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Mission Impossible: A Summer Powerhouse

Casting off any signs of sequel fatigue, Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation delivers super-sized summer entertainment. Even if you haven’t followed the series’ previous installments, you may find yourself caught up in this action-filled spy thriller, which works quite well on its own terms.

The backstory is simply laid out: Tom Cruise and his loyal cohorts in the IMF, or Impossible Mission Force (Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, and Ving Rhames), are officially disenfranchised by testy CIA chief Alec Baldwin. But when a nefarious international organization called The Syndicate rears its head, Cruise and company feel impelled to spring into action, sanctioned or not. Our high-flying hero is led into a maze of spies, counterspies, double-crosses and turnarounds by an intriguing British woman, played by Rebecca Ferguson.

Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie has fashioned a screenplay that never runs out of twists yet follows a coherent through-line. What’s more, the plot points don’t seem like arbitrary filler between action scenes but a well-constructed part of a seamless whole. That is no small achievement.

Rebecca Ferguson - Tom Cruise

Photo by Chiabella James – Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

The action highlights—which begin in the movie’s opening moments—are truly spectacular and don’t smack of CGI trickery, even though logic tells us that there must be some sleight-of-hand involved. The believability of the fights, leaps, car chases, and even underwater exploits give us a visceral investment in the outcome of each encounter and make Rogue Nation consistently exciting to watch.

Once again, Tom Cruise affirms his potency as a movie hero—not literally invincible but willing to take chances even a comic book character might hesitate to try. His gung-ho approach permeates the film, and the well-defined traits of his teammates add color and humor to the proceedings. Relative newcomer Ferguson makes a worthy addition to the ensemble, projecting intelligence as well as the necessary physicality.

Criticisms? Shortcomings? I have none to complain about. I had a ball watching Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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