*** out of four
I wasn't too crazy about the first three Mission: Impossible movies. Sure, they had a few memorable set-pieces but the plots were either confusing or clunky. I felt this film series, which is based on the TV show that ran from 1966 to 1973, found its niche in the fourth installment, Ghost Protocol, because of a clear plot, exhilarating action set-pieces and a welcome sense of humor.
American spy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF team take on an international rogue organization known as the Syndicate, who, in turn, want to destroy the IMF. To accomplish his mission, Hunt also has to out smart the CIA. Standing in the middle of all this is a British double agent, Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson).
Rogue Nation proves once again that practical stunts are superior to digital created mayhem. Yes, that really is Cruise hanging off that plane in the opening, and that hair-raising motorcycle chase later in the film is also the real deal. Maybe there is a little digital enhancement in that chase, but not much that I noticed.
Ferguson's frisky spy is easy on the eyes to be sure, but she's not there for just decoration. Not only is she a strong female character but her character actually helps propel the plot. Of course, Simon Pegg, as Hunt's tech expert, Benji Dunn, punctuates Christopher McQuarrie's movie with lots of humor.
What makes this Mission: Impossible and the one before it better than the James Bond films is Cruise's performance and the fact that he plays the character as vulnerable. Sure, he is super smart, using his brains to outsmart the bad guys, but he is not infallible, and often gets physically injured during fights. This makes him human and not an indestructible hero.