Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Director: Christopher McQuarrie (2015)

With the face-changing spy team returning to action for the fifth time, latex masks are once again the essential fashion accessory of the blockbuster season.

The evergreen Tom Cruise stars as Ethan Hunt, top agent of the Impossible Missions Force (IMF). It’s an enjoyable but fleetingly thrilling action adventure.

A terror network of former spies called The Syndicate are causing global chaos. Their elusive leader is the husky-voiced Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).

After escaping from a torture cell Hunt is injured and alone in London. But a US government committee has dissolved the IMF and bull-headed CIA boss Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) wants Hunt arrested.

Hunt has to round up his usual suspects, err, operatives Benji, William and Luther (Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames) before tracking down Lane.

As they try to locate a data stick containing vital information, we’re offered chases, fights, assassinations, kidnappings, double-crosses and betrayals.

As the action bounces from Washington DC to Vienna and Morocco, there’s a night at the opera, an underwater break-in and a high speed pursuit through the desert.

Fistfights are surprisingly vicious but there’s no swearing or sex. Where British agent James Bond is rewarded with a kiss, Hunt receives a warm hug.

Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson steals the film as agent Ilsa Faust. She’s an intelligent, tough and glamorous addition to the cast.

Baldwin tiptoes on the chasm of camp while Renner flexes his funny bone more frequently than his muscle.

Pegg and Cruise share a fraternal chemistry; they’re the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis of international espionage.

Cruise is prepared to take a beating, smash a car, crash a bike and even hang off a military transport plane during take-off – just for your entertainment.

So it’s a shame he’s put overall control in the hands of workman-like writer/director Christopher McQuarrie.

A longstanding Cruise collaborator, they previously paired up to make the weak Jack Reacher (2012). And McQuarrie has further scripted the Cruise-starring Valkyrie (2008).

He’s also responsible for the scripts of the poor Jack the Giant Slayer (2013) and The Tourist (2010). Yet back in 1995 – the year before Cruise began the MI movie franchise – he won an Oscar for writing The Usual Suspects (1995).

Here his direction is rote not inspired. Action scenes are impressively staged on an epic canvas but fail to generate much tension.

With it’s great theme tune, glossy locations, outrageous stunts and glorious gadgets, the IMF owes a huge debt to 007 James Bond.

With Cruise having played Hunt for nearly twenty years and more times than most actors have played Bond, perhaps it’s time to refresh the MI franchise.

They should give the next mission to Ilsa.