“Did you know Tom Cruise had no idea he was in that vampire movie till two years later?”

-Robert K. Bowfinger (Bowfinger)

Even when a Tom Cruise film isn’t firing on all cylinders, Tom Cruise is. Cruise at one time was the biggest actor on the face of the earth. He has rarely had box office flops, and no one has ever complained about him mailing in a performance. But because of reasons outside of the film industry, Cruise has become a bit of a pariah. Almost no actor gives the effort or has the passion for films like Cruise does. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is just another example of Cruise’s hard work and determination.

Rogue Nation begins with Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team attempting to stop a plane from lifting off. This first scene is in the trailer, on the poster, and has been shown as a featurette in front of films all summer. This scene sets the tone from the outset and never stops moving. Like the majority of the MI films, Rogue Nation pits Hunt and his team against the IMF (Impossible Mission Force). The IMF is dissolved because of several instances of mass destruction in which Hunt and the IMF have been involved with. Hunt is listed as fugitive number one by the CIA. Hunt realizes he is being set up and begins targeting a thought to be mythical faction called the Syndicate.

Christopher McQuarrie has written and directed a fun and intriguing summer blockbuster. McQuarrie is best known as a writer, but recently directed Cruise in Jack Reacher. McQuarrie’s writing here is on point. This is a film that is relentless with its action and to the point with its dialogue. McQuarrie’s script is good, but at times the plot is overly complicated. McQuarrie does a great job creating just enough mystery to entice, but there is a point at which the back stabbing becomes convoluted. The film’s direction is excellent. The action is non-stop and inventive. The MI series is rapidly becoming known for its amazing action set pieces.

Simon Pegg and Rebecca Ferguson are the primary supporting cast. Pegg reprises his role of Benji Dunn, and Ferguson joins the ensemble as Ilsa Faust. Pegg is hilarious as always, and Ferguson has subtle sexiness that doesn’t overshadow her character’s lethal skills as a spy. McQuarrie does an excellent job of not selling the Faust character short. Instead of building on the contrivances of a love story, McQuarrie instead focuses on a developing friendship between Faust and Hunt. To the film’s credit, Faust never feels like a love interest, but instead she is shown as a very capable colleague. Jeremy Renner’s character William Brandt is given little to do and is essentially side-lined from any of the action. Sean Harris plays Solomon Lane, the menacing thorn in Ethan Hunt’s side. Lane is probably one of the better villains in the MI series. Lane is constantly a step ahead of Hunt and the IMF. In a film like this, a good villain is essential to the execution of the plot. Fortunately for McQuarrie, Harris is up to the task.

Rogue Nation has a lot going for it, but what puts it over the top is Tom Cruise. Cruise as Hunt has carried this franchise to heights no one would have surmised 15 years ago. His tenacity and fearlessness have lifted the MI series once again. Cruise not only hangs off a plane, but drives a motorcycle at incredible speeds through a curvy mountain road. Most actors would never think about attempting what Cruise continually does in every film. Cruise takes method acting to another level.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is the best film in the franchise. Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise elevate this film beyond the normal summer action fare. Simon Pegg, Sean Harris, and Rebecca Ferguson are terrific. Ferguson is the standout and has a very promising career ahead of her. The plot is sometimes silly, but McQuarrie keeps the action coming. The film’s greatest strengths are its unrelenting star and propulsive action beats. Mad Max: Fury Road is still the best action film of the year, but Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is a satisfactory second.

Grade: B+