Tom Cruise is the man. The 53-year-old actor is one of the greatest movie stars working today, willing to put everything that he has into every project to make sure it’s a success. When most actors reach his age, they usually begin choosing less physically demanding projects. But not Cruise; he continues churning out great action film after great action film and he seems especially invested in the Mission: Impossible franchise. Cruise is known for actually doing most of his own death-defying stunts in the franchise and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation might just contain some of his most jaw-dropping stunts yet. This may not be one of the strongest entries in the franchise, but Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie inject the film with enough energy to provide a solid action film and a great time at the movies.

The fifth film in the nearly 20-year-old franchise deals with Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) investigating an evil organization known as The Syndicate. When he is attacked and kidnapped by a mysterious man named Lane (Sean Harris), Hunt wakes up to discover that the entire IMF has been disavowed. Hunt is deemed a fugitive and goes into hiding for six months. Eventually, he hatches a plan to prove the existence of the Syndicate and bring back the IMF. But he certainly can’t do it alone, so he enlists the help of former associates Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and a mysterious British agent named Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson).

The plot of Rogue Nation is an absolute mess. The first Mission: Impossible film was admittedly tough to follow, but part of that almost seemed intentional, as if trying to decipher the plot was part of the fun. Here, the story just feels unnecessarily complicated and a chore to sit through. It’s often difficult to understand some of the character motivations and you’ll occasionally get distracted trying to understand if a particular character is good or evil. It also doesn’t help that two characters (the primary villain and a representative of the British agency) look far too similar to each other. All of this confusion makes everything in between the action sequences a bit frustrating to sit through.

But when the action arrives, it’s absolutely dynamite. Heavily featured in the film’s advertisements, the movie opens with a fantastic sequence that features Tom Cruise hanging on the outside of a massive airplane. It’s a short scene, but it’s absolutely breathtaking in the way that it uses practical stunts and effects. Most actors would insist on using a stunt double for a scene like this, or even resort to CGI, which would have caused the moment to immediately ring false. But Cruise insisted on doing the stunt himself and it absolutely pays off. The shot of him hanging on the side of the plane as it takes off is exciting, beautiful and breathtaking. It might be the craziest stunt that Cruise has ever done and when we eventually look back on his career as a whole, this is sure to be one of the highlights.

And, thankfully, the action doesn’t stop there. We’re also treated to some excellent stealth missions, the first of which takes place in an Austrian opera house. Hunt and Benji work together to enter the building and eliminate bad guys without interrupting the opera. It’s a very well-directed sequence that doesn’t overstay its welcome. Later, the team must infiltrate a high-tech facility to obtain information, while Hunt is required to enter an underwater chamber and hold his breath for upwards of three minutes. It’s another physically demanding scene for Cruise, but he somehow manages to pull it off. Finally, there’s an excellent car and motorcycle chase through Morocco that has to be one of the most exciting sequences that the franchise has produced thus far.

Looking back on the film, the complicated plot makes it difficult to remember exactly why these action sequences occurred, but perhaps a rewatch will allow the film to feel more cohesive. But on a first-time watch, it still manages to have enough humor and excitement to make it all worthwhile. The returning cast remains excellent, even if they are separated from each other for a majority of the film. Rebecca Ferguson is a welcome addition to the franchise and it would be great to see her return for the inevitable sixth mission. Rogue Nation may be a lesser Mission: Impossible film, but it still delivers the goods and it once again proves why this is quite possibly my favorite action franchise. Tom Cruise may be getting older, but he still manages to provide electrifying entertainment for all.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation receives 3/4