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'Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation' is exhausting and worth it
Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation. - photo by Doug Wright
'Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation' 3 1/2 stars

It was exhausting, but like all quality workouts, "Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation" was worth it.

A series known for its spectacular opening scenes truly outdoes itself with Tom Cruise, again starring as Ethan Hunt, in what he has described as the most dangerous stunt he's ever attempted. To prevent a pallet of nerve gas from being delivered to evil-doers, Hunt chases down a taxiing plane, manages to get aboard and affixes himself to the exterior of the plane all while praying his colleague, Benji, will be able to open the door.

Yes, its a real plane and a real take-off. And, yes, it really is the star of the movie harnessed to the side of the plane being pummeled by the prop-wash and gulping exhaust fumes. And, this is just the launch of the two hours that follow.

To say the Impossible Mission Force is in trouble goes way beyond anything Ethan may be dealing with at the moment. A Congressional committee back home is grilling agent William Brandt, again played by Jeremy Renner, regarding protocol and recent embarrassments. Right by his side, beautifully throwing IMF under the bus, is Alec Baldwin as Director Hunley of the CIA, arguing that IMF is a relic of the Cold War and should be absorbed into his organization.

All of this is happening despite the fact that Ethan seems to be finally closing in on a shadowy, off-the-grid organization known only as "the Syndicate. This part of the plot delivers a mercurial, brilliant and creepy villain known as Lane, beautifully played by Sean Harris. Is he surrounded by the proper gaggle of henchmen? Of course. But one of the gaggle is a henchwoman named Ilsa. Rebecca Ferguson steps into this role, but whose side is she on and why has she saved Ethan from the proverbial tight spot?

Ah, the plot thickens..

Meanwhile, back home, the IMF has been absorbed into the CIA. When desperation causes Ethan to reach out for help, he gets the bad news and realizes hes on his own.

How he survives, and how the old team, including Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg as Luther and Benji, figure out a way to still function and even save the day is nail-biting fun.

I especially warmed to the performance of Pegg. He spins Benji into the perfect sidekick who is just goofy enough, loyal enough and brilliant enough all at the same time. Hes great.

Ferguson is a nontraditional beauty who keeps everyone guessing about her character. And shes the star of a motorcycle chase that stops your heart.

And then theres Cruise. What can I say? Like him or not, he is and has been the perfect guy for this role.