STORY BY ERIC DEUTZ
Sorry for the spoiler. Of course, anyone with plans to check out the now 53-year old action icon’s latest spy thriller has probably assumed as much.
“Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” does not hide its intentions: to be nothing more than a fast-paced, action-filled summer popcorn flick. Then again, this series never has.
Since 1996, the “Mission: Impossible” films (all produced by and starring Cruise) have delivered summer thrill after summer thrill, many of which hem on Cruise’s famous insistence on doing his own stunts. With the fourth installment – “Ghost Protocol,” released in 2011 – these films were taken to a new level thanks in part to the surprising depth of the characters.
All of a sudden, we cared about these spies who were normally just good for death-defying tricks and clever one-liners. That heart that helped make “Protocol” such a success seems to be missing this time around.
What’s not missing is everything else “Mission” fans have come to expect: engaging dialogue, unending tension, and most importantly, mindless, relentless, and sometimes shirtless, fun.
In “Rogue Nation,” we find Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and the gang being told that, after too many risky escapades and daring missions that ought to be attributed to sheer luck rather than skill and tactic, the entire Impossible Missions Force is being shut down by the CIA, meaning that Hunt and the rest can no longer partake in their high-maintenance attempts to save the world from evil. That is, if you believe for one second that Tom Cruise cares what the CIA says he can or can’t do.
Hunt is closer than ever to proving the existence of the Syndicate — essentially the criminal version of the IMF –and has no intentions of slowing in his pursuit of the truth. Soon enough, he finds himself on the run from both the criminals he’s trying to bring to justice and the government that wants to bring him to justice. Naturally, he gets involved in many fights, chases and highly unlikely predicaments along the way.
Whether he’s stuck underwater, hanging from the side of a moving airplane, or swinging from the light plot of a Viennese Opera during a live performance, you can bet that Hunt always manages to stay one step ahead of all his adversaries. That’s why we love him.
Cruise is the centerpiece on display here — and he continues to do nothing but grow in terms of charm and charisma, as he gets older. “Nation” doesn’t reach the relentless exhilaration of “Protocol,” and even characters held over from that fourth installment seem to lose their importance in the transition.
Nonetheless, there are enough surprises, enough thrills and enough jaw-dropping stunts to make one forget about any shortcomings. It’s more engaging, more enjoyable and more intelligent than most action movies of the day. And feel they have a right to be.
James Bond is still the smartest, coolest spy on the silver screen — but if he wants to hang on to that title, Daniel Craig and the rest certainly have their work cut out for them this October.