by Coop Cooper
After thwarting a terrorist plot to hijack deadly VX nerve gas warheads, Impossible Mission Force operative Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) immediately becomes a target when an insidious organization known as ‘The Syndicate’ begins undermining his agency. Meanwhile, in Washington, Agent William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) defends the IMF in Congress from CIA Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) who blames the IMF for causing more mayhem than they prevent and seeks to defund and disband the agency. Operating off the radar, Hunt drags his trusty hacker sidekick Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) into the rogue mission where they run across the double agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) who may have the intel to destroy the Syndicate, or betray them all.
Being the fifth film in the franchise, the “Mission Impossible” movies have become little more than a vehicle for Tom Cruise to pull off ridiculous stunts on camera. The action sequences have become so overblown and unbelievable, they fail to suspend any disbelief. Tom… we get it. You are in amazingly fit shape for a 53 year-old. Is it worth risking your life to hang off the side of an airplane as it takes off just for a silly 20 second shot in yet another “Mission Impossible” movie? Perhaps so if that’s the only way you can upstage your female co-star (more on her in a minute).
While Pegg gets to leave his hacker seat for most of the film – he has to remind people that he is now a ‘field agent’ – he is still relegated to comic relief, for which he is well suited. Renner stays on the sidelines and in offices/hearings for most of the film and Ving Rhames’s character finally shows up around the halfway mark, but doesn’t do much. Alec Baldwin isn’t really a welcome addition, but I guess the suits felt that the film needed a bureaucratic foil, which only really gives Hunt another excuse to go rogue and do things his way, without the meddling of those pesky superiors. The storyline seems to encourage the idea of letting agencies operate without oversight or accountability which almost feels like a politically partisan statement in favor of less transparency in the Federal government, but hey it’s just a movie, right?
Newcomer Rebecca Ferguson doesn’t look like an action star at first glance. Her soft, Shakespearian features hide an intimidating and athletic presence that make her the best part of this film. Sure, she probably had stunt doubles filling in on most of her action shots but she commands the screen so well, she easily takes the attention off of Cruise. In fact, Ferguson is so good and her character is so prominently featured, one could argue she is the true main character of the film. I’ll be watching her career closely.
Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie is responsible for some terrific thrillers. He won an Oscar for his “The Usual Suspects” screenplay. His directorial debut “Way of the Gun” is a personal favorite of mine and he has been the go-to writer for Tom Cruise with the films “Valkyrie”, “Jack Reacher” and the highly underrated “Edge of Tomorrow” (a.k.a. “Live, Die, Repeat”). He has established a niche as both a writer and director but I appreciated his past work more when he was writing original speculative scripts.
I don’t have a lot of love for this series and consider the first “Mission Impossible” film to be one of the worst action movies of the 90’s. They seem to have gone in the opposite direction of the current, gritter James Bond films, favoring ludicrous gadgets and impossible stunts over good storytelling. While I am tired of these films, this one follows the formula to a ‘T’ and is a competent sequel to a venerable franchise. Cruise constantly challenges himself, which I respect, and takes some calculated career risks with very cool projects like “Oblivion” and “Edge of Tomorrow”. However, I’m ready for him to retire Ethan Hunt. According to the Internet Movie Database, Cruise was injured six times during the filming of “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” and if he continues to keep pushing those dangerous motorcycle scenes, his luck is going to run out and he might find himself acting from a wheelchair.
2 and ½ out of 5 stars