Movie Review

Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation

RATING

PG-13

GENRE

Drama, Action/Adventure

CAST

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt; Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa; Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn; Jeremy Renner as William Brandt; Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell; Alec Baldwin as Hunley

DIRECTOR

Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher)

DISTRIBUTOR

Paramount Pictures

IN THEATERS

July 31, 2015

REVIEWER

Paul Asay

And you think your job is hard.

Consider poor Ethan Hunt. For the last 19 years or so, Mr. Hunt has punched a time card for the Impossible Missions Force. Is your job stressful? Try infiltrating the Kremlin. Physically demanding? Well, at least you don’t have to scale the tallest building in the world. Work long hours? Yeah, Ethan spent a few years of unpaid overtime languishing in a Russian prison. He’s not just a loyal company man, he’s like a bipedal Lassie, slavishly devoted to his governmental masters no matter how often they throw themselves (or him) down the well of international intrigue.

And what does Ethan get for all his trouble? Disavowed. Blackballed. Hunted down like a dog. This guy’s gone dark more often than Breaking Bad, been on the lam more than a veteran mutton buster. He might as well have business cards printed up that read Professional Scapegoat. But in spite of all his troubles, has Ethan ever updated his résumé on Monster Jobs? Had a friendly sit-down with his hiring manager at Starbucks? No. The government types he works for may demand much from him. They may abuse him. They may even shoot at him. But Ethan knows that they need him. As long as there’s an IMF to work for, Ethan Hunt will be there to serve and to spy and to—

Oh, what’s that? You say the IMF is shutting down? Some sort of cost-cutting measure, you say? Lack of congressional oversight? Capitol Hill is getting tired of national landmarks exploding every time Ethan gets near them? Well, hey. Organizations fold all the time, right? Even Plugged In could go away as early as next week. In this uncertain economy, it happens to a lot of ventures, and at least Ethan won’t have to worry about that guy Adam from two cubicles over stealing his peanuts anymore. Maybe Ethan can take a cushy desk job at the FBI or the CIA or … Oh. Seems the CIA thinks Ethan Hunt is a big ol’ liability. Again. They’re hoping to arrest him and maybe kill him. Again. Can’t exactly launch a new profile on LinkedIn with that hanging over your head.

Yes, once again, Ethan Hunt has become the hunted. But even if his employers aren’t that supportive, this is a guy with connections, and he can still corral a few old workmates to do some hunting of his own. It’s a dirty, thankless, dangerous and—at the moment—illegal job. But somebody’s gotta do it.

POSITIVE ELEMENTS

Did I mention yet that Ethan Hunt is super-duper loyal to his country, even when his country doesn’t return the favor? Yeah, that’s still the case. Even when given direct orders to stop his constant do-gooding, Ethan will still do good, save lives and protect whole civilizations against impossible odds. It’s, like, his mission or something.

He’s hardly alone, though. Mission: Impossible has always been about teamwork, and a number of folks help Ethan on his quixotic journey and regularly save one another’s lives. Two M:I-familiar faces, Benji and Luther, work on the tech side of things. William Brandt again serves faithfully as a sort of Ethan-lite. And then there’s Ilsa, a mysterious agent whom Ethan meets. While her motives aren’t exactly clear at the outset, there’s no question she saves Ethan’s life a time or two.

SEXUAL CONTENT

Ilsa strips off her top, showing her bare back and the side of her breast to the camera. Audiences also see her wearing bikinis and slinky, leg-baring gowns. Ethan sometimes goes without a shirt. A small picture of a woman in lingerie is visible in the background at one point.

VIOLENT CONTENT

What’s impossible in this fifth Mission: Impossible movie? To get through it without watching scads of violence. Though the fights sequences and death scenes aren’t presented in particularly graphic ways, there are plenty of both.

Perhaps the most harrowing fight involves Ilsa and a male opponent. Both take out knives and get in a few successful slices (leading to painful grunts and squeals). Somebody’s killed with a stab to the chest and a break of the neck. Frenetic flying fists, feet and blunt instruments take center stage more than once. (One man, for instance, conks his head on a massive pipe.) Several people are shot—sometimes with drugged-up darts, sometimes with full-on lethal bullets. Combatants die in a car explosion. Bad guys strap explosives to one of Ethan’s teammates, threatening to kill boatloads of folks. A woman is executed. During a wild car chase, several motorcyclists are involved in (presumably) deadly crashes, sometimes involving exploding bikes. People are rendered unconscious by gas.

Ethan, captured by evildoers, is prepped to be tortured. A man ominously known as the Bone Doctor punches his chained-up prisoner several times in the gut and once in the face before picking up a small bone saw, apparently getting ready to live up to his name.

Ethan’s wild and crazy encounter with the exterior of an airplane leads to bumps and bruises. A car crashes, tumbling end over end—surely a life-threatening accident had it not been wedged into a Mission: Impossible movie. A guy gets thwacked several times by machinery while underwater and is nearly drowned. (Indeed, he needs to be revived via shock paddles). Benji imagines being shocked by security devices and dragged off to prison. People fall from high places and are in a constant state of mortal danger. Threats are made. Corpses are seen.

CRUDE OR PROFANE LANGUAGE

Three or four s-words. Two or three uses of “d–n” and “h—.” Jesus’ name is abused once.

DRUG AND ALCOHOL CONTENT

We see glasses of wine.

OTHER NEGATIVE ELEMENTS

As one might expect from a spy movie, there’s a whole lotta lying and subterfuge going on here—sometimes for noble reasons, sometimes not. We hear references to gambling. Ethan flouts authority (though arguably with good reason).

CONCLUSION

The Mission: Impossible franchise is a bit like a favorite pair of jeans. It’s comfortable, familiar and seems to get better with age.

Tom Cruise starred in his first M:I movie 19 years ago. Now on his fifth, the action star (who famously does his own stunts) seems to be simultaneously looking forward and back. Rogue Nation certainly boasts a bit of retro charm, with some of the settings exuding an almost Hitchcockian vibe and action sequences tipping the hat to old James Bond. Even the content quotient feels a bit retro, with foul language, sex and violence coming in at a restrained level for a 2015 actioner. It may even be marginally less violent and profane than your newest favorite superhero movie. This is clearly meant to be a summertime romp, not a bleak, gritty grind.

That doesn’t mean Rogue Nation is without its rogues. We see some gratuitous skin, hear a few unnecessary swears and, certainly, watch loads of folks die in violent ways. This Mission, should you choose to accept it, can be exciting and fun. But it can be dangerous and perhaps damaging, too. And unlike Ethan’s job, going to a movie won’t save the world.

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