See Tom Cruise run

Another over-the-top entry in Mission Impossible franchise

Starring Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Alec Baldwin and Jeremy Renner. Directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated PG-13.
Rated 3.0

For me, Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation is mostly a matter of comedy and digitally enhanced ballet. The whiplash storylines and convoluted plotting, with all those double agents and secret espionage schemes, are little more than a pretext for the spectacular carnival of outlandish action sequences that writer/director Christopher McQuarrie and producer/star Tom Cruise have concocted for this fifth entry in the Impossible franchise.

Cruise is once again full of zest and bounce in the role of the central hero. With his mysterious hint of a grin and a body seemingly lined with invisible shock absorbers, he serves mainly as a live-wire action figure in this hyper kinetically animated cartoon of an adventure. The action is indeed quite lively, but very little of it feels like genuine live action.

The comic element emerges mostly from the deadpan approach to the brazenly “impossible” action sequences. The script’s attempts at verbal humor make little impression, for the most part. The lines themselves are less funny than the throwaway manner in which they’re delivered (Cruise’s insouciant smirk and raised eyebrow, Jeremy Renner’s shrug, etc.).

Benji Dunn, the techie/sidekick played by Simon Pegg, is the heart of the comic matter in every respect. From the outset, he as much as anyone sets the tone for the film’s abiding combination of rambunctious escapade and high-tech warfare. And he’s the one character in this ebullient fantasy/adventure who maintains some small touch of ordinary humanity.

Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), the film’s heroically resourceful double agent, is a figure of fantasy as well, but with some modestly humanizing differences. She’s a lethally skilled scrapper, part of the problem for Cruise and company, but also their conveniently opportune rescuer. She’s an almost “plain Jane” operative who somehow becomes much more glamorous when she’s called into violent action.

Sean Harris and Simon McBurney play the story’s chief villains as simpering fraternal twins—they’re transparently devious, warped (if not perverted), dangerously effete, and snidely British, each with a touch of blatant fiendishness. A CIA honcho played by Alec Baldwin is ostensibly their American counterpart, but he’ll be redeemed, partly via the Renner character, who is both “Impossible” and CIA.

The “rogue nation” of the title seems to be something called The Syndicate, which is characterized in the film as an inversion or perhaps a perversion or maybe just a pathologically jealous rival of the Impossible Missions Force. The tracks of several real-life “rogue nations” seem plenty evident all over this movie, but McQuarrie/Cruise and company don’t seem to pay them much mind.

But it is at least a little intriguing that this chapter of franchised fantasy leaves so many (metaphorical) land mines in its trail. This is a film that “ends well,” yet everything it does to reassure us could just as easily provoke rampant paranoia.