The Bock’s Office: ‘Rogue Nation’ runs risk of overthinking movie magic
As you enter the movie theater, your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to watch “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” purely for entertainment value. But, before you commit to anything, you should know the makers will be doing everything they can to make this. … what’s the word I’m looking for here?
If you go…
“Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” rated PG-13
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars
Running time: 131 minutes
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg and Rebecca Ferguson
In his illustrious career with the Impossible Mission Force, Agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has continually tracked a shadow organization known only as the Syndicate, but proving this international cabal’s existence has been his most difficult task.
When he’s captured by the same people he’s been seeking out, it confirms all his theories are correct. Unfortunately, they don’t intend to let him share this with the world.
Barely escaping with his life, Hunt can’t even return to IMF to report his findings thanks to a congressional dismantling of the agency, with the CIA’s bull-headed director (Alec Baldwin) ready to do whatever it takes to contain him.
Being disavowed won’t stop IMF’s greatest asset, and with the help of fellow agent Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Hunt continues to dig deeper into the Syndicate’s sinister plans, which also include a mystery woman (Rebecca Ferguson) whose allegiance he can’t quite determine.
Hopping a plane on the outside, scooting around at breakneck speeds on a motorcycle, plunging into thousands of pounds of water pressure with no oxygen tank — all in a day’s work for Cruise, whose insistence on doing his own stunts has been well-publicized and leaves viewers pondering whether or not Ethan Hunt can actually be killed with all his death-defying acts.
A broken heart probably wouldn’t do the job, but the exceptional Ferguson comes closer than anyone has to being a match for him romantically while still being able to lay a beatdown on him as former MI6 operative Ilsa Faust, repeatedly one step ahead of Hunt but still willing to come to his aid.
If two heads are better than one, imagine what three can do, Pegg making a laudable return as loyal sidekick Benji, while Jeremy Renner is in fine form as the IMF spokesman running interference with the incompetents at the CIA, who, of course, are hunting the wrong guy.
Ving Rhames also makes a welcome comeback as computer wiz Luther Stickell, who’s seen Hunt through a lot over the years, but a consortium of ex-secret agents committed to chaos may be the worst yet. After all, just look at the creepy guy (Sean Harris) they have leading them.
And, if you think that’s bad, wait until you hear his serpent’s tone. …
If you’re familiar with writer-director Christopher McQuarrie’s work with Cruise in “Jack Reacher” and as the co-author of “Valkyrie” and “Edge of Tomorrow,” you already know he’s no stranger to contrivances, although his projects before his association with America’s superstar already solidified that.
A storyline that’s strung like a tightrope has some superb tension in spots, whether it’s a sniper rifle contained within a bassoon backstage at an Austrian opera house or Hunt’s nerve-wracking underwater expedition within a massive security system all for the sake of retrieving critical information that makes all the difference in our bad guys’ dealings.
Can you say MacGuffin?
Some terrific action in the ever-more daring “M:I” series is at full force in the fifth film, but McQuarrie takes a step back from what Brad Bird accomplished in “Ghost Protocol” with a need to be talky, a weakness that has hindered the franchise from the beginning.
Too much drama is also present here — we get that there’s a mutual attraction between Hunt and Faust, but if you want a love story, you’re in the wrong franchise.
For that matter, why should any of these films be longer than two hours? For a group of characters that pride themselves on being able to pull off their exploits in a matter of minutes, there’s an awful lot of standing around doing nothing.
“Rogue Nation” has thrills to spare, but in between these acts of derring-do, its momentum lessens, though not to the point you start to question everything. Baldwin’s assertion that IMF’s long list of triumphs can be chalked up to luck gets you thinking that good fortune happens to have been on the side of the ensemble, as well as the last few directors to take on these movies.
Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t call too much attention to that.
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