By: Kevin Jordan

Hanging by his fingernails.

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Four years ago, at age 49, Tom Cruise wanted to prove to everybody that he still had “it” by hanging off the side of the 2717 foot tall Burj Khalifa in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.  We’re not really sure what “it” is, but Cruise will be damned if he’ll let anyone believe he lost “it.”  Now, at age 53, he’s at “it” again, this time hanging off the side of a cargo plane while that plane is taking off and flying in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.  When normal people go through mid-life crises, they buy sports cars or bang their yoga instructors.  Apparently, Tom Cruise hangs off of stuff.

Rogue Nation is the fifth entry in the Mission: Impossible franchise and neither it nor Cruise show any signs of stopping.  Much like the Fast and Furious franchise, MI seems to have figured out its formula in the fourth installment and built on that success in the fifth.  For MI, the key to success isn’t its main character, Ethan Hunt (Cruise), but a sense of humor and good action.  The first three movies featured exactly one bit of comedy – Emilio Estevez.  Yeah, you forgot he was even in the first movie, didn’t you?  Anyway, the franchise was taking itself way too seriously and who better to break the rut than Simon Pegg?  Pegg (as well as much different writing) has made the series feel fresh and more fun – which isn’t a surprise because he was instrumental in doing the same thing for the Star Trek reboot (and sequel).  I’m not saying I don’t like serious action flicks, but the ones that blend comedy and action almost always end up more entertaining.  In a nutshell, that’s Rogue Nation.

As much as I enjoyed Rogue Nation, I left the theater with one question – what does the title even mean?  Like Ghost Protocol, it’s pretty much a nonsense term that the movie has to literally say out loud in a sentence so the audience knows what it means.  Rogue Nation is what the CIA and its director, Hunley (Alec Baldwin) refer to the bad guys’ organization as.  Don’t ask; just go with it.  The plot of the film is exactly what you think it is – the Impossible Mission Force (IMF) has to stop the bad guy from achieving his goal and must do something “impossible.”  As fresh as the film feels, the impossible mission is the same as it always is – they have to break into an impenetrable facility in order to steal a data file and Tom Cruise is going to perform another crazy stunt in addition to hanging off of an airplane.  I won’t spoil this part of the movie for you, but I will tell you that Tom Cruise holds his breath for six minutes.

Besides Cruise and Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames reprised their roles as IMF agents.  Strangely, Renner was not given any action scenes; relegated to CIA duty (once again, the IMF is being disbanded – I guess this movie really isn’t that fresh) which entailed standing in operational control rooms and silently signaling his men with facial expressions.  Considering how good he was at the action scenes in the last film (as well as The Bourne Legacy), it’s easy to understand why he seemed a little bored during much of the film (his apparent boredom led him to deliver his lines by over-enunciating every word).  On the other hand, Baldwin was seemingly overjoyed to be back in an action movie and was anything but bored, delivering a performance that is best described as zealous.

In addition to Baldwin, the other two new actors are Rebecca Ferguson as ally and/or enemy, Ilsa Faust, and Sean Harris as the evil villain and/or…no…he’s definitely the villain.  And, what a villain he is.  Not only is he very creepy looking, his delivery and performance drips with villainy.  As spy movie evil villains go, he’s easily as good (bad) as Javier Bardem in Skyfall and definitely the most memorable (sorry Jon Voight) of the MI flicks.  I won’t say any more than that, but he is worth the price of admission.  Ferguson is also a refreshing addition and is just as good at the fight/action scenes as anyone (including Renner – maybe she got his action scenes after beating him in a fight).

You may have noticed I didn’t say much about Cruise, but after hearing he hung off an airplane and held his breath for six minutes, is there anything I could tell you that’s even half as interesting?  I know I poked fun at him for it, but I actually am quite impressed that he’s willing to do stuff like that.  I may not agree with his personal opinions, but there’s no denying that the man almost always does good/great movies.  But, as far as mid-life crises go, I do think he might want to consider just buying a Corvette next time.

Rating: Don’t ask for any money back and stay away from my Pilates instructor.