As befits a film that could be subtitled “MI-5”, much of the action that underlies Tom Cruise’s latest outing as IMF agent Ethan Hunt is set in London and concerns shady goings on at British Intelligence. After ruthlessly gunning down a fellow agent in a record shot (the delectable fashion model Hermione Corfield) Ethan Hunt is getting rather obsessed with tracking down Soloman Lane (Sean Harris from “Prometheus”). Lane is the mastermind behind a sinister worldwide organisation (shades of ISIS here perhaps) called “The Syndicate”. They are engineering apparently disconnected disasters, both large and small, to further their ends (with one of these, topically, being a disappearing airliner). Hunt’s path crosses that of Ilsa Faust (Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson), Lane’s beautiful hit-woman who may (or may not) be a double agent.
I must admit some bias in this review, since I love the MI series, as I loved the TV series when growing up in the 60’s. The convoluted plots and the absurdly unlikely action is played just to the right side of tongue-in-cheek, and Cruise – love him or loathe him – oozes charisma at Ethan Hunt. In tone this film is closest to the slightly more plot-heavy Mission Impossible III, directed by JJ Abrams, which – counter to much opinion – was one of my favourites of the series. The convoluted story, revolving around a ‘McGuffin’ of an encrypted stick drive, is pretty hard to follow and doesn’t bear close inspection. But the plot is merely there to string together the action sequences, and these are exceptionally well executed, pumped up by Cruise’s personal involvement in the stunt work. The much-publicised Airbus A400 stunt, which opens the film, is utterly thrilling but equalled by a Casablanca-based car and bike-chase in the middle of the film. The scenes in and on the Vienna Opera House also make for a gripping sequence.
Cruise is starting to look a bit crinkly at the edges, but at 53 – and only a year younger than me (dammit!) – he’s allowed to. He clearly keeps himself very fit, and if he did the featured gymnastic pole-escape stunt himself, then he deserves the respect of every over-50 in the country – time to start doing those morning sit-ups again!
The BBC “Rev” pairing of Tom Hollander (“About Time”) and Simon McBurney (“Magic in the Moonlight”) are both good as the British PM and top spy-master respectively, and Sean Harris makes a notable chinless but chilling villain as Lane.
MI regulars Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames effectively go through the motions of reprising their IMF roles, joined this time by Alec Baldwin as the CIA chief.
But the real find of the film is Rebecca Ferguson (“The White Queen”, “Hercules”). Not from the stick-thin model collection usually seen in these types of films, she makes for a memorably athletic lead, and this character could be driven forwards as a more female-focused spin-off movie franchise if the studio so wished. I’d pay to see that.
The writer/director is regular Cruise collaborator Christopher McQuarrie who previously directed Cruise in “Jack Reacher”. Also on the technical team I would call out the editing by Eddie Hamilton (“Kingsman”, “Kick-Ass”) and the music by Joe Kraemer: together, these two drive up the adrenaline with a thrilling title sequence to get you in the mood. Kraemer’s music is effective in taking Lalo Schifrin’s iconic themes and tweaking them cleverly. In particular his reworking of “The Plot” theme to fit to the Casablanca arrival is inspired.
In summary, a highly enjoyable and action packed outing that should definitely be experienced on the big screen rather than the small one. In fact, this one might even deserve a revisit from me in IMAX.
Fad Rating: FFFF.