Good day, dear reader. What follows is a review of a new movie playing in a theater near you. Your decision, should you decide to accept it, is to read the commentary and decide for yourself whether or not you want to go see the film. As always, if you or any of your friends disagree with my opinion, absolutely nothing will happen to you. This column will not self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, reader.
I’ve been a “Mission: Impossible” fan ever since I first heard the words, “Good morning, Mr. Phelps,” when the TV series made its debut all the way back in 1966. And I never missed an episode during the next seven years as Peter Graves, Greg Morris, Peter Lupus, Martin Landau, and Barbara Bain worked diligently each week to make the world a safer place.
Of course it was only a matter of time until the IMF made its way to the silver screen, and the first installment of the “Mission: Impossible” franchise made its debut in theaters nationwide in 1996. Then came “Mission: Impossible II” in 2000, Mission: Impossible III,” in 2006, “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” in 2011, and now we have Mission Impossible – “Rogue Nation.” While all of the films in the series have been entertaining and exciting, this one may very well be the best of the lot.
Tom Cruise returns to reprise his role as IMF point man Ethan Hunt, whom he portrayed in the first four films, and Hunt is better than ever here. In fact, the signature stunt in the film (Surely you’ve seen the trailers of Cruise hanging on the side of a gigantic airbus.) occurs only eight minutes into the movie, and Hunt manages to steal some nerve gas that was supposed to go terrorists.
After this incident, Hunt is on the trail of an international crime ring known as the “Syndicate,” and to this end he visits a record store in London to get his assignment. But this turns out to be a trap, and the Syndicate captures him and turns him over to a nasty dude named Janik “Bone Doctor” Vinter (Jens Hulten). Before this guy can do any major damage to him, however, Hunt manages to escape with the aid of a former MI6 agent and a not very faithful member of the Syndicate named Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson).
While all this is transpiring, Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), director of the CIA, and IMF agent William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) are meeting with a Senate oversight committee. Hunley is not a fan of the IMF force and makes such a strong case against it that he manages to have it dissolved. This turns Hunt into a rogue agent, and he continues to pursue a single lead to the Syndicate while attempting at the same time to elude capture by the CIA.
After six months, Hunt still is searching for Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), a guy he believes is the leader of the Syndicate, but he finally summons help in the person of his former fellow IMF buddy, Benjy Dunn (Simon Pegg). Hunt sends Dunn to an opera in Vienna, where he thinks Lane will be and where an assassination attempt unfolds. From this point on the film chronicles Hunt’s frantic attempt to prove the existence of the Syndicate before the CIA finds him.
This installment of “Mission: Impossible” has it all – action, suspense, thrills, chills, chases, humor, fights, twists, double-crosses, and stunts. Cruise is in top form as Hunt, and it’s obvious from watching him that he absolutely revels in this role. In fact, he has made the character of Hunt so much his that I cannot imagine anyone else in the part. In the film’s production notes, Cruise offered some interesting insight into the movie.
“Each time I think, ‘I’ve seen it all,’ and I’ve been through every action challenge a film can have, the next film introduces new challenges of every kind because we’re constantly pushing not only the action sequences, but the storytelling and characters. To me the ultimate ‘Mission’ movie is never just about action and suspense though we love innovating in that area. It’s really about the combination of action, intrigue, and humor with this very specific, breathless kind experience we create for the audience. It’s about giving audiences the greatest sense of adventure and scale — while keeping a classic sense of cinema. We do that more than ever in ‘Rogue Nation.’
“This installment is about the complications of friendship that happen when enormous pressure comes down on these guys. Whom do you trust, and whom should you not trust? Who is really going to be there for you when the chips are down? Who is going to keep their head under fire? And how can they work together to make things happen? I think ‘Rogue Nation’ is about finding that intimate aspect of true teamwork in the face of pure evil.”
Cruise also commented on his character, whom some may view as a tortured soul.
“Ethan has evolved. He’s learning to listen to everyone else while still following his own instincts. I think he’s really progressed in terms of understanding people for who they are, including himself. I’ve always seen him as someone’s who’s highly skilled, who has a high level of athleticism, and who will be relentless in pursuing what he believes is right all the way to the end, but he’s not a superhero; he’s very human.”
Of course Cruise is known for doing his own stunts, but the one of the side of the airplane tops them all. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Elswit explained how Cruise did it.
“Tom was in a full body harness, and he’s cabled and wired to the plane through its door. Inside the aircraft was an aluminum truss that was carefully bolted to the plane, which held the wires that went through the door, which held Tom. He was also wearing special contact lenses to protect his eyes. If anything hit him at those speeds, it could be really bad. They were very careful about cleaning the runway so there were no rocks. And we took off in certain weather conditions; there were no birds. And he’s sort of protected by the way the air moves over the wing.”
In addition to Cruise’s electrifyingly physical performance, Swedish knockout Ferguson matches him almost stride for stride with some great action sequences of her own. And the sexual tension between their two characters crackles.
The movie also boasts an amazing motorcycle chase, an incredibly intense scene at the Vienna opera house (a la Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” and an indescribable water sequence. The cinematography in this movie will blow you away, and white knuckles are the order of the day.
Now reader, if you accepted the assignment and made your way through this review, thank you, and it should come as no surprise that “Rogue Nation” earns the final score of 10. Action films just don’t get any better than this. Bring on installment six!