Mission: Impossible--Rogue Nation

Tom Cruise and Rebecca Ferguson star in the new thriller ‘Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation.’

To my way of thinking, Tom Cruise is a most unlikely action hero. He’s short, unconvincing as a brawler, and he runs with his arms at weird 90-degree angles.

Still, his science-fiction action movies such as “Edge of Tomorrow,” “Oblivion” and “Minority Report” are thrilling and tremendously successful, as is the “Mission Impossible” franchise, in which Cruise plays leading man/undercover IMF agent Ethan Hunt.

The latest addition to that franchise is the exciting, if not revolutionary, “Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation.”

The movie begins with a bang. Before composer Lalo Schifrin’s iconic “Mission Impossible” movie theme has had a chance to play, Hunt has jumped on a Russian cargo plane and is hanging on for dear life as it ascends from the tarmac.

This opening scene sets the stage for the rest of the film. There’s a whole lot of action, some of it incredibly thrilling, propping up a slender plot line.

The plot goes something like this: Hunt and his IMF team are closing in on an international organization called The Syndicate, which appears to be behind a series of seemingly unconnected military coups, terrorist attacks and disasters. But C.I.A. Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) and a congressional committee looking into previous IMF actions want to break up the IMF band, despite its previous success.

When Hunt is captured by The Syndicate’s leader, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) in London, he discovers that a number of ruthless international killers thought to be dead are actually still alive and well and working for the Syndicate.

Hunt also discovers a love interest (sort of) in the form of Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a British intelligence agent who is trying to gain the trust of Lane and The Syndicate, either for Her Majesty’s spy network, or for her own personal reasons.

Ferguson, whose only other major movie is “Hercules,” is the kick-ass heart and soul of “Rogue Nation,” and casting her is a coup for director Christopher McQuarrie. He certainly must have been tempted to cast a more recognizable actress for the female lead, but I doubt he could have found one better for the role.

Faust bursts onto the movie by helping Hunt escape The Syndicate’s clutches in a London dungeon and reappears to save his bacon several more times over the course of the movie. She also steals one of the most pivotal scenes of the film, an exhilarating motorcycle chase through city streets and mountain roads in Morocco.

The rest of the IMF team, Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), have lesser roles than in previous MI outings.

While “Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation” will whet the appetites of franchise fans and lovers of fast-paced action films, it disappoints on several key storytelling elements. The villian Solomon Lane is two-dimensional for most of the film. And then just when he wakes up and his motive appears to be absolute power, he is sucker-punched by the IMF due to his greed for money.

Also, I am not a huge fan of those rubbery face masks that the Mission: Impossible franchise uses on numerous occasions. You know, one second you are looking at an actor playing a villain, but no, it is really Tom Cruise with an ultra realistic mask! He pulls it off by the neck with syrupy sucking sound, and viola.

“Rogue Nation” uses the old mask trick more than once, when it should have retired the gag after “Mission: Impossible III” had the audacity to have Hunt parading around in a Philip Seymour Hoffman mask.

From talking to people who watched “Rogue Nation,” it is clear that Cruise has his fans and his detractors. When even your detractors are seeing your movie on its opening weekend, you are doing something right.

“Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation” is rated PG-13 for violence and mild profanity.

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