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Review: ‘Rogue Nation’ an effective action product

Tom Long
The Detroit News

Proof positive that Hollywood’s movie-making machinery still spews effective product, “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” is industrial-strength, stunt-stuffed, thoroughly soulless, yet eminently watchable cinema.

The formula is beyond obvious: Storied franchise based on a long-gone TV show; charismatic-if-aging superstar who’s still agreeably buff and charming; secret organization plotting to take over the world; shockingly spry and attractive unknown female co-star (where do they find these women?) to add spice and uncertainty; and outrageous action sequence after outrageous action sequence.

Assemble, blend, sprinkle with comic relief, serve. The masses will eat it up. And really, who can blame them?

No one, really. Hollywood is very good at this stuff, even if in the end this stuff really does feel like stuff. It doesn’t feel important, or moving, certainly not thought-provoking or life-enhancing. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a Happy Meal.

Hey, a lot of people eat Happy Meals.

So, it’s Tom Cruise again, playing daredevil super spy Ethan Hunt (in reality the M:I franchise is just another spin around the James Bond roulette wheel). This time he’s trying to bring down yet another dastardly network of bad guys; the (slight) twist is that the network is made up of other super spies from assorted worldwide agencies who’ve elected to go to the dark side.

Complicating things, the blockheads in Washington, led by a new CIA chief (Alec Baldwin), have decided to disband the Impossible Mission task force (or whatever it’s called), so Hunt is now on his own. Oh, wait, it’s actually worse — the CIA now wants to kill Hunt. Now he’s really-really on his own. That’s the “Rogue Nation” part of the title.

Except he’s not really on his own, of course. As things progress, he reunites with goofy right-hand man Benji (Simon Pegg), computer wizard Luther (Ving Rhames) and bureaucrat-spy William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), who wandered into the franchise somewhere in the last sequel.

Complicating things further is the mysterious Ilsa (the mysterious Rebecca Ferguson), a woman who shows up to torture Hunt but then ends up saving him. She may or may not be working for the shadowy organization even as she becomes a sort of auxiliary member of Hunt’s team.

OK, enough with the personalities, let’s get on with the stunts. The film opens with a biggie as Hunt clings to the outside of an airplane as it takes to the sky. Nicely done. Then there are your standard-issue full-speed car and motorcycle chases and spectacular shoot-outs, along with some operatic assassination acrobatics and a gurgling underwater adventure.

It’s all very breathless, but then it’s supposed to be. We like our Happy Meals breathless!

The most — only — intriguing question posed by “Rogue Nation” is, what would Rebecca Ferguson look like in a serious film? Will we ever know? She certainly rocks this cartoon (her final confrontation is the movie’s highlight).

Cruise is, of course, his charming, cocky self, but at 53 you have to wonder how much more action silliness he has in him (some apparently: next up are “Top Gun 2” and another Jack Reacher film). Remember when he used to make real movies? Actually, the answer to that for an entire generation is likely no. Well, he did, and some of them were quite good.

For now, though, it’s Happy Meals. Bon appetit.

tlong@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/toomuchTomLong

‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’

GRADE: B-

Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity

Running time: 131 minutes