Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, Simon McBurney, Jingchu Zhang, Tom Hollander, Jens Hultén, Alec Baldwin, Mateo Rufino, Fernando Abadie, Alec Utgoff, Hermione Corfield
Written by: Christopher McQuarrie, based on a story by Christopher McQuarrie, Drew Pearce
Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity
Running Time: 131
Date: 07/30/2015

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015)

3 Stars (out of 4)

'Rogue' Warriors

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Stuck halfway between James Bond and superhero movies, the Mission: Impossible big screen franchise sets itself apart by focusing on two things: teamwork, and vulnerability.

Though Tom Cruise has been the name-above-the-title star of all five pictures, including the new Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, he always works with skilled fellow agents, whether nerdy computer experts or lovely, lethal ladies.

Plus, whenever Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is about to perform one of his "impossible" stunts, he always looks a little uncertain; when the stunt is over, he's usually a little battered, a little winded, and a little relieved.

In one scene in the new movie, Ethan must dive into a water-filled chamber to switch out a computer chip, holding his breath for 3 minutes and fighting a strong current. In a ridiculously effective touch, his diving suit actually has a counter showing how much oxygen he has left!

It's these factors that bring a human quality to the movies, and what gives them their "hold your breath and grip your seat" quality.

In the new movie, Ethan — still officially off the grid after Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol — hunts a mysterious and untraceable evil syndicate, headed by the elusive Lane (Sean Harris).

With the IMF decommissioned by the government, Ethan's cohorts Benji (Simon Pegg), Brandt (Jeremy Renner), and Luther (Ving Rhames), are risking their lives to help.

The lovely, lethal, and appropriately named double agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) also lends a hand.

Their adventures bring them to Vienna, Casablanca, and London, where all kinds of shootouts, motorcycle chases, traps, and disguises await.

Each of the Mission: Impossible films (based loosely on the 1960s TV series by Bruce Geller) has employed a different director, ranging from rogues like Brian De Palma and John Woo to the more respectable J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird, and Christopher McQuarrie fits right in.

[Note: see also Mission: Impossible (1996), Mission: Impossible II (2000), Mission: Impossible III (2006), Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011).]

An Oscar-winner for his clever The Usual Suspects screenplay, and the director of Cruise's appealingly cool, moody Jack Reacher, McQuarrie applies a robust pace and vivid atmosphere to the new movie.

He's good at speed and deception, and although his hand-to-hand fight scenes are just a smidgeon too jittery, his work is both confident and enthusiastic; he handles the lengthy 131 minute running time better than most directors handle shorter films.

McQuarrie's complex screenplay — based on a story co-written by Drew Pearce — may not have much to do with current global concerns, but he makes you care enough about the characters to directly affect your pulse and respiratory system. And that's an impressive skill all on its own.

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