In Ethan Hunt, the perfect super-spy at the center of the Impossible Missions Force, Tom Cruise has found his sweet spot. His inhuman intensity works in M:I films (and not, say, Jack Reacher or Knight and Day) because the movies are even more intense than he is, from the overblown score to the crazy set pieces to the genius conceit of handing each entry to a different high-profile director, from Brian De Palma to J.J. Abrams to Brad Bird. Only the second M:I movie, directed by John Woo at his John Wooziest, is a clear strikeout.
Compared to that impressive lineup of directing talent, Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation director Christopher McQuarrie might seem like a step down for the M:I films; the only movie he's delivered in the past decade was the aforementioned Jack Reacher. Still, Rogue Nation stands up to the rest of the M:I series, in terms of pure entertainment value and filmmaking skill.
Rogue Nation nails its commitment to detail. New cast members Alec Baldwin and Sean Harris, for instance, are wonderful in their own way. Rebecca Ferguson, too, has the bearing and the profile (and, if I can get lascivious for a moment, the killer legs) of a classic film ingénue as a double (or triple, or quadruple) agent named Ilsa.
Rogue Nation's plot is similar to most other M:I films — Ethan Hunt is disavowed by the U.S. government yet again, even as he chases down a criminal organization that just needs one more MacGuffin to take over the world. Within 30 minutes of leaving the theater, you won't remember why Hunt and his familiar crew (Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames) had to travel to Havana or Morocco or Minsk in order to advance the plot.
But you can't simply write Rogue Nation off as fun, dumb blockbuster fluff. It's structured around a series of tightly wound action pieces that play out with surgical precision, and Cruise and company are all devoted to selling the hell out of it.
Sure, the movie runs out of breath about three-quarters of the way through and never completely recovers. And maybe McQuarrie's script flirts with a twist too many. But nobody can claim that Rogue Nation didn't give them their money's worth — there's enough intrigue and action to overstuff three of the lackluster summer flicks we've been getting lately. ♦