Past the Popcorn: Cruising with Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

by Jeff Walls

Ever since Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt ran away from a crashing fish tank in 1996, the Mission: Impossible movie series has been all about the big stunts.  The same is true of the latest film in the franchise, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, which even goes so far as to hang its star outside of an airplane while it takes off.  Those crazy practical stunts are refreshing in a summer that to this point has been mostly dominated by computer-aided science-fiction and fantasy movies.

For what is really the first time in the series, the new movie picks up right where the last movie left off.  In fact, this is the first movie in the franchise in which every member of Ethan Hunt’s core team was in at least one of the previous movies.  The movie actually opens with that crazy airplane stunt as Ethan and his team attempt to prevent the theft of a chemical compound capable of destroying an entire city.  The mission is part of Ethan’s overall goal of taking down a mysterious organization known as “The Syndicate.”

rogue-nation-insetWhen Ethan gets too close to his goal he is kidnapped by The Syndicate and escapes only thanks to the help of an undercover British agent played by series newcomer Rebecca Ferguson.  Or is she undercover?  The movie does a good job of keeping us guessing from start to finish as to her loyalties.  In fact, the movie keeps us guessing as to the entire plot as Ethan follows the mysterious figure he believes could lead him to the heart of The Syndicate, never sure if he is getting closer to his goal or playing right into his hands.

That plane stunt that opens the movie is quite spectacular.  Cruise, who always insists on doing his own stunts, hangs onto the outside of a giant four-engine turboprop plane supported by only one single harness while it takes off at high speeds for a steep ascent.  Call it courage or call it crazy, Cruise is certainly willing to put himself completely out there for a performance.  The actor also looks completely ripped at 53 and some of the action stunts he pulls off in front of our eyes make it clear that the actor would probably be quite successful on American Ninja Warrior.

That’s not the only major stunt in Rogue Nation, but compared to the last film in the series, 2011’s Ghost Protocol, this two hour and ten minute flick actually feels somewhat light in terms of its stunts.  This is largely because the big stunts are mostly packed into the movie’s first half, while the last half of the movie, and the final act in particular, features a lot of exposition as the movie attempts to unravel the its plot twists.  The scenes of exposition are handled well and carry a certain level of tension with them, but the movie does start to feel as if there are too many false endings.

The movie is unbalanced and there are maybe too many twists for its own good, but the action is exciting and Ethan’s crew—Benji, Luther, and Brandt—are fun to hang with.  Rebecca Ferguson plays the femme fatale well and is a nice foil for Cruise’s Hunt.  Ultimately, as the fifth film in the franchise, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation fits snugly alongside its fellow flicks and makes for an enjoyable time at the movies.

Rogue Nation opens today at the AMC Southcenter 16 and the AMC Kent Station 14. Won’t it be nice when Des Moines has its own theater again? Eat local before you go!

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