Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 8/9/15
Producer: J. J. Abrams
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Cast: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Sean Harris, Jeremy Renner, Alec Baldwin, Ving Rhames, cameo by Hermione Corfield

Picking up shortly after the events in "Ghost Protocol" (2011), the blustery head of the CIA (Alec Baldwin) decommissions what's left of the IMF and heads up a manhunt to take down Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise). Meanwhile, Hunt is investigating a secret terrorist organization known as "The Syndicate", led by an ex-MI6 operative named Solomon Lane (supremely creepy Sean Harris). He meets an attractive British double agent named Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) along the way, and they both work with and against each other. Ethan's friend Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) also gets caught up in the action, and it's pretty much a non-stop thrill ride as Hunt, Lane, Faust, and the CIA play cat and mouse trying to outsmart each other.

This is a classic James Bond film more than anything else, and it's what the Bond franchise should be doing, rather than desperately trying to re-invent itself as something that it's not. Replacing Hunt with Bond, The Syndicate with SPECTRE, Lane with Blofeld, Benji with Q, Hunley with M, and Brandt with Felix, you would have the archetype of a Bond film. It will be interesting to see how "Spectre" compares when it comes out later this year. Story wise, the plot is overly predictable and follows the standard M:I playbook, but adds just enough twists and surprises to keep things exciting.

Casting logic and physics completely aside, Ethan Hunt withstands an unbelievable amount of physical abuse, but Cruise does a good job of selling his pain. The stunt work, and especially the camera work, are superb and the film features at least a half dozen expertly crafted action set pieces. The car chases and motorcycle scenes are breathtaking, and the only disappointment is with the fight scenes, which suffer from sloppy editing. Cruise does an excellent job with his stunt work, and his dedication to the craft lends a respectable sense of sincerity and authenticity to the production. I only fear that he may eventually forfeit his life in an attempt to entertain us. While previous "Mission: Impossible" films revolved around Cruise's ego, I admire that we was able to step back and let his co-stars shine in this film. While he's busy doing his own death defying "save the world" routine, Rebecca Ferguson and Simon Pegg nearly steal the show. Ferguson is definitely a force to be reckoned with, and she sells her action scenes just as well as Cruise does. Her presence and performance are riveting, and her questionable allegiance is a constant point of tension that leaves you guessing throughout the film. Simon Pegg also sees a lot of action this time around and gives a gripping performance. Alec Baldwin makes an excellent antagonist, and Sean Harris is a wonderful and worthy villain. Unfortunately, Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames have little to do other than add light comedy relief. Overall, I enjoyed the film immensely, and fans of big budget action spectacles should be pleased.