MISSION IMPOSSIBLE – Rogue Nation ***

This newest of Tom Cruise’s IMF franchise, based on the old 60’s- 70’s era TV spy show, is, in most ways, just a lot more of what audiences have come to expect in these films; Ethan Hunt’s IMF team in an impossible situation that gets more  “impossible” as things move along, Tom Cruise’s smile, Tom Cruise running around half-naked showing off his still-impressive-at-age 53 physique, Tom Cruise driving fast cars and even faster motorcycles, Ethan Hunt schmoozing with some ass-kicking woman, lots of wry banter with team members, etc. etc.  And that is, for the most part, all good.

The plot here picks up some time after the doings in the previous IMF film, Ghost Protocol, where Cruise and crew were involved in blowing up the Kremlin, throwing a spy out of a 130th floor window of the world’s tallest building in Dubia, chasing another through the streets of said city in the middle of a haboob (the actual meteorological term for a dust storm), and disarming a nuclear missile as it clipped the TransAmerica Pyramid in San Francisco, all completely unauthorized by the US government.  For these sins and more, the new CIA director (Alec Baldwin) wants to completely dissolve the IMF, believing that Hunt (Cruise’s character) has become obsessed with an imaginary crime superpower he calls The Syndicate, and will continue to waste precious time, technology, and lives in his mad pursuit of the phantom organization.  The Congressional oversight committee for counter-intelligence couldn’t agree more.  And so, just as in Ghost Protocol, the IMF is shut down.

But of course, that doesn’t stop Hunt and his team, nerdy Benji (Simon Pegg), headstrong but dependable Brandt (Jeremy Renner), and, back for his first appearance in a couple IMF films, Luther (Ving Rhames).  Annoyingly, Jane (Paula Patton) from Ghost Protocol, has been dispatched from the team with no explanation whatsoever, so one assumes that it’s probably because Cruise wanted a new babe to hustle with.  That person is supplied by the very likable (and also lethal) Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust, a British agent who may or may not be working with Hunt’s team.

Together, they once again set out on their completely unauthorized and unsupported mission, this time to prove the existence of The Syndicate so that the CIA and Britain’s MI6 will finally eliminate them.  And once again, the plot is as delightfully twisty and full of fits and starts as any roller-coaster ride can be as Hunt and crew go about their super-secret work and Hunt gets it on, in more ways than one, with Ilsa Faust.  And all’s well in the end and set up for the next IMF foray if anyone cares to keep making them.

Though lacking in sincerity or much of any character development, my friend and I found this to be a ton of fun and maybe even a bit better than advertised, with so many gee-wiz action set pieces and stunts that one quickly loses count.  Yes, it does tick me off that Cruise’s Ethan Hunt (and obviously the film’s producers) take a “Bond girl” approach to their female leads, changing them out like race-car tires with each new franchise installment, but I still find enormous popcorn-style movie entertainment in the IMF films, and this one is no exception.  The sometimes abrupt (though largely bloodless) violence and sophistication of the plot will confuse younger viewers, but most kids above age 11 or so should grasp things enough and enjoy the non-stop action enough to find this worthwhile along with the older members of the fam.  So strap in everyone and head to the metroplex ready for another wild ride courtesy of Tom Cruise in this, the 5th of the Ethan Hunt Mission Impossible feature franchise films.