Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation review: 'great fun and Cruise and Pegg make a winning double act'
Tom is back, all guns blazing, in this enjoyable sequel, says Paul Whitington
Is it feasible to watch a Mission Impossible film and think at the same time? Probably not, but it did occur to me while watching this one that the fitful action series has been a life raft for Tom Cruise through some pretty stormy times.
In career terms at any rate, Scientology has not been Tom's friend, and his adherence to the cult that insists we're descended from colonising aliens has fuelled a relentless mood of negativity towards him in the press.
When Cruise became deeply involved in the religion in the late 1990s, critics predicted the end of his A-list career, and the naysayers again decided he was finished six or seven years back after a string of box-office flops. Yet here he still is, fronting up a summer action film at the grand old age of 53, looking in fine shape and at least 10 years younger.
Based on a ropey 1970s TV series I dimly recall watching, the films themselves are essentially reconstituted Bond movies with the gloomy Cold War elements taken out: they're lighter and funnier than the Connery ones, not so camp and daft as the Roger Moore ones. This is the fifth, and though Cruise has got older and virtually the entire supporting cast has changed a number of times, the basic formula remains the same.
Ethan Hunt is a daring and reckless agent working with the secret international troubleshooting agency IMF (Impossible Mission Force). In each film either he, America or the world is doomed and he's the one man in a position to do something about it. But this time he's really up against it, as the IMF itself faces the chop.
In a rather terrific opening sequence, Ethan and his associates Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) are trying to stop Chechen terrorists from stealing a cache of bombs when Hunt clings to the side of a departing aircraft, manages to get inside and rescues the armaments with the help of a parachute.
Just another day at the office for Ethan, but when he heads back to an IMF London office to report, he's captured by a sinister organisation called the Syndicate, and only escapes when one of the gang, a mysterious young woman called Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), inexplicably sets him free.
Meanwhile the CIA's boss Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) has shut IMF down and declared Hunt a fugitive from justice. Pursued on all sides, Ethan is determined to find the Syndicate's leader and take him out before he does real damage, and he's forced to join forces with Ilsa, a beautiful but unpredictable woman he's not entirely sure he can trust.
Does any of that matter, or even make sense? Most certainly not, but Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is great fun for the most part, and exceedingly easy to watch. Simon Pegg joined the franchise back in 2006, in Mission Impossible III, and his neurotic tech expert Benji Dunn provides much of this film's comic relief. Tom Cruise has always been a good straight man, and he and Pegg make a surprisingly winning double act.
Alec Baldwin and Jeremy Renner stand about saying their lines without adding too much value to the proceedings, but English actor Sean Harris is a most effective villain: demented he may be but he looks a bit deprived, which makes you feel almost sorry for him.
The action sequences have to be outstanding in these types of films, and in Rogue Nation they certainly are, particularly that opening scene, a wonderful motorbike chase, and a very cleverly handled underwater escapade. Cruise does a lot of his own stunts, remains a compelling action hero, and should be well able to front up at least one more of these films if they decide to make another.
But Rogue Nation's secret weapon is Anglo/Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson, who has more star quality than any Bond girl I've ever seen and reminded me at times of a young Romy Schneider.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (12A, 135mins)