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Movie review: IMF team back for more in ‘Rogue Nation’ 

It’s the rare film franchise that keeps getting better with age. Earlier this Spring we saw that with the “Fast & Furious” franchise, which saw its seventh installment set Box Office records.

The cinematic world of “Mission Impossible” might not break Box Office marks, but it certainly continues to churn out interesting stories. The original film debuted 19 years ago, and now in its fifth installment the series proves it still has legs creatively, and it can continue to take more chances visually.

Movie reviewer Matthew Fox.

Movie reviewer Matthew Fox.

Tom Cruise — who serves as the franchise’ star and producer — is a big part of that. Some have questioned his Box Office mojo, but you can never question his commitment to roles. The “Mission Impossible” films in particular have sought to test their star more and more in each installment. In this latest film, that meant dangling him off the side of an airplane in mid-flight.

But it’s the story, the writing and the construction of the action that keeps people coming back for more impossible missions.

In “Rogue Nation,” Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is trying to uncover information about a nefarious group called the Syndicate. Of course hardly anyone — including the CIA — believes the Syndicate is real. When CIA Director Hunley (Alec Baldwin) pushes to have the IMF shut down, Brandt (Jeremy Renner) is powerless to stop him. But if the IMF shuts down, that leaves the Syndicate to threaten the world.

So while Brandt and Benji (Simon Pegg) get absorbed into CIA operations, Hunt goes underground looking for answers. That also makes him an international fugitive.

Along the way, Hunt finds Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a Brit who might be able to shed light on the Syndicate. Once the target is located, Hunt calls on Brandt, Benji and his old pal Luther (Ving Rhames) for another impossible mission to clear the IMF’s name and prevent a world catastrophe.

With the exception of “Mission Impossible: II,” which felt like a misstep, this film franchise continues to get better. Since the third installment in 2006, writer/director/producer J.J. Abrams has been a part of the process. Abrams directed the third film and has helped produce the fourth and fifth. It’s given new life to the franchise and helped it to find a strong narrative tone.

The previous installment — “Ghost Protocol” — is largely considered the best. Director Brad Bird presented a fascinating visual style and good action sequences despite a plot that was more than a little complex.

“Rogue Nation” was written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects,” “Valkyrie”). He’s worked with Cruise on a couple previous projects and obviously has an easy rapport with the star. This installment of “Mission Impossible” has a more straightforward story, and mixes plenty of personal character beats with the kind of action and suspense that makes this kind of film hum.

The addition of Baldwin — who is set up at the end to possibly return — adds a nice wrinkle to the films. He has a number of funny scenes opposite Renner. Pegg and Rhames — veterans of the franchise — settle into their familiar roles and help round out the world, too.

Cruise may not be the shinning star he once was, but age hasn’t stopped him from being effective in the lead role in this franchise. His daring and willingness to be a part of increasingly lavish action sequences helps make these movies fun. But it’s his ability to dominate the screen in the quieter scenes that helps these movies hook an audience.

Judging by the fine product delivered in “Rogue Nation” this is a franchise that can — and should — keep on going for years to come.

“Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” has been rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity.

Three stars out of four.

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About the author: Columnist Matthew Fox

Matthew Fox is a graduate of Biola University's Radio, Television, and Film program. He is an avid film and TV fan, and writes about both on his blog, each week. He lives in Colorado Springs, CO with his wife, Lindsay, where he follows the second love of his life, the Denver Broncos.

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