Film review: ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’ checks all the boxes for a summer blockbuster

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Tom Cruise meets his match in the fifth instalment of the action adventure, and she’s quick with a knife.

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The fifth instalment of this action extravaganza hits the ground running, or in Ethan Hunt’s (Tom Cruise) case, hanging off the side of an accelerating military plane. The riveting opening sets the tone for the next two hours as Hunt accepts his latest mission.

Cruise is the fearless, agile, daring and dashing star agent of covert ops organisation, IMF – Impossible Mission Force. However this time Hunt is the hunted. The Central Intelligence Agency, led by its director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), is searching for Hunt who is determined to prove an international crime nexus called The Syndicate exists and is responsible for accidents and assassinations around the world.

In the vein of all Mission Impossible (and spy) films, Hunt zigzags across the globe in a flash – from Belarus to London, Cuba, Paris, Vienna and Casablanca. As he tries to track down the Syndicate and its kingpin Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), he also meets his match in Ilsa Faust. In MI5, Hunt gets upstaged by the nimble knife-wielding Faust played by Rebecca Ferguson who gives Cruise more than a run for his money. Faust’s character is so poker-faced you are kept guessing whose side she is on, making her a delectable foil for the unflappable Hunt.

Of course, Hunt is no superhero and gets more than a little help from his friends Benji (Simon Pegg), Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Luther (Ving Rhames) to bring down the Syndicate and restore the IMF’s reputation.

Cruise’s long-time collaborator writer-director Christopher McQuarrie (he wrote Cruise starrer Valkyrie and wrote and directed Cruise in Jack Reacher) handles the action scenes with great skill. The comfort between the duo reflects on screen as Cruise tackles daredevil stunts – from the airplane drama to riding a bike at high speed through Morocco and being churned around underwater in a spinning vault. Look out for a brilliantly choreographed action sequence between Hunt and a group of assassins in the rafters during the performance of a Puccini opera in Vienna. It’s stuff like this that makes MI such a success and keeps you pinned to your seat. Though it isn’t cheeky or witty enough, the script sidesteps unnecessary side plots or diversions (even though the story itself is hard to fathom).

How does Lane get away undetected for so long and why is the otherwise-competent Hunt, who can apparently hold his breath underwater for more than two minutes, struggling to smoke him out?

While the villainous Harris is a bit of a parody with this nasal voice and blond hair, Cruise is in command in a part he has fashioned and viewers are left in awe as the 53-year-old tackles his own stunts. It’s enough to make you overlook his textbook emoting. When Baldwin’s character describes Hunt as “the living personification of destiny” you wonder how much is meant in jest and how far the writer is offering obeisance. It is one of the funniest scenes in the film – even if inadvertent.

Rogue Nation is a 131-minute roller-coaster ride that slows down long enough for you to catch your breath before jettisoning you into another gasping round of action and adventure.

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