Brian De Palma's revival of the 60s TV series feels like a long time ago, and well that's because it was. Nearly two decades later this franchise is still going, and somehow they've managed to really pick up the pace with the last two instalments giving it all renewed energy. The 1996 feature remains a class act, and in a lot of ways it's one of those 'better than you remember' type films even if the plot has always been a little convoluted. It remains a slick action thriller with plenty of memorable set pieces and stylish direction. 20 years later... a lot has changed. It's bigger and louder, and the shifts in tone veer into comic relief a lot more frequently. And yet the double crosses, ticking clocks, high tech facility break ins and those Lalo Schifrin chords are all still here. They are still reinventing that burglary on a wire scene in new ways. Luckily the mixture of old and new creates something that really works despite them saying 'disavowed' far too often and failing to avoid the same old plot about agents on the run from their own agency. Considering this is the forth sequel, this is definitely in realm of 'better than you expected'.
Yeah this is the film where Tom Cruise hangs off a moving aeroplane. Considering the lack of actual character given to Ethan Hunt over the years, he's still kind of likeable in an empty action hero kind of way. The family drama plot line from the last couple isn't brought up this time around, so he's all action here. On the trail of a secret organisation the 'Syndicate', Hunt refuses to drop the case when evidence of them actually existing at all fails to show up. Of course that means he has to turn renegade and soon enlists his old pals from IMF who set out under the pretence of catching him. Ving Rhames as Luther is back joining Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner from Ghost Protocol. The work pretty well as small ensemble, and Rebecca Ferguson as the improbably named Isla Faust joins the gang as a unknown element who could be helping or hindering the operation. Together they muster just enough charm to carry the whole thing, and it's a solid action feature all round with enough variety in tone to keep things interesting, and a few good cliffhanger moments along the way.
That big aerial set piece is complimented by several other great moments where Ethan is drowned, gassed, crashes cars, crashes bikes and gets dangled from moving theatre equipment. The best sequence is at an opera which is always an easy way to add intrigue and production value. Taking cues from Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much remake they really drawn things out for a high tension scenario. It goes on for quite a while and is all the better for it, with assassins in the wings and fist fights on the rigging. The other chases are fun even if the stakes are usually just stealing a high tech item or stopping someone doing the same. The gadget focus from Brad Bird's entry is lacking here although a few sci-fi style gizmos do make an appearance. The weak point is still the storyline, and while it's interesting to have a softly spoken low key villain it's still just another shady well dressed guy lacking real gravitas. It would be nice if movies in general could get away from this idea but I guess Russians and British thugs are always a safe bet. Overall though this is a well made action adventure movie, one that shows with enough effort fifth place doesn't have to be last.