Late into the high-speed hugger-mugger of Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, the fifth installment in the series featuring Tom Cruise as impossibly spry spy guy Ethan Hunt, Alec Baldwin finds himself extolling the virtues of the secret agent.

"Hunt is the living manifestation of destiny," he proclaims. This is quite a statement - and quite an about-face for Baldwin's CIA Director Hunley, who, for most of the movie, has been busy denouncing, disavowing, and trying desperately to disband Hunt's Impossible Missions Force.

The team of deep-cover ops - Simon Pegg as tech whiz Benji Dunn, Ving Rhames as hacker extraordinaire Luther Stickell, Jeremy Renner as agent-with-bags-under-his-eyes William Brandt - has been nothing but trouble. All sorts of "wanton acts of mayhem," as Baldwin puts it (he's full of pithy phrases), have been pinned on the IMF.

Of course, Hunt and his crew are not to blame. There's a mysterious group called the Syndicate, an "anti-IMF" bent on doing what evil masterminds and their nefarious henchfolk are wont to do: rule the world, and transfer billions of dollars of other people's money into a secret bank account while they're at it.

Cue the Lalo Schifrin theme music: DAH-di-duh-duh - Dah-di-dun-dun.

Not nearly as much fun as its 2011 predecessor, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, which played like a live-action Road Runner movie, Rogue Nation nonetheless does the job of moving Hunt and company around the globe (Minsk! London! Washington! Havana! Paris! Vienna! Casablanca!) from one outlandish action set piece to the next.

If you've seen the trailers, then you've seen Cruise clutching the side door of a military cargo plane as it takes off, hoping Benji can open the thing via laptop before Hunt's ears pop. If you've seen the trailers, then you've seen Cruise free-diving into 70,000 gallons of pressurized water, hoping he can hold his breath for three minutes while he switches a data card gizmo around. If you've seen the trailers, then you've seen Cruise gunning a BMW motorcycle along Moroccan roadways, hoping he doesn't skid out while leaning into the turns at 120 m.p.h. (He's not wearing a helmet, either.)

A trailer, though, runs for two minutes-plus. The movie runs for two hours-plus. There's just a lot more of everything - too much, actually. There's a difference between velocity and momentum, and while the chases, shootouts and close quarters combat rarely flag, our interest does.

Christopher McQuarrie, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Usual Suspects, has worked with Cruise thrice before - he scripted the Nazi drama Valkyrie and the sci-fi war pic Edge of Tomorrow, and directed Cruise in the franchise wannabe Jack Reacher. In Rogue Nation, McQuarrie's attention to the intricacies of the plot and the choreography of the action get the better of him - and of the film. It's like an elaborate audition reel to get him a job directing the next James Bond.

But McQuarrie has hired an amazing cinematographer, Robert Elswit, and you can't say Rogue Nation doesn't look good. McQuarrie also has hired Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson (the Starz miniseries The White Queen) as British espionage ace Ilsa Faust. It takes a while to figure out where Ilsa's allegiances lie (double agent? triple agent? quadruple agent?), but she and Hunt get to rappel from the roof of the Vienna Opera House and roar up the switchbacks of the Atlas Mountains together. They make a nice couple.

And she has a mean leg-whipping headlock thing going, too.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation **1/2 (Out of four stars)

StartText

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

Running time: 2 hours, 11 mins.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (violence, intense action, adult themes).

Playing at: area theaters.EndText

215-854-5629

@Steven_Rea