Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation Review: Tom Cruise Is as Game as Ever in “Smart and Satisfying” Blockbuster

Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
Tom Cruise, 53, is as game as ever reprising his role as Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, writes Us Weekly's film critic Mara Reinstein  Christian Black/Paramount

In theaters Friday, July 31

3 stars (out of 4 stars)

Tom Cruise is now 53. He has no business hanging on the side of an airplane as it ascends into the clouds.

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Yet there he is in the opening sequence, as game as ever. 

His inexhaustible drive helps propel this consistently exciting — if familiar — installment.

Cruise’s agent Ethan Hunt is now hiding out in Europe, a fugitive from the U.S. government that wants to disband the IMF immediately. No matter. He goes rogue tracking down the masterminds of The Syndicate, an international terrorist cell consisting of renegade former spies. One of them is nicknamed “The Bone Doctor.” Another murders an innocent woman while Hunt helplessly watches.

(Snack food for thought: There must be a rule in the action flick guidebook that the chief villain must be an asexual guy who speaks in an indistinguishable foreign accent.)

Rebecca Ferguson and Tom Cruise
Rebecca Ferguson and Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation Chiabella James

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For help, Hunt summons the old gang — agent William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), retired vet Stickell (Ving Rhames) and wisecracking tech whiz Benji (Simon Pegg). Pegg, in fact, gets an unofficial promotion. For large portions of the film, he and Cruise might as well be in their own buddy pic. (Cruise gets to do the cool stunts; Pegg gets to make snappy comments about said stunts.) That leaves underutilized Renner in the Washington, D.C. headquarters for far too long.

An alluring femme fatale raises the intrigue quotient. Newcomer Rebecca Ferguson plays a mysterious British agent who may or may not belong to the dark side and may or may not want to aid Hunt. She keeps up with Cruise in the most tenuous of actions sequences. Paula Patton, we barely knew ye.

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Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames
Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation Christian Black

If you’ve seen any of the first four movies — heck, even if you only know that dynamite theme — then you’re aware that this mighty motley crew isn’t just going to sit in a room and talk strategy. (Which is fine, as the plot doesn’t quite hold up.) They chase, they shoot, they hack, they do that cool neck-snap-with-the-legs move. And once again, Hunt shows super-human resilience jumping from bullet sprays to oxygen-depriving feats underwater. Though not even Marvel superheroes can withstand this kind of punishment, this isn’t the kind of movie in which to quibble about the realism of the death-defying acts. Just marvel. (Lowercase m.)

Indeed, this is smart and satisfying summer entertainment. One harrowing set piece, in which Cruise and a villain go at it on the rafters during a performance at the Vienna opera house, is fantastically executed. Nothing may ever recapture the thrilling sight of Cruise hanging on wires from a ceiling trying desperately not to let a bead of sweat drip down from his eyeglasses, but give credit to writer-director Christopher McQuarrie: It’s been almost 20 years since that original showstopper and he still manages to keep the espionage fresh.

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It all goes by in a whirl, though, and there’s a good chance it will dissipate from memory as quickly as a message that self-destructs. Someone better light a new fuse soon!

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