Almost 20 years after he first appeared in rebooted sixties spy classic Mission: Impossible, Tom Cruise is back for his fifth outing as Ethan Hunt; top agent of the Impossible Mission Force (IMF). This time he’s on the trail of the nefarious organisation known only as The Syndicate, a task made even more difficult when the IMF is dissolved by the CIA. And when Ethan comes up against the mysterious Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) and shadowy Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), Ethan may finally have met his match…
After five films we know what to expect from this franchise; jaw-dropping action, glossy gadgets and very little in the way of narrative nuance. Rogue Nation certainly delivers, the screenplay from co-writers Christopher McQuarrie (who also directs) and Drew Pearce using the labyrinthine world of global espionage and unchecked terrorism as a framing device for Cruise to showcase the limitless movie star charm which makes him unendingly watchable.
Elsewhere, Simon Pegg gets a great deal more to do as tech-whizz Benjy and, while Jeremy Renner’s Brandt and Ving Rhames’ Luther spend much of the film on the sidelines, they make for an undeniably great team. The real revelation here is Swedish/British actress Ferguson; that she is a dead ringer for a Casablanca actress Ingrid Bergman is obviously referenced by her character’s name and the fact that key scenes take place in Morocco but, to the film’s great credit she is no mere love interest – even though Ethan’s wife Julia (played by Michelle Monaghan in the third and fourth films) seems to have been completely forgotten. While she and Ethan may be kindred spirits, Ilsa drives a great deal of the narrative, shoulders much of the action and does her fair share of day-saving. True, she may be dressed in variations of skin-tight leather and thigh-high splits, but she is a strong female character the likes of which are all too rarely seen in such summer blockbusters.
Ultimately, however, this is Cruise’s rodeo and, while Ethan’s crisis of confidence does offer a little more depth of character, as Tony Stark’s psychological turmoil did in the Pearce-penned Iron Man 3, he is, first and foremost, a stylish action hero. And while his scaling of Kabul’s Burj Khalifa tower in 2011’s Ghost Protocol remains the most jaw-dropping moment of the series, this film’s daredevil plane ride and underwater race against time certainly get the adrenaline pumping. Slick, accomplished and hugely entertaining, Rogue Nation is another slice of glorious mayhem from a franchise that continues to play to its strengths and deliver the goods.
UK Theatrical Release Date: July 30, 2015
An edited version of this review was originally published by The List