After a raft of world-saving incidents that have seen significant successes but - rightly or wrongly - also viewed as lucky rather than skillful, the IMF is in serious trouble with oversight and a brusque senator Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) wants their remit shifted across under control of the CIA. Despite Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and his best efforts, it looks like the senator will get his way. It doesn't help that Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) seems more obssessed by the day with a pattern of events that he belives are the hallmark of a shadowy group known as The Syndicate... or as Benji (Simon Pegg) puts it 'an anti-IMF'. Even Hunt's closest allies are somewhat concerned that Hunt isn't right and is seeing patterns that aren't there.
However, the Syndicate does exist and they've chosen their moment carefully. Soon Hunt is in their grasp, but can (and should) he trust Isla Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) who at first seems to be a torturer hired by big bad guy Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), then unexpectedly helps him escape. What are her true intnetions and ahs he met his match?
As it becomes clear there are a lot of conflicting agendas at work, can Ethan, Benji, Isla and Luther (the returning Ving Rhames) find a way to overcome seemongly impossible obstacles while Brandt keeps the wider threat at bay?
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation was supposed to be released close to Christmas 2015 until the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens made that position less tenable and it was brought forward to the summer. With the film itself unfinished as recently as May, it was tempting to wonder what shape the project would debut in but it's interesting to note that while the film doesn't push beyond its expected boundaries and set-formula, it's easily one of the better summer releases we've ahd over the past season.
The last few Mission Impossible outings have been vehicles for Cruise and a supporting cast, rather than the softly-sneakly-catchee-baddie and subversive group dynamic that was a hallmark of the original concept. Simon Pegg is funny and has expert comic timing, but the set-pieces were mainly built for Cruise and there was a danger that the intrigue was taking something of a backseat to adrenaline: watch Cruise climb a sky-scraper, watch Cruise drive fast cars, watch everyone else trail along just a few steps behind...
One of the selling points of the film was Tom Cruise genuinely being in the thick of the action. Yes, we're told firmly that IS Thomas Mapother III holding on to the side of a plane in take off mode with all the vigour of a man who has been given an outside cabin by RyanAir. I'm quite willing to suspend disbelief to a height of a few hundred feet during the first five minutes of the film, but the pertinent question is whether it's really needed as anything more than sheer marketing. In the age of seamless visual-effects, the stunt has the same kind of impact as those people who can produce photo-realistic paintings... the result being that there's clearly a lot of skill involved worthy of applause, but why NOT go the easier route if the very aim IS to be indistinguishable? Cruise also has a key sequence tearing through mountain passes atop a speeding bike, pursuing and being pursued by other aggressive bikers - and, frankly, that HAS to be CGI, whatever the protestations, as there isn't an insurer of studio brave or foolish enough to offer odds on that kind of action going off without a va-va-boom.
Rebecca Ferguson is perhaps the surprise x-factor here. In an industry that's taken decades to entertain a big screen Wonder Woman and still can't bring itself to greenlight a Black Widow movie, here's an outing where the female of the species isn't just an after-thought. Ferguson's disilussioned MI5 agent can match Ethan Hunt blow for blow and strut for strut - capable of giving as good as she gets in a physical and emotional scale and without losing an air of femininity amid the firepower. Ferguson is best known for her role in tv's White Queen, but this will up her profile no end. Jeremy Renner, on the other hand, feesl somewhat wasted. After having more to do in the Avengers sequel, he's now very much downgraded to an also-ran in this film, doing little more than serving as a foil to the snarky Alec Baldwin and following orders from his own agent when the action heats up. For a character and actor who was once thought of as a Cruise-replacement if he chose not tp continue with the franchise, this feels like a demotion and a usually capable actor merely going through the motions as the script demands.
Story-wise, a discredited IMF is not only nothing new, but it's a staple of the franchise to date and therefore one has to take the 'Bring Hunt in!' remit as something of a fall-back position. That's not to say from any of the above that the resulting story isn't genuinely good fun - it's certainly got a better pace to it than the more recent chapters and this is a franchise that knows all the right buttons to press and does so with aplomb. Arguably the third-act isn't as good as everything that comes before it, but the result is still a film that outclasses a lot of the bigger blockbusters of the current season.
With excellent box-office on its debut, this makes it entirely possible that the Impossible franchise - however improbably breaking the rules of gravity, ignoring the power of physics and shunning the law of diminshing returns - has plenty of life left in its sparking fuse for the forseeable future...
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is on general release now...
Thanks to the Vue & The Light, Leeds.