Tom Cruise has done the impossible.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, the fifth film in the $2 billion franchise, doesn't feature dinosaurs, superheroes or even Minions (that we know of, anyway), and yet, it seems to be on track to become one of this summer's biggest box office draws.
Picking up where 2011's Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol left off, the IMF has disbanded and Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is determined to infiltrate The Syndicate, a network of highly skilled special agents who are responsible for a series of terrorist attacks. To do so, Ethan gathers his old team and joins forces with a disavowed British agent, Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), whose allegiance is in question.
In addition to Cruise and Ferguson, the 131-minute action film features familiar and new faces, including Alec Baldwin as Alan Hunley; Sean Harris as Solomon Lane; Tom Hollander as the Prime Minister; Jens Hultén as the "Bone Doctor"; Simon McBurney as Attlee; Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn; Jeremy Renner as William Brandt; and Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell. Christopher McQuarrie directed the movie, which is rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity.
And, per usual, the stunts are mind-blowing.
Here's what critics think of Paramount Pictures' Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation:
• "Thanks to a sharp script that springs a real surprise or two and a pace that never slackens, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation rates as the second-best of the numerous franchise titles of the summer, after Mad Max: Fury Road," The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy writes, noting that McQuarrie "doesn't change the prescription for what makes this franchise so successful, nor does he have the most practiced hand among the series' directors at milking the big action sequences for all they're worth." That said, he has "deepened the dramatic involvement by so thoroughly casting Ethan Hunt to the wolves that he's a man without a country or a reliable partner—which is why he's forced to believe that Ilsa will stand with him at the end of the day despite much circumstantial evidence to the contrary." Pegg gets "a few moments to shine, Ferguson shines and Cruise "looks great, acts with unassuming confidence without needing to ingratiate and credibly conquers innumerable physical challenges."
• "If Rogue Nation falls slightly below Ghost Protocol on the adrenaline scale, this fifth entry in the spy saga is definitely the sort of over-the-top spree that generates goofy grins, clenched armrests and spilled soda," The Wrap's Alonso Duralde writes, adding, "Rogue Nation doesn't do anything particularly wrong inasmuch as it overdoes something right—by the time we reach the final chase/shoot-out/hand-to-hand combat set piece, a bit of ice-cream-headache fatigue has begun to set in." He notes that McQuarrie "skillfully assembles each of these sequences, but the film might have benefited from excising at least one of them." Ferguson in particular "makes for a captivating screen presence." The movie "never pretends to be anything but a solidly entertaining collection of fighting, chasing, driving, falling and going-to-the-place-and-getting-the-thing. But at that level, it delivers completely. Choose to accept it."
• Entertainment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty notes that the Mission: Impossible movies "have become synonymous with its star's fearless, adrenalin-rush stunts," and McQuarrie "understands that Cruise's signature without-a-net show-stopper is what we're all primed for." In fact, the director opens the film "with its biggest money shot, as Cruise sprints and leaps onto the wing of a Russian cargo plane speeding down a Minsk runway and proceeds to cling by his fingernails onto its side after it's taken flight." Compared to its predecessors, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation holds up. Nashawaty admits it "may not be the best, the tightest, or even the most logically coherent M:I flick, but there should be more movies like it: relentlessly thrilling, smart entertainments for folks who can't tell the difference between Quicksilver and The Flash—and aren't particularly interested in trying to learn the difference either." Furthermore, he writes, "Like all Mission: Impossible films (of which there's yet to be a dud), it's not so much about the outcome as it is the breathlessly thrilling journey Cruise takes us on to get there."
• Calling the film "unusually spry and satisfying," Variety's Justin Chang says Cruise "continues to throw himself into harm's way with energy, conviction and an astonishing disregard for life and limb." Praising Quarrie's contributions, he adds, "While the Mission: Impossible movies have employed a different helmer with each new installment, this is, notably, the first one to be directed and solely written by the same filmmaker—which may explain why, even at a pacey, slightly trimmable 131 minutes, Rogue Nation feels like the most dramatically sustained and conceptually unified picture in the series."
• McQuarrie first directed Cruise in 2012's Jack Reacher, Rolling Stone's Peter Travers recalls, and because he "has never worked on this huge a scale, the strain to go big and bigger sometimes shows." Even so, he admits, the director brings an "indie sensibility" to the "usual Hollywood FX." Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation "doesn't skimp on the wow factor, especially a Moroccan motorcycle chase and an underwater sequence that has Ethan whooshing around like a sock during spin cycle," Travers writes. "And the laughs kick in whenever Ethan gets help from his miracle-working teammates Benji and Luther." Though "action trumps logic" at times, the movie "succeeds best when McQuarrie channels his inner film geek and stages a spectacular shootout at the Vienna opera house that evokes Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much. This knockout sequence, in which Cruise fires up everything he has as actor and athlete, shows that Mission: Impossible still has gas in its tank even when its engine sputters."
• "Tom Cruise is now 53. He has no business hanging on the side of an airplane as it ascends. Yet there he is in the opening sequence, as game as ever. His inexhaustible drive helps propel this consistently exciting—if familiar—installment," Us Weekly's Mara Reinstein notes. Regarding Ethan's team, she says, "This group isn't going to sit in a room and talk strategy. They chase, they shoot, they hack, they do that cool neck-snap-with-the-legs move...It all goes by in a whirl, though, and there's a good chance it will dissipate from memory as quickly as that message self-destructs. Please, Cruise, light a new fuse soon!"
• "Cruise seems to have given up on trying to convince us that he's a ladies' man and with the female lead...he shares no moment sexier than a warm hug of the quality you'd give your aunt at Thanksgiving," The New York Post's Kyle Smith writes. He adds that Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is "the kind of movie where trained assassins with machine guns miss our hero from a distance of five yards, has the occasional semi-rousing moment, but it has neither the wit of the best Bond films nor the grit of any of the Bourne ones. It's a movie that never lives up to the promise of its own theme song."
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is in theaters Friday.