The maverick methods and questionable results of Ethan Hunt (Cruise)’s ragtag intelligence-cum-smash’n’grab agency – more specifically, the fact that Ghost Protocol left the Kremlin a pile of smoking rubble – displease naysayer suit Alec Baldwin, who summarily disbands the IMF, subsumes them into the CIA and bans them from all further derring-do – but not before Hunt sniffs something rotten apparently connecting just about every politically destabilising catastrophe around the globe. Gadget-wielding hijinks and labyrinthine plot twists ensue from the series’ latest director Christopher McQuarrie, whose writing credits span dizzying heights (The Usual Suspects) and hideous lows (The Tourist).
Fortunately this iteration is mostly decent, distinctly Bondesque fun – the action sometimes tips into real ballet and peril, including one sequence of suffocating discomfort not recommended for the aquaphobic – but perhaps not quite as much fun as it believes. Less nimbly zany than Ghost Protocol, the film lurches at times through generally satisfying setpieces and peaks rather too soon.
With Cruise (though clearly in his element) acting more as dashing, intense crash-test dummy than leading man, it’s up to bumbling Simon Pegg as his right-hand man and tech geek to earth the human side of the narrative, which he manages with reasonable charm. Rebecca Ferguson brings an unexpected level of slinky empowerment to an otherwise standard “femme fatale with tangled loyalties”, her sly and stylish confidence lowering the grate factor in the attendant lingering shots of limbs kept lissome through a regime of athletic double-crossing. Sean Harris’ dead-eyed English mastermind is also a dose of rasp-voiced fun.
The main irritations are Cruise’s palpable self-satisfaction with having a body that still stands up to aeroplane-clinging and shirtless interrogation, and the less-than-sleek dialogue. He in particular delivers some truly vacant clunkers, and the choice to simply brazen through the Impossible Mission Force’s now-unfortunate acronym doesn’t quite come off: the financial events since Cruise first spider-dropped from the ceiling have made sentences like “Today is the day when the IMF's luck runs out” damned hard to weather with a straight face.
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation | Directed by Christoper McQuarrie (USA 2015) with Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson. Opens in NYC July 27