The fifth installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise is a mixed bag. It delivers grand scale set pieces, multiple intrigues and double-crosses, as well as the obligatory rubber masks and Tom Cruise running, and running, and running again. It also manages to work as an ensemble piece despite Cruise’s star power and the centrality of his Ethan Hunt, as Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames, who alongside Cruise has appeared in every MI film to date) and new arrival Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) all contribute equally to the drama. Ilsa goes some way to resolving the gender issues of the previous film, as her role in the drama is not determined by her gender. She also gets the best set piece of the film – a dark knife fight amongst stone columns that conveys the gritty professionalism of experienced killers.
This set piece, however, highlights director Christopher McQuarrie’s apparent discomfort with grand scale action sequences. The opening sequence is spectacular but subsequent set pieces fail to match its impact. An underwater heist followed by a car/motorcycle chase fails to draw the viewer in, despite some visceral angles from DOP Robert Elswit, while bullet-spitting chases are less than immersive. McQuarrie is more comfortable with intimate action, recalling his blistering debut The Way of the Gun. His style therefore seems at odds with the expansive scale of the MI franchise, while his script sometimes veers awkwardly from high tension to quirky humour. There are many good moments in the film, but they are not effectively knitted together, making MIRN less than the sum of its parts.