Intriguing plot, heart-pounding action in ‘Mission Impossible’

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By Wendell Gaa

I recently had the joy of taking my parents out to the movies to see the latest installment to Tom Cruise’s popular “Mission Impossible” espionage film series. As I hoped for and expected, the movie was superbly entertaining.

When it comes to Tom Cruise, one of Hollywood’s most bankable leading men since the 1980s, both the media and moviegoers seem to have strong opinions about him. There are those who fall into the camp of film fans (particularly females) who absolutely adore him and deem him worthy to be named as one of America’s greatest cinematic icons alongside such Hollywood legends as Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, and even Paul Newman.

And there are the critics who berate his sometimes quirky personality both on and off screen, whether it comes to poor choice in film roles in underwhelming blockbusters, or his occasional eccentric behavior.

Love him or hate him, there is no doubt that Tom Cruise has been, and still is, a force to be reckoned with in the filmmaking business for the past three decades. After seeing his latest turn as superspy Ethan Hunt in “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation,” Cruise has proven yet again that he shows no sign of stopping with age or vitality.

Personally I have considered myself to be somewhere in the middle ground of the general opinion spectrum of Tom Cruise, never having truly idolized him yet at the same time admiring his work in several of his films.

The first movie I saw him in was in the classic 1986 “Top Gun,” and this was way back in the year that movie was first released. Being guys, my brother and I enjoyed the film for its amazing naval jet warplane dogfight scenes, while my mother who took us to see the film enjoyed it for the mere fact of Tom Cruise’s presence alone. I was only 10 years old at the time, but I was surely old enough to understand the swooning over Tom Cruise which I felt being generated by the female members of the audience! I finally observed and appreciated Cruise’s inherent acting talent when I reached high school age and watched him in such ‘90s hits as “A Few Good Men” and “The Firm.”

Tom Cruise, who is now 53, seriously doesn’t seem to have aged much in this summer’s “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation,” where Cruise still looks physically able (he performed his own stunt in one nail biting “plane ride” scene) and speaks in the same determined cocky voice as in his earliest movies. A good espionage film to me has always been about having a balanced mixture of fine acting, intriguing plot and heart-pounding action, and thankfully all three of these elements are very much present in “Rogue Nation.”

Cruise’s star power alone complements this movie well, and many critics are right to point out that the main attraction of the “Mission Impossible” series has arguably been the physical stunt work which Cruise himself performs in many of the key action sequences of the movies. His stunt work here in this new film again doesn’t cease to impress, though if you were to take Cruise out of the equation, the true acting star of “Rogue Nation” is Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson. I will go on the record to say that she is absolutely wonderful here.

Ferguson is just so well suited to her film role as a mysterious British intelligence agent who may or may not be working with Ethan Hunt, and she just projects this enigmatic aura that is so reminiscent of her fellow Swedish actress, the late great Ingrid Bergman. The fact that Ferguson is not that well known amongst Hollywood circles (though after the success of this film, I’m sure that will all change) really helps to drive audience attention towards her character’s story role rather than on her star power familiarity and reputation. She and Cruise have a natural electric chemistry whenever they are together onscreen, and their relationship is no doubt the driving force behind “Rogue Nation.”

The dynamic partnership between Cruise and Ferguson, being the highlight of the film, is also indirectly the cause of the movie’s only drawback for me: less focus, screen time, and character development for Ethan Hunt’s superspy allies who played pivotal roles in the previous “Mission Impossible” installments, notably the characters of Ving Rhames and Jeremy Renner. I would have loved to see more story progression for their characters, though their presence is still strongly felt, and beloved English actor Simon Pegg is again delightful here as he gets to exert more of his humorous sidekick character without being too comedic in detracting the edgy thriller feel of the movie.

Part of the appeal of the “Mission Impossible” series is also the exotic and glamorous international locations where the past movies have been shot, including Sydney, Australia; Berlin, Germany; Shanghai, China; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The Philippines is actually mentioned in “Rogue Nation,” and although there were no on-locale scenes depicted in this film, I am optimistic that someday, we may actually get to see a future installment of Cruise’s popular franchise feature location filming at one of our homeland’s sites. If Jeremy Renner was drawn to film his own movie “The Bourne Legacy” in Manila and Palawan, then Tom Cruise following suit doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me.

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