Middle-aged marvel: At 53, Tom Cruise is still hurtling about on motorbikes and dodging bullets. BRIAN VINER, who's the same age, doffs his cap

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (12A)

Rating:

Verdict: Preposterous, but great fun

The one mortal enemy not even Tom Cruise will be able to defy for ever is Father Time, though he’s giving it his best shot.

In this fifth incarnation as Impossible Missions Force agent Ethan Hunt, he confounds a bunch of Chechen separatists by clinging on to the outside of their plane during take-off, before boarding it to steal their canisters of nerve gas. And that’s even before the opening credits.

Cruise, incidentally, is 53. According to a recent newspaper survey, that’s now considered the point at which middle age begins. The same survey included the following as inexorable signs that mid-life has kicked in: buying travel sweets for long car journeys, enjoying the Antiques Road Show and joining the National Trust.

Scroll down for video 

Middle-aged marvel: The one mortal enemy not even Tom Cruise will be able to defy for ever is Father Time, though he’s giving it his best shot

Middle-aged marvel: The one mortal enemy not even Tom Cruise will be able to defy for ever is Father Time, though he’s giving it his best shot

I was interested in that because I, too, am 53. And I’m afraid I tick all those boxes. But I can’t see Cruise in the middle lane of the M4 dipping into a tin of ginger fruit drops.

So as a man of precisely the same age, let me raise three cheers for Cruise, an inspiration to us all and looking as good as ever, even with his shirt off, almost 20 years after the first big-screen spin-off of the long-running TV series. He can still abseil down a building in the course of saving the planet, in this case from a shadowy organisation called the Syndicate, as energetically as he ever could.

The last time we saw him, in 2011’s highly enjoyable Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, Hunt foiled the fiendish plans of a deranged nuclear scientist.

This time, his foe is a rogue former British Intelligence agent, Solomon Lane (a splendidly sinister Sean Harris), who in turn has recruited another British agent, Ilsa Faust (wonderfully played by a Swedish actress with a decidedly non-Swedish name, Rebecca Ferguson). She is either on the side of good, or evil, or possibly both. Not even the screenwriters seem entirely sure.

Meanwhile, the director of the CIA (a hammy Alec Baldwin) wants the IMF wound up, on the not unreasonable basis that everywhere Hunt goes, there is mayhem.

Ilsa Faust, played by Rebecca Ferguson, is either on the side of good, or evil, or possibly both. Not even the screenwriters seem entirely sure

Ilsa Faust, played by Rebecca Ferguson, is either on the side of good, or evil, or possibly both. Not even the screenwriters seem entirely sure

So Hunt becomes a fugitive from his own countrymen, although that only partly explains his impressive accumulation of air miles, as he scoots between London, Vienna, Paris, Washington DC, Casablanca and Minsk.

These days, no action spy film worthy of its name fails to criss-cross the globe more frenziedly than a turbo-charged Michael Palin, as if we won’t believe in it unless it clocks up at least half a dozen locations. Of course, we don’t believe in it anyway. The plot, which threatens the life of the British Prime Minister (Tom Hollander), is as preposterous as we have come to expect from the Mission Impossible franchise.

Mission Implausible, in other words, but the writer-director this time is Christopher McQuarrie, who wrote The Usual Suspects and directed Jack Reacher, and knows how to craft a decent twist or two.

There was probably more spectacular action in the last film, but this one is just as fun, and could feasibly make a star of 31-year-old Ferguson, who steals scenes while everyone else is trying to steal nerve gas and memory sticks.

Last week, the trailer for the new Bond film Spectre was released with the same promotional ballyhoo that used to attend the launch of entire movies, so here’s a timely reminder that 007 is not necessarily the world’s most debonair and resourceful secret agent. He might not even have the best tune — Lalo Schifrin’s Mission Impossible theme is as timelessly stirring as ever.

As a man of precisely the same age, let me raise three cheers for Cruise, an inspiration to us all and looking as good as ever

As a man of precisely the same age, let me raise three cheers for Cruise, an inspiration to us all and looking as good as ever

And Simon Pegg, back as Hunt’s computer-geek sidekick — the Q to Cruise’s Bond, in a way — has a steady supply of witty one-liners.

However, the film’s best one-liner verges on the philosophical. ‘There are no allies in statecraft, Ilsa, only common interests,’ purrs her scheming boss (Simon McBurney). How true.

But it is spectacle that we really want from a Mission Impossible film, not a raft of clever lines, and this one delivers almost as impressively as the last, with a tremendous scene at the opera house in Vienna, and a genuinely exciting Moroccan motorbike chase.

We also get to see Cruise, or at any rate Hunt, holding his breath for minutes on end as he rides an underwater vortex like a spider disappearing down a giant plughole. A note to our fellow 53-year-olds: suck a travel sweet instead.

 

The comments below have not been moderated.

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

By posting your comment you agree to our house rules.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now