If you’re looking for franchise fatigue, you’re not going to find it in the Mission: Impossible series. Rogue Nation, the thrilling fifth M:I installment, delivers another high octane adventure by pushing all the right buttons and hitting all the necessary targets in the summer crowd pleaser formula.

Tom Cruise once again takes center stage as the Impossible Missions Force’s Agent Ethan Hunt, but perhaps the biggest pleasant surprise in Rogue Nation is his co-star Rebecca Ferguson who delivers a knockout femme fatale performance and effortlessly goes toe-to-toe with one of the biggest stars in the world.

We find the future of the IMF organization in dire straits following the fallout of 2011’s Ghost Protocol. Tired of the high collateral damage that goes hand in hand with successful IMF missions, CIA Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) leads a witch hunt to cease the government’s support of the under the radar special ops group and merge them into the CIA. That healthy helping of mass destruction at the Kremlin in the last installment didn’t sit too well with Capitol Hill. Agent William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) can neither confirm nor deny any of the top secret dealings during the hearing and loses the battle to keep IMF an entity operating outside of government jurisdiction.

Ethan Hunt becomes the hunted while on his quest to prove the existence of The Syndicate, a mythical group of highly trained renegade operatives with plans to take down the very fabric of modern worldwide governments. In the typical plot of elaborate twists and turns we expect from the series, Hunt and his fellow IMF colleagues Benji Dunn, (Simon Pegg), Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Brandt (Renner) hit up exotic locations in Vienna and Casablanca to secure a encrypted drive of info that holds the key to securing the future of The Syndicate, led by ex-MI6 agent Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).

Along the way Hunt crosses path with the mysterious Ilsa Faust (Ferguson), a deadly and highly trained operative in her own right whose loyalties are constantly in question. Faust finds common ground with Hunt in perusing The Syndicate and proves to be more than a worthy adversary to anyone who stands in her way. Ferguson gives a tour de force kick ass performance, effortlessly giving us one of the most memorable no-holds-barred female characters you’d be looking forward to seeing more of in the next installment or even starring in a spin-off film.

To top the vertigo-inducing Burj Khalifa skyscraper scene in Dubai from Ghost Protocol, Rogue Nation kicks off with that jaw dropping opening sequence that sees Cruise literally hanging on to the side of an airplane as it takes flight. It’s no secret that it’s really Cruise risking his life for the spectacular stunt, relying on zero green screen magic. Despite getting countless sneak peeks at this scene before the film hit theaters, the full sequence is still a pulse pounding nail biter. It’s also wisely used as the opener, not because it’s a hell of a first scene, but building up to something we expect in the plot for too long would lessen its visual and visceral impact. It’s a smart way to present a highly anticipated sequence so you can move along with the main thrust of the film.

The IMF team is given second fiddle overall to Cruise and Furguson. Simon Pegg’s IT-Turned-Field-Op Benji is the expected comic relief and Ving Rhames’ Luther seems to be included simply for keeping the core team together. Renner’s Brandt is the obvious Red Shirt of the group, but it looks like the film makers are intent on keeping him around. That said, there is no expendable character here. I would have liked to see one or two additional agents bite the dust (i.e. Keri Russel in M:I3 and Josh Hallowell in Ghost Protocol) just to remind us that anyone can be out matched and make a fatal mistake on the field.

Rogue Nation boasts numerous impressive action sequences, from hand-to-hand combat on the rafters of a Vienna opera house, to a high speed spectacular motorcycle chase, to a hi-tech signature IMF heist (in an underwater fortified data bank no less) laced with with all the techno talk you would expect. I saw the film in full IMAX in NYC, and the film simply kills it in the large format.

Christopher McQuarrie, serving as both director and screenwriter, dials down the series on all levels with this installment, and that’s by no means a bad thing. Potential over-the-top superhuman set pieces are grounded into breath taking action sequences. Cruise once again goes way above and beyond when in comes to performing his own stunts, sans helmet in the motorcycle chase or braving an extended underwater heist sequence. The opening plane ride is easily one of the most ambitious, if not bat shit crazy, situations an A-List star of Cruise’s caliber has ever set themselves up for (and must have given the film’s insurers many sleepless nights).

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is a rare accessible thinker’s tent pole that you realize is so often sorely lacking in the summer movie mix. The series manages to successfully change things up with each installment, while remaining loyal to its basic premise. It’s hands down the best action thriller of the summer, and you’ll leave anxiously awaiting the next mission the IMF team chooses to accept.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation hits theaters & IMAX screens on July 31st.

Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Furguson, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Sean Harris, Alec Baldwin
Screenwriter: Christopher McQuarrie
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 131 minutes

Jim Kiernan
Founder and moderator of Nerdy Rotten Scoundrel. Steering this ship the best I can. Lifelong opinionated geek & pop culture enthusiast. Independent television & film professional. Born & raised New Yorker. My dog Nicholas is awesome.

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