[Screen It]


(2015) (Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson) (PG-13)

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Action: After being shut down by their own government, top secret operatives continue on their quest to find the leader of an international syndicate that's determined to undermine and overthrow world order.
Considering the recent destruction of the Kremlin and near nuclear missile strike on a major U.S. city, CIA director Alan Hunley (ALEC BALDWIN) argues in front of a U.S. Senate panel that the IMF -- the top secret Impossible Missions Force of the U.S. government -- is reckless, a danger to everyone, and should be shut down.

They agree, and two of its members, intelligence analyst William Brandt (JEREMY RENNER) and field agent Benji Dunn (SIMON PEGG), are absorbed into the CIA while computer hacker Luther Stickell (VING RHAMES) retires. That leaves IMF team leader Ethan Hunt (TOM CRUISE) still on the loose, hoping to track down a mysterious organization known as The Syndicate that he believes is trying to destabilize world order. In trying to find that organization that's comprised of reportedly dead or missing agents from various international government agencies, Ethan ends up captured and tortured for information that The Syndicate's leader, Solomon Lane (SEAN HARRIS), wishes to have.

But undercover British agent Ilsa (REBECCA FERGUSON) -- pretending to be in cahoots with Lane -- helps Ethan escape and he quickly reassembles his old team in hopes of learning the identities of both her and Lane and figure out their end game. With Hunley stepping up his attempts to find Ethan and shut him down, the IMF leader soon realizes Lane is manipulating the entire situation in hopes of getting past him, the CIA and British spy agency head Attlee (SIMON McBURNEY) to get to Britain's Prime Minister (TOM HOLLANDER). With time running out, Ethan and his team do what they can to find and stop Lane.

OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
Making movies is an expensive, time-consuming and ultra-complicated endeavor, and with so much on the line, it's rare for any major performer to encounter anything too dangerous during filming. After all, should the star or a major supporting character be killed or hurt, such an incident can delay or even cause the project to be cancelled.

That explains why stunt people exist, and why so many effects are done in front of blue screens and then digitally manipulated to look like reality rather than do the real thing (via what are referred to as practical effects). Thus, it's refreshing when films such as the recent "Mad Max" reboot do things the old-fashioned way, or when your major action stars do their own stunts.

That's long been the case regarding Tom Cruise who follows up his scene outside the top of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, in "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" with an even more outrageous one in that film's sequel, "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation." You've probably seen the trailer or TV ads that feature Cruise hanging on the side of a cargo plane as it lifts off, his grip and fingertips obviously getting quite the workout.

While those who've seen that probably worry that the ads -- as is often the case -- have spoiled the film's big signature scene, that actually occurs in the first moments even before Lalo Schifrin's signature score starts playing during the opening credits.

It's an impressive bit of stunt work and acting (yes, some safety wires were digitally removed but that's otherwise the 53-year-old on the side as the plane rips through the sky gaining quite a bit of altitude). And although it really doesn't have much to do with the main plot, it's a fun way to start this flick that follows in the vein of the "Fast & Furious" series by bucking "tradition" and actually getting better as it progresses upward in numbered sequels.

Say what you will about Cruise and his personal life and beliefs, but there's no denying few other actors, if any, bring it like he does in action movies, and he delivers that again here in spades. Working with his fifth director in five films -- Christopher McQuarrie who co-wrote the script with Drew Pearce -- the actor is completely believable and, just as importantly, nothing short of engaging as the agent whose government (spearheaded by Alec Baldwin's CIA director character) not only has abandoned him, but now also has essentially put a contract on his life.

He's trying to figure out who's running a shadow operation known as The Syndicate, but with his IMF program getting the kibosh, he's mostly on his own. He does get some help, albeit of the suspicious variety, however, from a British intelligence operative (a terrific Rebecca Ferguson) who's either deep undercover, has already gone over to the dark side working for the head villain (Sean Harris), or is working on her own agenda.

The rest of Ethan's team (played by returning players Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames) eventually join him and that leads to a number of signature action set pieces that McQuarrie and cinematographer Robert Elswit handle with utmost efficiency. While Harris might not be that interesting of a villain here (think of a low-key Steve Jobs type character), his actions drive the plot, and the fun is in watching Ethan and the rest figure out creative ways to overcome the obstacles facing them.

Of note is a sequence set in the Vienna Opera House where Cruise's character must contend with not one, not two, but three would-be assassins. Another features an underwater endeavor that might leave audiences as breathless as Hunt as he tries to pull it off (and as Cruise reportedly did the stunt, without air, in real time). The filmmakers also smartly keep the comedic elements in place, mostly stemming from Pegg's character, all of which help make the film's 130-some minutes fly by without any seat-shifting.

I thoroughly enjoyed this fifth outing in the "M:I" series, and believe it's (so far) the best action film of the summer. If you enjoy seeing a veteran actor doing his own stunts in some spectacularly staged ways, you won't want to miss this offering. "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" is a true crowd pleaser and thus rates as a 7.5 out of 10.

Reviewed July 27, 2015 / Posted July 31, 2015

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