Director: Christopher McQuarrie.
Cast: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, Alec Baldwin, Simon McBurney.
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The gadgets, the action, the women; these things are part of the likeness, but perhaps the biggest similarity is in how we remember the films – we tend to remember the Bond and M:I movies not by their plots, but by their stunts and/or villains.
In the case of the first Mission: Impossible, we remember the now legendary roof drop sequence. The second one had the mountain climbing opening. The third one had Philip Seymour Hoffman. The fourth one had the impressive Burj Khalifa stunt and the dust storm chase.
Continuing this theme, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (the fifth in the series) will be remembered for Tom Cruise hanging off the side of a plane as it takes off and doing a heart-stopping free dive into a water-cooled computer chamber, and Sean Harris’ Solomon Lane, who looks like an evil cross between Tintin and Dobby the House Elf.
Everything in between is the usual blur of encrypted files and crosses and double crosses you’ll struggle to remember in years to come when trying to discern the difference between the films.
The actual plot involves the Impossible Mission Force (IMF) being shut down (which seems to happen in every M:I movie) and Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt going rogue to track down The Syndicate – a group that Simon Pegg’s agent Benji Dunn helpfully describes as “an anti-IMF”.
It’s one of those plots where you shouldn’t think too hard about the fact it relies on chance or particular characters doing exactly what it was hoped they’d do, but it’s a serviceable plot all the same.
The film is front-loaded with its best stuff so the finale feels strangely low-key, yet somehow the whole is still satisfying.
That probably comes down to Cruise. His off-screen eccentricities are hard to ignore, and it's been at least a decade since his last truly great performance, but he still churns out highly watchable fare on a regular basis thanks to having a likeable on-screen persona.
But what we really forget is he is a seriously impressive old-school action star in an age where CG trickery has largely made that role somewhat redundant. Sure, there are digitally erased safety lines when he's hanging from a plane and digitally added cars when he's riding a motorbike flat out, but that's really Cruise, putting himself out there and in danger, and it's still seriously impressive.
The most welcome addition to M:I5 is an increased amount of Simon Pegg. He’s mostly just comic relief (although he does get one brief fight scene) but it’s good comic relief.
Ferguson is also a welcome addition, providing solid support as a kind of female Ethan Hunt, while Rhames and Renner are reduced to sidemen, which seems to be their lot in life. Harris also gives good villain.
Overall M:I5 is enjoyable, occasionally impressive, deftly paced, and smarter than most actioners, but not beyond the odd moment of idiocy. Lalo Schifrin's memorable theme gets a good workout – almost as much as Cruise’s 53-year-old body.
In other words, it’s everything you’d expect from a Mission: Impossible, if you choose to accept it.