Film review: Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation good not great
The action scenes are as plentiful as ever but the tension isn't sustained in this fifth instalment of the Tom Cruise vehicle
In the previous Mission: Impossible films, Tom Cruise climbed mountains, braved explosions in Shanghai and scaled Dubai's Burj Khalifa — all without a stunt double. This time, he clings on to the outside of an military plane as it takes off — for real. It's a remarkable scene, as if he and director Christopher McQuarrie have taken heed of the words spoken to Cruise's all-action spy Ethan Hunt when he's told "this may very well be our last mission — make it count".
The fifth in the series, Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation arrives just ahead of the next James Bond movie, Spectre, which looks to re-introduce audiences to the titular organisation that plagued 007 in the past. Likewise, this latest Mission is about a shadowy outfit, The Syndicate, looking to destroy Hunt and the IMF (that's if Alec Baldwin's CIA bigwig doesn't get there first). Back alongside him are his loyal cohorts Luther (Ving Rhames), Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Benji (Simon Pegg).
The real intrigue, however, comes with Rebecca Ferguson's Ilsa Faust, a British agent deep undercover in The Syndicate who helps Ethan but seemingly can't be trusted. Ferguson, who came to prominence in BBC costume drama The White Queen, is quite superb: sexy, stylish and steely. Following previous Mission alumni — including Kristin Scott Thomas, Thandie Newton, Maggie Q and Léa Seydoux — she's the most dynamic female presence ever to grace the series.
Less impressive, however, is British actor Sean Harris, who plays Solomon Lane, the leader of The Syndicate. In dramas like Red Riding and Southcliffe, the intensely charismatic Harris has proved what a force of nature he can be. But here it feels like he's restrained on a leash; speaking like he has a rather nasty sore throat and dressed like a local government accountant. While you immediately sense the character's intelligence, there's not an ounce of menace to him.
The action scenes are plentiful, with a colourful globetrotting story that bounces from Minsk to Vienna to Casablanca to London, though arguably there isn't anything quite as heart-stopping as the computer-disc heist from the Brian De Palma-directed first film back in 1996.
Here, McQuarrie, who directed Cruise in Jack Reacher, is proficient and punchy — though at times it feels like the wow factor was all stacked on that opening Cruise-on-the-plane sequence.
It doesn't help that the script by McQuarrie and Iron Man 3's Drew Pearce has some unintentionally mirthful moments — not least Baldwin's character ranting that Hunt is the "living manifestation of destiny". And despite some clock-ticking, both in a gulp-inducing underwater scene and next to London's Tower Bridge, the tension isn't sustained.
Good rather than grand in what is a busy year for espionage films, this latest Mission: Impossible never quite does enough to stand out from the crowd.
Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation opens on July 30