The latest “Mission: Impossible” film doesn’t offer much for the brain. The rest of your nervous system, though, will get a thorough workout.
Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie builds on the spectacular/visceral approach Brad Bird employed to such solid effect four years ago in “M:I — Ghost Protocol.” This is only McQuarrie’s third feature after a long career as a screenwriter (“The Usual Suspects,” the lamentable “The Tourist”). But he has enjoyed a long association with Tom Cruise, writing both “Valkyrie” and “Edge of Tomorrow” and directing him in “Jack Reacher.” Now, in “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” the obvious comfort level between star and director pays off nicely.
There’s not much talk in their latest collaboration, and what there is is confusing and forgettable.
The big action set pieces, though, just keep on comin’.
McQuarrie announces his intentions with the opening sequence — already heavily publicized through the film’s marketing campaign — that finds Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt hanging on for dear life outside a huge military transport plane as it takes off. (There’s something important inside that Ethan doesn’t want the bad guys to have, dontcha know.)
Unable to stop the takeoff by hacking into the plane’s electronics, Ethan has no choice but to ride the big bird like that gremlin in the old “Twilight Zone” episode. Much has been made of the fact that Cruise actually did that stunt, strapped to the fuselage of an airplane.
Well, that’s only the beginning. Ethan must foil an elaborate assassination attempt during opening night at the Vienna State Opera (clearly inspired by a similar setup in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much”). I especially like the firearms disguised as woodwind instruments.
He must hold his breath underwater for, like, four minutes to break into a computer data storage facility deep below the Moroccan desert. (Not to be a killjoy, but where did all that water come from? It’s a desert.)
He engages in a motorcycle/auto chase through the narrow streets of Casablanca and out onto a mountain highway.
I’m probably overlooking a couple of big hand-to-hand fights, but it’s hard to keep track. The point is that “M:I — Rogue Nation” is a roller coaster of action.
For those who actually want to know what it’s about … well, it’s about two hours.
No, seriously, here’s the setup: Ethan and his geeky cohort Benji (Simon Pegg, who pretty much steals the movie) are left out in the cold when the big bad director of the CIA (Alec Baldwin, in full pompous bureaucratic mode) and a congressional panel dissolve the Impossible Mission Force after years of little or no oversight.
Off the radar and hunted by their own countrymen, Ethan and Benji continue to circle the globe investigating the shadowy Syndicate, a cabal of one-time spies from around the world now led by a creepy former Brit spook (Sean Harris). Because they want to take over the world.
Ethan may have an ally (he’s not sure) in Ilsa (Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson), a beauty working for the Syndicate who may actually be an infiltrator sent by the British government. Anyway, on at least two occasions she rescues Ethan from certain death, but that could be just because he’s played by Tom Cruise.
After a while our boys are joined by fellow IMF fugitives Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Luther (Ving Rhames). If there’s anyone out there who thinks they might not bring down the Syndicate, I’d like to talk to you about surefire investments in Florida real estate.
The acting, Pegg excluded, is pretty perfunctory. Even Cruise’s Ethan seems stiff and Schwarzenegger-ish.
But there’s no arguing with the action.
Read more of Robert W. Butler’s reviews at butlerscinemascene.com.
‘MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE — ROGUE NATION’
Rated PG-13 | Time: 2:11