BY ROGER THOMAS
I have been fairly clear that many of the summer films of 2015 have left me disappointed.
“Jurassic World,” which is now the third highest-grossing film in history, was too much like the original “Jurassic Park.” “The Avengers 2” was too long, especially the final sequence. The jokes of “Minions” were mostly childish (playing to their intended audience, I know). “San Andreas” and even the much lauded “Mad Max: Fury Road” left me wanting something more or different.
On the other hand, I have praised some films that I did not expect to like. “Ant-Man” was a pleasant surprise. Unlike most reviewers, I also found enough to like about “Terminator: Genisys” to call it fun. And though I always expect greatness from Pixar, “Inside Out” (my favorite film of 2015 thus far) startled me with its brilliance.
Now comes along “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.” This franchise has produced five films based on the old television series that people my age remember for three things: Peter Graves, exploding tape recorders and the theme song.
The first film was in theatres in 1996 and starred Tom Cruise. He was in his mid-30s then. He is now 53 and has starred in all five films.
I have seen all the “Mission Impossible” films, but like the old series, I do not remember a lot about the plots of the previous films. I remember the cool masks. I remember some of the stunts. I cannot remember what any specific film was about except that I knew Cruise’s character, Ethan Hunt, was going to win the day. And he did.
The fact that I cannot remember the plot is not a criticism of the films. Since they are making one about every four years, it is hard to keep the plots clear in one’s head. I see a lot of films in four years and I cannot remember them all. But I can remember that I enjoyed them.
I especially enjoyed the most recent one before “Rogue Nation.” This fourth film, “Ghost Protocol,” I loved in part due to the scene where Cruise hung outside on a skyscraper. I cannot remember why he was hanging there, just that it was a great moment.
Which is my main point about the new film. “Rogue Nation” is an implausible thrill a minute. Riding on the outside of a plane, an intricate chase scene between motorcyclists and a car, a drowning of a major character … all propel this film forward with hyper speed. There are hardly any moments when one can just catch a breath and relax.
“Rogue Nation” delivers as a summer movie. It is one of the best of the season. Is it profound? Perhaps the villain reminds us of the billionaires who want to buy our elections, except he is British, so no one would think that but me. There may have been some undertones of political ideas, but long after those thoughts have passed, most audience members will still remember Cruise on the side of that plane.
My personal mental files of the past four “Mission Impossible” films are not very thick. In fact, I am toying with the idea of re-watching those four to see how they stand up against the latest chapter.
But here’s the thing, whether I remember the plot for a week or four years when the next one arrives, (and Cruise is almost 60): I want to believe I will always remember, “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” is an incredible fun time at the movies. And as I have said often this summer, this is the season for “fun” at the cinema.
Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.