Friday, July 31, 2015

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation REVIEW

By now, you've seen the ads with Tom Cruise hanging from an airplane. No CGI! He's 53 and still doing his own stunts! They really hammered home this particular scene and you can't blame the marketing team behind this movie, after all, it worked on me. You can sell me on "Tom Cruise is a death-defying psycho" and I will see that movie every time. That's the allure of Tom Cruise. He's impossibly handsome, he still acts like he's 30, he has a highly questionable personal life, yadda yadda Scientology, and he's one of our greatest movie stars. And why is he still doing these "Mission: Impossible" movies, twenty years after making the first one? Because they are the perfect vehicle for him. And five movies in, it honestly feels like this is one of the best movie franchises we have going right now. No bullshit.

What's fun about that "Tom Cruise hanging on the side of an airplane" ad is how it barely touches upon just how entertaining "Rouge Nation" is. That trailer/teaser does exactly what it's supposed to do, it gives you a taste. It's not the money shot of the film, by any means. In fact, that scene takes place in the first five minutes! "Rogue Nation" actually has two (really 2 1/2) more sequences later on in the movie that easily surpass the opening sequence.

The fifth Mission: Impossible really kind of gets to the basics of what this franchise is all about. It's about a team of IMF agents getting themselves into over-the-top situations yet somehow coming out on top. Up until the last half hour, "Rogue Nation" is just that. After the opening, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) finds out that there is a secret, anti-IMF organization that's been wreaking havoc all over the world. The Syndicate. That's the rogue nation the movie's title alludes to.

Lead by former British intelligence agent Solomon Lane, uncovering The Syndicate and tracking down Lane becomes an obsession of Hunt's. This is to the detriment of his crew. The CIA, headed by Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), eventually decides to shut down the IMF as Hunley feels their behavior has lead to too much destruction around the world. Shutting down the IMF may have forced his friends to work more banal jobs (and cause Luther [Ving Rhames] to "retire"), but Ethan Hunt decides to take on The Syndicate anyway, a covert organization the CIA doesn't even believes exists.

So, Hunley orders agents to track down and take in Ethan Hunt, who's now a man without a country. Meanwhile, Hunt's IMF buds decide they need to track him down first before he gets killed, which of course, means they wind up getting involved in Hunt's operation.

Really, all the plot threads don't really matter for the review's sake. But I will give the film credit for being fairly lucid and simple about the plot mechanics of this movie. There's nothing unnecessarily complicated here, in spite the exposition-laden dialogue (which never drags the movie down). The movie unfolds and leads us to a Hitchcockian-action sequence that takes place at an opera. And then later, a more Bond-ian sequence which can only be described as an underwater heist (and it's fucking awesome). That underwater heist leads to a pretty spectacular motorcycle/car chase sequence. And director Christopher McQuarrie does an excellent job of mining something fresh out of this particular chase.

And while the finale fails to live up to such brilliant sequences, the presence of Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust is so welcome that it hardly matters that the finale is kind of a let down. I say "kind of" because the movie's finale does happen to include a knife fight between Faust and an evil Syndicate agent. Yes, a knife fight, people! That's what I'm talking about! I just wish it lasted longer because who doesn't love a good, old-fashioned knife fight?

Everyone seems to legitimately enjoy themselves in this movie. Even the villain, played by Sean Harris, has an ounce of mystery and intrigue about him. For Cruise and Rhames, this is their fifth go-around. Cruise can still find a great balance between being an effective actor during the dramatic dialogue scenes and he shows off some incredible moves during the action scenes (how he lifts himself up that pole while being handcuffed - I just know that's something I'll never be able to do). For Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner this is their third and second (respectively) entries into the franchise. But no, unlike Johnny Depp in the fourth "Pirates" movie, nobody appears to be phoning it in. Everyone's having a blast. And in turn, we the audience wind up having a blast as well. Seriously, "Rogue Nation" rocked. If this is the last great summer blockbuster of the year, I'd be satisfied with that.

Grade: B+

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