rogue agent named Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), but through a series of reversals, Ethan is soon on the run with both the CIA and the Syndicate after him. (And if telling you that Tom Cruise’s character isn’t killed off–at the beginning of a two-hour franchise movie that he’s the star of–is a “spoiler,” then you need to stop reading reviews altogether.)
Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie has the pacing just right as we get one great action/suspense sequence after another with just another down time to catch one’s breath. Indeed, the only moment that seems tired is a car chase through a Moroccan market place with the inevitable barreling-through displays of wares. It gets better. Indeed there’s a sequence at the Vienna State Opera that’s a clear homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much” that has no less than three shooters involved in an assassination plot with Ethan and Benji trying to thwart them. The payoffs work with several face-offs between antagonists that should have audiences cheering. (See? That’s avoiding spoilers.)
In terms of the acting, people do their job well, and the kudos go to Renner, Ferguson, and Harris who get to mix some character work in with the derring-do, not that the others aren’t entertaining as well. Renner, who is often underutilized (as in “The Avengers” movies), plays someone who’s trying to be a “company man” at the CIA while working to get his IMF back in operation. Ferguson similarly is playing both sides of the street and for much of the film we can’t quite be certain which side she’s on. As for Harris, he is utterly creepy as the rogue spymaster in the way of the early Bond villains–evil and brilliant while still retaining credibility.
“Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation” is sheer fun for those looking for action and thrills without having to enter some sort of alternate reality.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.