IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has been tracking the activity of a mysterious group known as The Syndicate for some time now, and has recently pinpointed a package they have stolen to this airfield where it has been loaded onto a cargo plane. He has his small, dedicated team of experts looking out for him as usual, who today include Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) on the ground, literally as he tries to hack the aircraft’s computer from his hiding place in the undergrowth, and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) who has been using various underhand means to deliver the right details of the mission to Ethan, much to the chagrin of the man back at base, William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), who doesn’t wish to know if any international laws have been broken. But how about Ethan breaking the law of gravity?
Yes, as heavily featured in the promotion for this fifth Mission: Impossible entry, for no good reason other than it would look cool in the trailer, star Tom Cruise was sent up, up and away on the side of an actual plane at the beginning. Yet sometimes, plenty of times really when you’re talking blockbusters, looking cool is just what is needed, but in this case such was the publicity offered to the Cruiser's excursion into the sky it rather overshadowed what turned out to be a pretty vanilla offering in the series, especially when the previous effort had been the best of the lot. Not that this was a classic franchise by any means, it was far too in the thrall of the James Bond movies to feel like anything other than a set of expensive star vehicles.
That said, when the head of the C.I.A. (Alex Baldwin, not the real one) accuses Ethan of setting up terrorist attacks and then pretending to solve them by dint of being in the right place at the right time, the thought of Tom Cruise going nuts and trying to prove the existence of a non-existent set of threats and ideals through international mischief making was too good to resist, though sadly director and screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie didn't pursue what would have been a very entertaining twist on a spy yarn that needed a shot in the arm. This was surprising when right before this had been Ghost Protocol, which may have been as formulaic as every instalment since the first one, but it did know how to have fun.
Some pointed to the bonus of Rebecca Ferguson as female agent (though not for the IMF) Ilsa Faust, who it's true enough to say was the film's genuine bright spot, capable in a way that women in action movies were not always offered the chance to be, though that had to be tempered by the knowledge only two other women had speaking roles and they were small and superficial – and one was murdered in the first ten minutes to prove how evil the baddie Lane (Sean Harris) could be. So it was up to Ferguson to prove her worth, which she did with assurance, not even having to fall back on the love interest angle as lip service to giving her something interesting to do for they had her mad skillz to provide that. With that in mind, you did tend to miss her when she wasn’t around to take care of business, which left Cruise and his all-male team of agents who it is announced at the beginning have been abolished as an organisation and they will be taken over by the CIA, though Ethan will have to be arrested.
Why? So the leading man could play the maverick he had ever since the eighties and his first taste of celebrity, a rogue operative against the rogue nation of the title which it transpires is a network of ex-secret agents from around the world Lane has hired as his own personal service to, um, take over the world by blowing up shit and assassinating lots of powerful statesmen. That old chestnut. If you were watching for the jokes, they were toned down by and large, though a groggy Hunt in a car chase did its best to contribute to the fun factor, so it was left to the action to sustain the interest, setpieces that were professionally handled yet lacked that spark of personality to have this standing out from the crowd (and it was a crowd, there were seemingly more spy movies around at this point that there even had been in the mid-sixties). It wasn't terrible by any means, it was slick and functional, but had the timbre of factory built not lovingly customised. Soundtrack by Joe Kramer, which not only incorporated Lalo Schifrin's classic theme but in a welcome touch his TV show incidental music too.