It seems almost impossible (sorry) that Tom Cruise first crashed/jumped/ran/flew onto our screens as special agent Ethan Hunt nearly two decades ago.
But read it and weep; the MI franchise started way back in 1996 and since then has become the benchmark for all other spy movies in terms of ever more exhilarating and dangerous stunts.
Now we’ve reached the fifth instalment and Rogue Nation has all the elements we’ve come to expect from the action spy thriller – more military hardware than you can find in many countries, a mysterious and beautiful woman (the really lovely Rebecca Ferguson, who can kick ass – of course), the wisecracking techno-nerd (Simon Pegg back as Benji) and extreme stunts that combine physical derring-do with planes, fast cars, motorbikes, maximum security facilities and lots of bullets, lasers and flashing gizmos.
To say the plot is an after-thought is being generous – Hunt’s IMF outfit has been infiltrated by the sinister Syndicate made up of rogue spies from across the world and led by the really rather spooky Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). The IMF gets outlawed after the intervention of the CIA Secretary no less (Alec Baldwin delivering some of the most cringeworthy dialogue of all time) and Ethan, Benji and their handler William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) now have to operate not so much under the radar but in deeper than deep cover.
However, they still seem to have unlimited access to money, passports, high-tech gadgets and vehicles as they whizz between London, Vienna’s opera house and the ancient city of Casablanca which is the scene for an unbelievable high-speed motorcycle chase.
It’s the chase scenes and stunts that have really built the MI brand, and director Christopher McQuarrie (Edge of Tomorrow) milks them for maximum wow factor. But interestingly, the result is to deaden their impact. With so much full-on, in-your-face speed, explosions, death-defying leaps and crashes and kung-fu moves, halfway through another daring stunt you may find your concentration drifting and the excitement seeping away.
Sometimes, throwing the kitchen sink at the screen can make you go ‘amazing!’ for a minute, but after five, you may find yourself itching for something of real significance to happen. The Bourne series showed you can create an action-thriller franchise where the characters have backstories and lives and emotions beyond the guns and the knives and the chases and fights.
In its mission to go one beyond any other stunt-heavy movie, MI has become almost a parody of itself.
I, for one, can’t wait for the new Bond.