Tom Cruise’s last outing as daredevil spy Ethan Hunt saw him dangling vertiginously off the face of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa hotel. Back for another burst of derring-do in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, he goes even further out on a limb, clinging to the side of a four-engine turboprop cargo plane as it careers down a runway and takes off.
With Simon Pegg’s comic-relief sidekick, tech nerd turned field agent Benji, offering bungled assistance from the sidelines, this opening stunt pretty much sums up the Mission: Impossible franchise: white-knuckle thrills teetering on the edge of absurdity. And it’s the dizzying audacity of scenes like these that soften us up for the preposterousness of the plots that contain them.
Rogue Nation begins with the Impossible Mission Force facing disbandment at the behest of Alec Baldwin’s testy CIA chief, who still hasn’t forgiven Ethan and his maverick chums for reducing the Kremlin to rubble in Ghost Protocol last time around. The gang’s only hope of reinstatement is to track down The Syndicate, a shadowy organisation of renegade spies drawn from the world’s elite intelligence agencies.
The ensuing adventure sees Ethan, variously joined by fellow disgraced MIF agents William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), as well as Benji, hopping from one exotic location to another, one moment striving to foil an assassination during a performance of Turandot at the Vienna Opera, the next trying to break into an impenetrable vault in Morocco protected by ludicrously convoluted levels of security. Along the way, there’s a scorching motorcycle chase through the streets of Casablanca and surrounding desert roads, before things reach a climax with some typically nifty footwork and dextrous sleights of hand in London.
At every turn, Ethan finds himself tangling with lithe and mysterious femme fatale Ilsa Faust (Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson), an ex-MI6 spy turned Syndicate hireling. Ferguson is fabulous: a kick-ass heroine in her own right and no one’s token love interest.
Most of the time, new writer-director Christopher McQuarrie (teaming up again with Cruise after directing Jack Reacher and scripting Edge of Tomorrow) leaves it tantalisingly unclear whether she is helping or hindering Ethan. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter. Leaving everyone dangling is what the Mission: Impossible team do best.
Certificate 12A. Runtime 131 mins. Director Christopher McQuarrie.