There is something to be said about movie star power in this day and age. Precious few actors have the ability to command the screen based on sheer will, as opposed to having help from all the other sundry aspects that go into making a movie. When one does appear in front of you, it's wise to appreciate the rarity of such a star.
No matter what you may think of Tom Cruise’s personal life — which, at worst, has him participating in Scientology — he remains a movie star of the highest magnitude. Others may have different criteria, but the biggest thing I want out of a person who’s trying to entertain me is for him or her to show me that he or she is giving an all-out effort. The effort that Cruise gives in most of his films, and especially his action movies, is off the charts, something that’s impossible to ignore.
Of course, it helps when he’s doing it in service of a movie that lives up to his talents, and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation most certainly does. Back for the fifth time as IMF Agent Ethan Hunt, Cruise is trying to track down a shadowy organization known as The Syndicate, led by the even more shadowy (shadowier?) Lane (Sean Harris).
When CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) cuts off IMF’s funding, Hunt must use all his skills to succeed, including recruiting William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) into helping him. He also runs up against double agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who plays both sides of the conflict depending on what suits her needs.
After the greatness that was Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, it was difficult to imagine this installment could live up that one. But writer/director Christopher McQuarrie (Edge of Tomorrow) has succeeded by dialing down on the complicated plot elements and ramping up on the action. That doesn’t mean the movie is simple — far from it — but you also don’t need a flow chart to follow along.
Cruise hanging off a plane has been getting the most buzz leading up to the release, but that’s literally the opening sequence of the film, setting in motion an almost non-stop action-fest. Among the highlights are a fight scene in the rafters above an opera performance, a death-defying underwater sequence and a chase scene involving motorcycles. In all of them, it’s plain to see that Cruise did the majority of his own stunts, a fact that does wonders in making the scenes believable even if they stretch the limits of plausibility.
It might seem trite to say this, but it’s impossible to picture anybody but Cruise as the lead in this franchise. Renner was thought to have been the heir apparent when he was brought on in the last film, but the 53-year-old Cruise is as spry, charming and interesting as ever. As long as he’s willing to push the limits and put himself in harm’s way for the series, the producers should let him; the films wouldn’t be half as good without him.
Also great are Pegg, who’s perfected the role of comic relief with an edge; Ferguson, who will find herself in great demand going forward; and Rhames, who needs these movies in order to keep people from forgetting his name.
How much longer Cruise can continue putting in the same effort he does for action movies is up in the air, which is even more reason to value his performance and the resulting film. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t allow yourself the pleasure of experiencing him and the excellent Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.