Five minutes into “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” Tom Cruise is seen hanging off the side of an airplane as it takes flight. His hair whipped by the wind, grip tightening as the craft puts space between him and the ground, Cruise kicks off the fifth instalment of the popular series with a stunt that proves he’s making it count. Despite what Brandt says, if audiences react expect more missions and wilder stunts.
“Rogue Nation” is set in a world where villains are really villainous, prone to theatrical evil doings like arranging an assassination during an opera so it can be scored by the dramatic operatic stylings of Giacomo Puccini’s “Turandot.” Music swelling, bullets flying, it’s an over-the-top set piece in a movie that revels in its large canvas. Taking place all over the world—Vienna! London! Minsk! Casablanca!—it’s action adventure writ large, with wild stunts that would make Jackie Chan envious, cold-blooded bad guys, hot-blooded agents and double-crosses galore. At one point Hunt even swims through an underground tunnel with the speed of a Cruise Missile. This isn’t the quiet backroom intrigue of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” its James Bond on steroids.
Cruise is Ethan Hunt, über action-man described by CIA head Hunley (Alex Baldwin) as “the living manifestation of destiny.” He’s also the hands-on lead agent of the IMF, a super secret group formed to fight against the dastardly Syndicate. Their missions have taken them around the world, leaving a trail of chaos and mayhem in their wake. So much so that Hunley wants to shut them down permanently.
Instead of coming in from the field Hunt goes rogue to infiltrate the Syndicate. With the help of his old IMF cohorts—Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames)—and a possible double-agent, the fantastically named Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), Hunt performs feats of derring-do and uncovers the serpentine truth behind the evil organization. Fortunately the good guys get lucky while the bad guys can’t shoot straight.
This year we have seen a very welcome return to real stunts, old school action that packs a much bigger punch than all the pixels in all the “Avengers” movie put together. Frequent Cruise collaborator and “Rogue Nation” director Christopher McQuarrie keeps the pace up, weaving loads of action into the conspiracy chicanery. More importantly he keeps the stunts organic. With hardly a green screen in sight, you can feel the danger in the stunts. Everyone has had the sensation of sitting inside a plane as it takes flight, and the land below starts to shrink as the craft gains altitude. Now imagine the same thing with Cruise on the outside of the plane. The stunt feels real and grounds the movie, and while old-school in execution, raises the bar for modern action sequences.
Despite the stunts and violence “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” has a surprisingly light touch. Funnier and with a more linear storyline than previous entries, the movie’s mission is to entertain, and in that it succeeds.