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Thrilling enough

Rogue Nation stays true to its impossible roots

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Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation begins with our hero, Ethan Hunt, as he chases down an airplane during takeoff. He leaps onto the vessel and then clings to the wing for several uninterrupted minutes while he waits for his friends on the ground to hack into the plane's computer system so he can get inside and somehow retrieve the stolen war missiles. An aging but still limber Tom Cruise continues his role as Hunt in the fifth installment of the MI franchise, written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie. If you can stomach every unbelievable conceit that comes standard in a spy/thriller/action picture, then Rogue Nation is a pretty good time.

The film assembles the team from 2011's MI: Ghost Protocol. Jeremy Renner is William, head of the secret government organization they're all a part of called the IMF. Simon Pegg plays a fellow field agent named Benji and Ving Rhames is Luther, an IMF computer hacker who uses a laptop and communicates via Bluetooth. Even though the airplane stunt is highly successful, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, played by Alec Baldwin, is annoyed by the IMF anyway and campaigns to have the program disbanded. That leaves Ethan, without a country and actively wanted by the CIA, out in the field to pursue the evil shadow organization known as "The Syndicate."

There's another rogue agent out on the field named Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who Ethan meets while he's strung up shirtless and about to be tortured for government secrets by a mean Russian man they call "The Bone Doctor." It looks to be a gnarly torture—I don't even think this guy's a real doctor. We're 20 minutes into this movie, so who believes anything bad could happen to Ethan so soon anyway? He suffers a few gut shots that would incapacitate a normal man and then he and Ilsa proceed to disarm and probably kill just about everyone in the room before Ethan makes his great escape. Who Ilsa is and what side she's playing for is a yarn poised to unravel.

Not-so-easy rider.
  • Not-so-easy rider.

The stunts these guys pull are elaborate and crazy. Everything has to be meticulously plotted out in advance and requires superhuman athletic ability. Not a single thing can go wrong. I understand that for some people, that's part of the fun, but my prevailing feelings are incredulity and concern. For this installment, the major impossible mission sends Ethan into a big spinning tank of water where he's tasked with replacing a security chip in under three minutes, lest Benji be discovered and captured. "Well, that doesn't sound impossible at all!" says the guy who doesn't have to perform any frightening underwater feats.

The long, elaborate motorcycle chase that follows had me very concerned about the drivers' safety: The ones we're not supposed to care about kept tumbling off their bikes at top speeds with PG-13 style violence—and then the girl gets away with the USB file anyway. Somebody get a colorful lanyard for that thing so it stops getting lost or stolen!

To be clear, I think action movies, in general, are dumb and, worse, incomprehensible, but this one held my interest with mostly compelling characters and a plot that manages to stay equal parts simple and convoluted. Best of all is the score, which incorporates that recognizable hook throughout but in restrained, retro and inventive ways. When it finally gives the big crescendo at the end and the heroes come out on top, I have to admit that I was moderately thrilled.

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation continues at the Carmike 12.

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