The tone is set with a thrilling opener in which Ethan Hunt (Cruise) sprints down a runway after a taxiing plane, the sequence incorporating the by now familiar blend of dynamic action, high-stakes tension and self-referential humour.
The mood turns a little darker when the Mission Impossible team — Hunt supported by Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) — finds itself branded a rogue outfit by CIA chief Hunley (Alec Baldwin), and Ethan is forced to go off the grid in order to pursue a shadowy organisation called ‘the Syndicate’, which is surreptitiously fomenting economic meltdown across the globe. So far, so familiar, but the introduction of the mysterious Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) — a British intelligence operative and/or double agent working for the Syndicate — gives the old formula a shake and a stir, with Ferguson pretty much stealing the show as a force of nature who is as glamorous as she is ruthlessly lethal.
Christopher McQuarrie directs with style and verve, including an outrageously operatic sequence set against the backdrop of an actual opera in Vienna — although, while all the action is superbly marshalled, it’s fair to say that the overly long story might have benefited from the cutting of at least one unnecessary sequence. That said, the fifth outing for this Mission Impossible franchise maintains its usual combination of next-level technology and old-fashioned physicality (and the occasional 100-metre dash) in a slickly produced tale that is unlikely to disappoint.
(12A) stars Reese Witherspoon as disgraced Texan cop Cooper, who is hauled out of the evidence locker to assist in what should be a routine transportation of witnesses Danielle and Felipe Riva (Sofia Vergara and Vincent Laresca) to testify against drug cartel boss Vicente Cortez (Joaquín Cosio) in a Dallas court. Naturally, things go very wrong, and Cooper and Danielle quickly find themselves on the run from a host of killers, bickering as they go.
The Odd Couple set-up is strongly reminiscent of Midnight Run (1988), given that Cooper is a prissy jobsworth and Danielle is explosively flamboyant, but there the similarities end. Witherspoon and Vergara are fine actresses in their own right but there is virtually no comic chemistry between them here, and some of the supposedly humourous episodes are quite frankly bizarre (the scene in which Cooper runs around a store in hyper mood after unwittingly ingesting a mound of suspicious white powder is spectacularly unfunny).
Director Anne Fletcher (27 Dresses, The Guilt Trip) allows the pace to sag far too frequently, diverting the offbeat road trip up far too many narrative cul-de-sacs on its way to its predictably implausible finale, although her cause is not helped by the script provided by David Feeney and John Quaintance, which is lazy, clumsy and offensively crude, not least in its assumptions about its audience.
(12A) offers a fascinating set-up, as wealthy Californian hunter Madec (Michael Douglas) arrives in the Mojave Desert with the aim of bagging a Bighorn. When Madec accidentally shoots and kills local maverick Charlie (Martin Palmer), he forces his guide Ben (Jeremy Irvine) to walk out into the desert alone, with the intention of allowing Ben to die under the searing sun so that he can later blame Ben for Charlie’s death. Ben, however, is an unusually resourceful tracker, and his grace under pressure, allied to his local knowledge of the desert, results in a tense psychological thriller.
Adapted by Stephen Susco from Robb White’s novel Deathwatch, Jean-Baptiste Léonetti’s film depends heavily on the conceit of Madec hunting Ben in order to watch him die, rather than actually killing him, and while the conceit is a refreshingly unusual one for the genre, pitting Madec’s technological superiority against Ben’s animal cunning, it is one that struggles to bear the strain of carrying the story for its entire 90 minutes.
As a result, and once the audience is satisfied that Ben is unlikely to perish, and Madec is unlikely to deliver the lethal blow, the movie does lose some of its tension. It’s also true that the scenario doesn’t allow for much by way of character development: Madec remains obnoxiously psychotic throughout, while Ben is given little opportunity for nuance given that he is pushing the limits of human endurance for most of the film. Overall, though, Beyond the Reach is an intriguing proposition, and one not entirely spoiled by its laughably bad ending