Tom Cruise returns for another 'Mission: Impossible'

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Tom Cruise, left, and Rebecca Ferguson appears in a scene from "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation." (David James/Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions via AP)

HERE'S something that will make you feel old: Tom Cruise has been making "Mission: Impossible" movies for 20 years.

Note that this information will make you feel old. It will not make Tom feel old. Nothing can do that. Visible signs of age have yet to appear on Cruise's grinning, Reagan Era face.

"Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" highlights the Dorian Gray eeriness of it all. Co-star Simon Pegg, who is eight years younger than Cruise, and looked it when he started making movies with him in 2006, now appears to be at least 10 years older.

Cruise, on the other hand, looks like he could still make a sequel to "Risky Business" called "The Next Day."

So, he's discovered the fountain of youth, remained a consistent box-office draw for more than three decades - what challenges are left?

Well, in "Rogue Nation," Cruise wants to be the first international super-agent with bangs (Austin Powers doesn't count). While Bond and Bourne remain close-cropped, his Ethan Hunt is going with a full Warhol.

Two of the movie's action sequences seem designed to see if the hair can be pushed back from his forehead - Hunt clinging to the side of a climbing cargo jet in Belarus, Hunt riding a racing motorcycle through the back roads of Morocco.

Yet, the star's vanity hardly spoils the fun in "Rogue Nation" - what you notice about these scenes is how efficient and abbreviated they are. They conclude before you tire of them, they have punchlines and they contain no robots!

The high point finds Hunt at the Vienna Opera House, trying to foil multiple assassins as they maneuver for a shot at an Austrian politician.

In an era when digital effects have turned everything into a boring mishmash of arbitrary visual geography, this scene - even if it's borrowed from Hitchock and "The Man Who Knew Too Much" - is breathtakingly competent. It presents cleverly staged action amid a lucid explanation of an interior space.

Bravo, Christopher McQuarrie, who (along with Cruise) didn't really get his due for writing last year's "Edge of Tomorrow," featuring Cruise, who shared screen time so amicably with Emily Blunt.

Here, he's matching wits with a double agent played by Rebecca Ferguson, who may or may not be helping Hunt expose a network of rogue agents (run by Sean Harris, who was so good in "'71").

Cruise is the show here, but as the story unfolds, the movie starts spending more and more time staring into Ferguson's aquamarine eyes.

And why not.

The camera loves her and she's comfortable in front of it, whether welling up with vulnerability or enacting her signature action move - scrambling cat-quick to the top of some fearsomely large thug, then strangling him with a leghold.

Everyone else is there for comic relief. Pegg, of course, but also Jeremy Renner and Alec Baldwin as competing intelligence-service bureaucrats, battling to manage the unmanageable Hunt. Tom Hollander has a few amusing moments as a Tony Blair-like British PM befuddled by a sedative.

Cruise's other reliable co-star - that durable music, written by Lalo Schiffrin way back in the 1960s, reinterpreted here by Joe Kraemer, who, in a few sneaky musical moments, blends it with the Puccini heard earlier in Vienna, suggesting an epic, operatic love between Ethan and his female adversary, who's name is Ilsa, which may also make you feel old, if you're the only person in the theater who laughs when the title card tells you that she's in Casablanca.


Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie. With Alec Baldwin, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, America Olivo, Jeremy Renner, Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Sean Harris. Distributed by Paramount Pictures.

Running time: 2 hours, 11 minutes.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (for sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity).