Film review: Is Rogue Nation the best Mission Impossible film yet?

 
James Luxford
Cruising for a bruising: Tom Cruise on his bike
Cert 12a | ★★★★☆
Four years after the success of Ghost Protocol, Tom Cruise returns for a fifth outing as agent Ethan Hunt. With the IMF closed down and his own government on his tail, he must race across the globe to try and uncover The Syndicate, a network of former international operatives led by the brilliant but deadly Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).
Director Christopher McQuarrie has paid attention to what worked best in the previous films. Neither the tightly-plotted caper that was the 1996 original, nor the one man stunt shows that often followed, “…Rogue Nation” mixes all the fun of a spy movie (gadgets, double agents, those fun face masks) with the spectacle and bluster of a great summer blockbuster. We see Cruise hanging off a plane, but we also get tense, clandestine meetings at train stations. The odd joke underlines that this film takes itself a little less seriously, making the outlandish action easier to swallow.
With 19 years “in the field”, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt has developed into part Bond, part Marvel superhero. There’s no plane, building or mountain face he won’t teeter perilously on the edge of, and no impenetrable government fortress he can’t somehow infiltrate. Happily, the script attempts to throw sufficient question marks into the mix, repeatedly describing Hunt as a “gambler” whose luck may soon run out. One underwater sequence is breath-taking.
He’s joined in his globe-trotting adventures by a reliable supporting cast, creating more of the ‘team’ dynamic that was a big part of the original 60’s series. At his side is Simon Pegg, occasionally over-cooking it, but nonetheless reliable as comedy sidekick Benji Dunn. Cruise also meets his match in Rebecca Ferguson, more ally than love interest, a British agent who teams up with Hunt. Alec Baldwin is masterfully cast as a CIA bigwig, but it’s not all good news: Jeremy Renner, once rumoured to be a replacement for Cruise, seems redundant as the IMF’s base of operations, while talented British actor Sean Harris is wasted as the film’s villain.
Even the most casual viewer will guess how it all ends, but that’s not really why we’re here, is it? This franchise has always been more about the ride than the destination. Mission complete: this is the most spectacular film yet.

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