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Movie Night – 'Rogue Nation' stands as one of year's best (Aug. 12, 2015 issue)

Tom Cruise does it again. The ageless star is back as the super-spy, world traveler, and daredevil known as Ethan Hunt. Each time a new Mission Impossible movie is released Ethan and his IMF team find themselves alone, with no backup while trying to stop an arch-villain from taking innocent lives. “Rogue Nation” is no different.
The movie opens with a thrilling scene reminiscent of a James Bond film. Ethan (Cruise) and Benji (Simon Pegg) are in the field, literally. They are hiding in a grass field near an isolated airstrip where a cargo plane filled with deadly nerve gas is set to take off. The only way they can stop the plane without releasing the nerve gas into the atmosphere is from the interior of the plane. Left with no alternative, Ethan leaps onto the moving airplane. Unfortunately, Ethan is outside of the plane when it takes off. It’s an impressive opening scene for an impressive movie.
After stopping the shipment of nerve gas Ethan wants to go after a criminal organization he calls the Syndicate. Though Ethan has only heard rumors of its existence, his instinct and experience tell him that the Syndicate is very real and very deadly. Its operatives are as skilled as IMF agents, only more elusive. As proof of their skill, agents for the Syndicate capture Ethan. Ethan escapes certain torture and death when he is rescued by a mysterious member of the Syndicate named Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). Ilsa stays behind after she sets Hunt free.
The director of the CIA, Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), is convinced that the Syndicate is the product of an over-active imagination of Ethan and created to ensure the survival of the IMF despite its failings in field operations. A senate committee agrees with Hunley and disbands the IMF while placing its remaining assets under the control of Hunley and the CIA. Ethan instantly becomes a fugitive, wanted by his own government.
Ethan refuses to surrender to the CIA. Instead, he exerts all of his considerable abilities and dedication to finding the Syndicate and stopping them, with or without any help from the U.S. government.
“Rogue Nation” is likely the best of the “Mission Impossible” franchise. Several aspects of the film set it apart from the other films in the series, most notably the writing. The previous films center around the crazy stunts that Ethan performs and from the perspective of a viewer it appears that the plots of the movies are altered to include the craziest stunts/scenes possible.
In contrast, “Rogue Nation” has a great story and the amazing scenes that are a trademark of the series not only fit perfectly into the plot but advance the story in a way that almost no other franchise (or actor) could pull off. The stunts fit into the plot, rather than the opposite.
Several scenes from “Rogue Nation” will stand out days after you leave the theater. From the opening scene on the airplane to an underwater puzzle to a motorcycle chase through the streets of Casablanca, each and every scene is written, acted, and filmed with precision. Possibly the best scene of the movie involves Hunt, Faust, Benji, and two other assassins in the Vienna Opera House during the attempted assassination of the Austrian Prime Minister. It’s a silent and stealthy scene where Ethan can’t determine which assassin to stop first and the entire scene is brilliant.
Rebecca Ferguson is a great addition to the cast. Her character of Ilsa Faust is Ethan Hunt’s match not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. The script interweaves the scenes with Faust so perfectly that it’s impossible to determine (for Ethan and the moviegoer) if she is one of the good guys or a true member of the Syndicate.
“Rogue Nation” appeals to action fans with the incredible stunts and physical acting of Cruise and Ferguson but also appeals to fans of movies with real plots, storylines with many twists and turns that keep you guessing. “Rogue Nation” is one of the best movies of the year.
Grade: A
Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence and brief partial nudity.