That Tom Cruise, he’s crazy, man.
That’s apparent from the get-go in “Mission Impossible — Rogue Nation,” the fifth installment in the now-19-year-old action franchise.
It’s apparent in the picture’s very first scene, showing Mr. Cruise doing the dangle off the side of a speedily ascending giant cargo plane. No green screen. No stunt man. That’s the real Tom really hanging on for dear life as the ground rapidly recedes (though with a digitally deleted safety harness in place). Still, it’s a totally insane sequence that sure does get the audience’s adrenaline pumping big time.
Give “Rogue Nation” this: It gives full value for the price of a ticket.
And it also gives the most unambiguous evidence yet that Cruise is arguably the most shameless showoff the movies have ever seen.
It’s reported he did his own driving in the picture, hurling a high-powered BMW all heedless through the streets of Casablanca with a squadron of motorcycle-riding killers in hot pursuit, bumping down stairs and soaring through the air while his castmate, Simon Pegg, yelps in terror in the passenger seat.
With the car trashed, he segues to a super-fast motorcycle, and writer-director Christopher McQuarrie and his camera team film the chase sequence in such a way as to leave no doubt that it’s Cruise guiding the motorcycle through its blistering paces.
You know the guy is just loving it, and you get that in his role as the movie’s producer he could make sure he got to do whatever he wanted to, actionwise, studio executives and insurance underwriters be damned.
The movie, as a consequence, is one long big-screen advertisement for the wonders of Tom, informing the world in no uncertain terms that, hey, at age 53 he’s still got it.
Unfortunately, while the movie’s excitement quotient is off the charts, in terms of narrative coherence, “Rogue Nation” is out to lunch. Call this one “Oodles of Stunts in Search of a Plot.”
Actually, that’s not quite fair. There is a plot. Too much of it, in fact. So much of it that you’ll have a tough time following its ins and outs and its twists and turns.
Double-, triple- and quadruple-crosses abound in McQuarrie’s labyrinthine construction that has Cruise’s character, Ethan Hunt, and his Impossible Missions Force stalwarts (played by Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames) battling a bad-guy spy outfit called The Syndicate. Made up of evil operatives led by a raspy-voiced, cold-as-ice no-good played by Sean Harris, they’re a mirror image of the Hunt’s IMF, equally adept at espionage tradecraft and gunplay but bad, bad, bad.
As usual, everyone is operating in a morally murky universe, with the United States and British governments complicit in all kinds of backstabbing that leaves the IMF out in the cold and holding the bag.
There’s a femme fatale involved, of course, with the delicious name of Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) whose loyalties are made maddeningly obscure by McQuarrie’s screenplay.
Ferguson, a Swede whose English is unaccented and flawless, gives a supple performance and is impressive in many fight scenes. Pegg, as usual, provides the comic relief, regularly registering astonishment at Ethan’s amazing feats. Rhames and Renner aren’t given much to do, and both are upstaged by Alec Baldwin, who plays the growly director of the CIA who wants to disband the IMF.
So see “Rogue” for the stunts, just don’t expect it to make any sense.
MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE — ROGUE NATION
☆☆☆½ stars out of 5
Cast: Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames.
Director: Christopher McQuarrie.
Running time: 2:05.
Rated: PG-13, for sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity.