Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Directed By: Christopher McQuarrie

Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, Alec Baldwin, and Simon McBurney

"I can neither confirm nor deny any details without the secretary's approval."
-Agent William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Impossible Mission Force

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get to the box office this weekend.  The Impossible Mission Force (IMF) is back on the scene.  Agent Ethan Hunt is back in action.  You can disavow any notion that this newest entry in the Mission: Impossible franchise is just another noisy, explosive blockbuster in the barrage of summer movies we've seen.  With Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Jack Reacher, & Edge of Tomorrow) at the helm, you're guaranteed to have a narrative-driven film that's more than just a series of big budget spectacles.  On top of this, the man whom I would consider to be the last true movie star, Tom Cruise, reprises his signature role and gives yet another solid entry after nearly two decades with the series.  Ladies and gentleman, I can neither confirm nor deny the details of this latest installment without giving away too much, but I must say that Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation is what an action movie looks like at its finest.

After the events of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, the IMF finds itself back in the political hot seat.  For better or worse, the agency's results are undeniable.  Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) of the CIA is on a mission to make the case to a legislative committee that these results are for the worse.  Hunley would like nothing more than to have the IMF disbanded.  His only obstacle is Agent William Brandt (Renner), who offers few operational details in the absence of a secretary.  Meanwhile, Agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is working with Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) to stop the shipment of a deadly nerve gas to Damascus.  Though their attempt is successful by unorthodox means, Director Hunley uses this nearly unsuccessful mission as a club to beat the door shut on the IMF.  Now, the CIA is authorized to capture Agent Hunt and any other IMF agents.

As the CIA scours the globe for him, Ethan begins his search for the Syndicate, a rogue nation he suspects to be led by spies presumed dead.  In a recent encounter in which an IMF safe house is compromised, Hunt is captured by the operatives of the Syndicate, namely Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) and Janik "Bone Doctor" Vinter (Jens Hultén).  He's tortured, but surprisingly escapes with the help of Faust.  Now, Ethan is on a mission to figure out who leads this network.  All he has are a few sketch drawings, and all roads lead to a former British spy by the name of Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).  With no one to trust and Director Hunley on a relentless hunt for him, Ethan might just have to put his faith in someone he hardly knows, Faust.  

After nineteen years, I think it's safe to say that the Mission: Impossible films get better and better with time.  If you look to another action star of a certain age (ahem...Bruce Willis), and the fifth installment in his signature franchise A Good Day to Die Hard, his creative team was fresh out of ideas on how to reinvent and reinvigorate the long running series.  That's far from the case here with Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation.  Director Christopher McQuarrie and the rest of Tom Cruise's creative team deliver a taut action thriller that embraces spectacle but more importantly embraces a strong narrative.  With Tom Cruise hanging from a plane, some impressive underwater stunts, and elaborate chase sequences across multiple geographies, the film certainly provides all the bells and whistles of a typical big budget extravaganza.  Unlike most other blockbusters this summer, however, Rogue Nation offers a winding plot that can be best summed up as an intense game of cat-and-mouse.

There's no doubt that Tom Cruise kicks some ass one more time as Ethan Hunt.  That being said, the chess match between Hunt and his nemesis Solomon Lane takes center stage in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation.  It's a back-and-forth game on a global stage where the stakes are higher than ever.  It's one master spy versus another.  For every move, there's a countermove.  For every plan, there's a back-up plan.  For every back-up plan, there's another back-up plan.  It's an intelligent thriller in which every step each one takes is measured to the utmost extent, fueling countless thrills and chills on screen.  With all this in mind, McQuarrie's entry into the franchise has a dark mystery to it very much akin to the 1996 original.

Though we're missing Paula Patton and Michelle Monaghan this time around, the returning cast members of Rogue Nation are in rare form.  At the ripe old age of 53 (much older in action star years), Cruise brings an old school charisma to the character of Hunt and is still willing to put his energy and his body into delivering an outstanding action movie.  Continuing the trend of Ghost Protocol, he's bringing more humor to the role of Hunt as well, which really pays big dividends this time around.  For his part as William Brandt, Jeremy Renner is largely sidelined.  He's the face of the IMF in DC and is not getting into a great deal of action.  Unable to confirm or deny operational details, he's the straight man of the ensemble delivering loads of dry humor.  For his part as Benji Dunn, Simon Pegg continues to be the IMF's craftiest, funniest spy.  Pegg's upbeat persona on screen really makes him an asset to the franchise.  We also have Ving Rhames back as Luther Stickell.  Other than Cruise, Rhames is the only cast member to have appeared in all five Mission: Impossible films, and his experience shows. 

I can't ignore the newbies either.  For her part as Ilsa Faust, Rebecca Ferguson delivers a mysterious performance.  Playing both sides, Ferguson can be a cunning ally or a fierce foe.  She'd certainly be a welcome addition to future IMF outings.  Alec Baldwin makes a strong entrance into the franchise as the fiery CIA director Alan Hunley.  On a mission to hunt down Hunt, Baldwin gives us one tough, obstinate suit who can ruffle just about anyone's feathers.  Finally, we have Sean Harris as our primary antagonist Solomon Lane.  It's terrific to see The Borgias star coming into his own on camera in recent years.  He manages to be creepy, menacing, and treacherous all at once, a rare trifecta in big screen villainy.  Albeit in a very different way, Harris offers the most intriguing villain this franchise has seen since the thunderous performance from the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman some nine years ago.

My love for Mission: Impossible has been renewed!  Tom Cruise, Christopher McQuarrie, and everyone behind the film deliver one outstanding ride, one you won't want to miss.  Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation gets a strong 0.03% rating.  Have some wine coolers with this one.