A list blockbusters are essentially operas – larger than life with colourful characters, exotic backdrops and a rhythm to the storytelling that ebbs and flows in all the right places. Perhaps most importantly the third act should reach a crescendo before ebbing into the closing titles.
And the Viennese opera is the backdrop for one of the best action scenes of the year as IMF agent Ethan Hunt attempts to stop an assassination.
Yes, it’s MI5, aka Mission Impossible Rogue Nation, the latest chapter in the blockbusting franchise loosely based on Bruce Geller’s 1960s TV show.
Any fan of the series or film saga will know what they are getting from the out set.
After the disappointing Ghost Protocol a few years ago, I thought the series had run its course, having got progressively better with each chapter… until part four.
However, writer and director Christopher McQuarrie, who Cruise had worked with on Jack Reacher, has helped breathe new life into the franchise with one of the best chapters so far.
Following that outstanding pre-credits stunt involving Cruise hanging on the side of a transporter aircraft, we are back in London and Hunt going through the motions of accepting a new mission, should he choose to accept it… only with a twist.
Rebecca Ferguson is outstanding as Ilsa Faust, the strongest female character in the series. Sexy, intelligent and a match for Cruise. The fact she looks like Hunt’s old flame (Michelle Monaghan) is a clever touch, as is the visual rabbit’s foot cue, a throwback to MI3.
Following that superb opera set piece and the brilliant underwater data card swap, things peak with a chase through Casablanca.
That third act is more problematic – bags of exposition, generic foot chases and 20 minutes too long.
It’s not a deal breaker. There’s enough good stuff that came before to make the final half hour bearable, but just a shame the wordy internecine shenanigans didn’t come in the middle and the chase at the end.
The other key problem is Ving Rhames – wasted as returning IMF agent Luther (essentially Simon Pegg’s Benji has usurped him as the hi-tech aid; his comic timing as valuable as ever, while adding a sense of much needed gravitas).
Rhames looks redundant with little to do except flick a few buttons, offer some exposition and be the thread that connects the other movies.
Thankfully Jeremy Renner is terrific in support, as is Alec Baldwin as the obligatory government official.
Top turns are also offered by Tom Hollander and Simon McBurney.
However, as much as I was mesmerised by Sean Harris in Harry Brown, here he just looks like a malevolent Sean Lock as the generic villain.
Cruise always delivers with movies like this, offering more astounds for your pound, but with a relatively weak opening compared to the other series entries, one wonders if the inevitable MI6 will be the series finale.