Every five years or so, we get a new "Mission: Impossible" movie to prove that Tom Cruise can still carry an action movie. There are always a few things you can count on in these types of spy thrillers: cool technology, elaborate fights and chases, dry humor, unnecessarily dangerous covert missions, twists where it turns out that one character is actually another character wearing a mask, and of course Tom Cruise (now 53) making it all look easy. The films basically consist of some memorable action sequences, some decent jokes and a whole lot of forgettable plot. I don't mean it's easy to forget the plot after the movie, I mean it's easy to lose track of the plot during the movie.
Cruise once again stars as Ethan Hunt, agent of the Impossible Mission Force, a group that accepts missions the CIA won't touch. The IMF was all but eradicated in the last movie, now a CIA bureaucrat (Alec Baldwin) wants them dissolved for good. With Hunt gone rogue and the IMF without an official director after the last movie, he gets his way. Several IMF agents get absorbed into the CIA, including interim director Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and tech guy Benji (Simon Pegg). But it's not long before Hunt resurfaces and pulls Brandt, Benji and longtime ally Luther (Ving Rhames) into an unauthorized mission to stop an evil organization long thought nonexistent.
Hunt is on the trail of the shadowy Syndicate, led by Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), one of the better villains this franchise has had in a while. He makes it a point to antagonize Hunt, who never knows if he's actually hurting the Syndicate, or playing right into their hands. While trying to eliminate the Syndicate, Hunt has to contend with British Intelligence, who are also trying to contain the Syndicate, but in a way that doesn't exactly sit right with him. Specifically, he's constantly crossing paths with an agent named Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) who is undercover in the evil organization. Hunt never knows if she's going to help him, help her own agency or help the Syndicate just so she can get in deeper with them.
These films are known for their perilous action sequences, and this one is no exception. My favorite comes right at the beginning, where Hunt is clinging to the side of a cargo plane as it takes off. I like this sequence for two reasons; one is that I'm afraid of heights, so it's especially thrilling for me, and the other is that it allows the characters to engage in some George Carlin-style "on the plane/in the plane" banter. The one most people seem to be loving is one where Hunt has to infiltrate a giant water tank so he can alter a security system, all without using an oxygen tank. The sequence has some admirably tense moments, but all I kept thinking about how ridiculous it was that Hunt was having to hold his breath. OK, it's established that he can't bring in a metal tank, but someone as resourceful as him (not to mention his team) should be able to come up with something else.
Like the other films in the "Mission: Impossible" franchise, "Rogue Nation" does action and humor right. What it doesn't do right, and what none of the films seem to be able to do right, is pull off its tangled web of a story. Loyalties bounce around so much that it's not interesting anymore when somebody turns. Or when it turns out that somebody's wearing a mask (I was actually able to predict it correctly this time, which should never happen). Or when there's a twist of any kind. By all means see it if you like your typical "Mission: Impossible" movie, but don't expect much of a deviation from the formula.
Two Stars out of Five.
"Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation" is rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity. Its running time is 131 minutes.
Contact Bob Garver at firstname.lastname@example.org.