2015 Certificate: 12

Synopsis

For their fifth incredibly tricky mission, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his trusty IMF team, including tech-wiz Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and fellow field ace William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), must prove that shadowy terrorist group The Syndicate - a globe-threatening cabal of assassins and rogue operatives - actually exists... and then destroy it. Should they fail, it's bad news for the world - and even worse for the IMF. Hollywood's most fearless megastar accepts the challenge of writer-director Chris McQuarrie's all-action stunt-acular.

Director

  • Christopher McQuarrie

Cast

  • Tom Cruise

  • Jeremy Renner

  • Simon Pegg

  • Ving Rhames

  • Sean Harris

  • Rebecca Ferguson

  • Alec Baldwin

Review

Tom Cruise knows how to do a lot of things, but above all he knows how to show an audience something new. Like, say, clinging to the side of an airplane during take-off for the opening sequence of a film that seems to throw a record amount of stunts - mostly performed by the man himself - at the camera.

Once Cruise's super-agent Hunt has dealt with the bad guys on the plane, he links the nerve gas cargo to a rogue group known as The Syndicate, which appears to be at the heart of many a tragedy, from missing planes to industrial accidents.

Unfortunately, the events of ​the last movie have come back to haunt Hunt's Impossible Mission Force, and with CIA director Alec Baldwin swallowing up Hunt's unit and cutting him loose - despite the best efforts of Renner's Brandt - only Hunt can set about identifying the villains and how to bring them down.

Despite the franchise's standalone nature, Rogue Nation enjoys name-checking the  'NOC' list from the first movie, referencing the toxic gas of the second and literally waving around a rabbit's foot from the third.

But it's the events of the last mission that have the biggest impact, and not just because Hunt gave nuclear launch codes to a terrorist, but in developing relationships between Simon Pegg's techy-turned-field agent, Benji Dunn, and Jeremy Renner's slightly shady Brandt.

Originally a source of comic relief, Benji has stepped up to buddy cop level, bringing heart where Cruise's Hunt brings steely seriousness (although his eyebrow raise has become a trait that offers occasional moments of levity).

Ving Rhames' Luther also makes a welcome return to give Brandt somebody to spar with, but new girl Rebecca Ferguson is the real standout as Ilsa, the Syndicate's own shady rogue agent with a complex agenda. (Although it's a little sad that director McQuarrie insists on leering over her in various states of undress.)

​M:I3's strongest element was its stripped-down plot - JJ Abrams knew the the McGuffin just needed a name, not an explanation - while Brad Bird's M:I4 added some brilliantly realised set-pieces to a relatively straightforward nuclear bomb plot.

McQuarrie appears to have aimed for the dubious characters and personal treachery of ​Brian De Palma's convoluted 1996 original.  

While that's not necessarily a bad thing, and arguably a defining element of what makes a Mission: Impossible what it is, the script will undoubtedly bemuse some, particularly as the stunts give way to exposition-led arguments. 

McQuarrie doesn't quite hit the high notes of Bird's Burj Khalifa climb, or find the wit of a Dean Martin prison break, but he does add another level of peril, largely thanks to Sean Harris's menacing anti-Ethan, while the plethora of comic beats are perfectly timed.

​And ultimately, the stunts deliver, from an underwater heist that will have the audience hold breath in empathy to a motorbike chase that's one of the most exhilarating yet-shot.

Although it's not the first time we've seen Tom Cruise do that.

Rich Phippen