Last June, the Tom Cruise flick Edge of Tomorrow arrived in theaters and was promptly met with a collective shrug– barely making $100 million (which was well short of its $180 million budget) and finishing the year behind movies like Noah, The Maze Runner, and even Mr. Peabody & Sherman at the box office. It was supposed to be a major tentpole movie of the summer, but it fizzled more quickly than a dud firecracker– leading Hollywood pundits to quickly continue their declarations that Cruise could no longer draw audiences. (Not counting Tropic Thunder, he’s only had one $100 million movie since 2006.)
Enter Mission Impossible— the franchise that has somehow remained immune to Cruise-haters. That one $100 million movie I just mentioned? None other than Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.
And now the fifth in the series has arrived, and the same pundits can predict all over again if Cruise really is back in everyone’s good graces, or if people are seeing Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation despite him. It may be a combination of both: A) The franchise has been rock-solid since in began in 1996; even the so-so Mission: Impossible 2 had some great, memorable moments, and each has earned well over $100 million. And B) There’s no denying that Cruise is the centerpiece of all the movies; I can’t imagine many folks plopping their money down to watch if they don’t like him.
Rogue Nation picks up shortly after the happenings of Ghost Protocol. Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and the rest of the Impossible Mission Force are coming under fire for being a band of reckless world-destroyers, and when CIA Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) successfully lobbies Congress to essentially get rid of the IMF, Ethan (who’s in the middle of hunting down the dreaded Syndicate) has to go even further underground than he already is.
Of course, the MI movies have never been as much about plot (though it never gets short shrift) as about, well, the impossible missions. And Rogue Nation has them in spades. After Ethan’s free-climb scaling of the Burj Khalifa in Ghost Protocol, there was a lot to live up to– but Rogue Nation manages to up the ante with a handful of mind-blowing stunts in ridiculous(ly fun) situations. Starting with the opening sequence, as Ethan hangs from the outside of a cargo jet (without visual trickery), right through to the finale, the movie just keeps ramping up the entertainment value. From its destinations (Minsk, Cuba, Paris, London, and Morocco– just to name a few) to its action sequences (shootouts, knife fights, motorcycle chases), Rogue Nation hits on all cylinders and never lets its foot off the gas. It may have a 2:11 run time, but it feels infinitely shorter than the 99-minute Vacation remake that’s currently stinking up the box office.
Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher) keeps the pace flying along, and he choreographed every sequence as tight as a snare drum. The result is a film that perfectly mixes The Bourne Identity’s action with The Avengers’ dry humor, and it’s the leader in the clubhouse, so far, as best movie of the summer.
So now… if you find yourself back in the ‘I’m okay with Tom Cruise’ camp, do yourself one more favor (after catching Rogue Nation), and check out Edge of Tomorrow (which, incidentally, was also written by McQuarrie). You may just kick yourself for passing on it earlier.