‘Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation’
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Stars: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson
4 (out of 5) Globes
The fifth “Mission: Impossible” features Tom Cruise hanging onto the side of a plane mid-takeoff and holding his breath under water for something like five minutes, both at least a little for reals. It has a break-in or two, a lengthy suspense scene during an opera and a car chase that turns into a motorcycle chase, plus one, maybe two more thrilling set pieces we’re forgetting. But it’s also the most stripped-down, aggressive and at times — and only relatively speaking — closest the films series has come to the more modest pleasures of the espionage show that spawned it, if often in name only.
The “Impossible”s is a director’s franchise, tethered to a single, somehow still limber AARP-age star. The director this time is Christopher McQuarrie, still best known for writing “The Usual Suspects,” and a tougher, leaner, more economical talent than Brian De Palma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird. Frequently “Rogue Nation” threatens to turn as cartoonish as the last batch of “Fast and/or Furious” entries. But even when, say, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and Simon Pegg’s curiously named fellow operative Benji are trapped in a flipping car, saved only by airbags, there’s an element of sorta-realness — a wink more than the live action equivalent of Looney Tunes mayhem. It’s ridiculous without going Full Monty.
The plot, such as it really matters, does threaten to get too silly — something about a shadowy, SPECTRE-y organization called The Syndicate that is using ex-agents killing world leaders. (Its leader is played by Sean Harris, a reliable tough, cold bastard.) But McQuarrie, who also scripted, treats it as though he was adapting John Le Carre, and one of the dense ones. Cruise and his IMF team — which acronym does not stand for International Money Fund, as it were — are first targeted by a pol (Alec Baldwin, enjoyably fatuous) looking to dissolve them, then blamed for Syndicate crimes, then forced to stop them. Along the way they steal a MacGuffin or two, while Ethan flirts with a mysterious Syndicater, Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), who switches allegiances so many times one’s head threatens to implode.