In a movie we expect to be full of action, disguise, and gadgets, which it is, the fifth “Mission: Impossible” installment offers us something called “gait analysis.” It’s a full-body scan, part of an ID protocol to enter yet another encrypted computer security vault to capture a USB drive. (Yes, sorry, the whole film boils down to yet another USB drive containing a precious ledger; couldn’t they have devised a scarier rubric — like the Spreadsheet of Certain Death?)
But, gait analysis: Simon Pegg’s tech expert Benji will surely die if his gait is judged inauthentic (or worse, silly). Meanwhile, down below in some underwater computer cavern, Tom Cruise’s indefatigable Ethan Hunt is nearly drowning as he swaps one yellow memory card — D’oh! Dropped it! — for another that might ensure Benji’s gait approval. (The moment comes an hour into the movie; you can guess if the two survive.)
It’s a good sequence, and “M:I — RN” contains several satisfying action sequences from director Christopher McQuarrie. (One nicely alludes to Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” as assassins vie backstage during a Vienna production of “Turandot.”)
Yet I was reminded of gait analysis, and hardly needed a computer scanner to do it, at the picture’s 2-hour mark. Ethan has by that time crashed a motorcycle, crashed a car, made not one but two heroic entrances, suffered a gunshot, taken several beatings, grown a beard, shaved the beard, done some push-ups, shown his hairless chest, clung to the side of a flying aircraft (you saw that bit in the trailer, I know), jumped through several windows, dispatched a dozen baddies, and been deemed a rogue agent by the CIA. Then, running through the cobblestoned streets of London, Tom Cruise — I mean Ethan Hunt — suddenly looks old and tired.
Wait, I thought, is that guy actually limping, huffing and puffing like an actual 53-year-old mortal? His signature 110 percent determination is there, but the gait is gone. We haven’t seen that before: Cruise has spent his 30 very willful years of stardom denying age, insisting that he performs his own stunts, and doing action flicks at an age when his relaxed-fit peers are sliding into more comfortable dadcore roles. (His initial “M:I” reboot was 19 years ago.)
My gait analysis told me one thing, but my movie instincts told me another. I liked that uncertainty more than McQuarrie’s complicated yet familiar script, its stock components seemingly ordered from Amazon: unreliable bosses (Alec Baldwin, Simon McBurney), global locations, loyal flunkies (Ving Rhames, Jeremy Renner), rogue agents, terrorist cartel, double-crosses, and a mystery woman (Sweden’s classy Rebecca Ferguson, who’d be right at home in a ’60s-vintage Bond movie).
Though fine summer entertainment, the movie — like Ethan’s hobbled gait — shows considerable franchise fatigue. How many passwords, computer screens, tablet screens, phone screens, and downloads must we endure? Isn’t that why we go to summer movies — to escape from our tech-saturated daily lives? Ironically, it’s Pegg’s Benji, sick of his data-crunching CIA desk job, who articulates that frustration: “See the world — on a monitor.”
He said it, not me.
“Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation” (3 1/2 stars)
The franchise, as well as Ethan Hunt … er, Tom Cruise, shows its age in the latest “M:I” installment. Plenty of tech drama surrounds Hunt and the gang as they hunt down baddies around the globe. There is a lot of action here and some fun, but it’s hard to ignore the wear-and-tear on Cruise, and the franchise, after all these missions.
Rating: PG-13, for bloodless but intense action violence
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Pacific Place, Sundance Cinemas Seattle, Thornton Place Stadium 14 + Imax, Woodinville, Blue Fox Drive-In, Cascade Mall