Tom Cruise is now so eager to entertain us, to prove that he is the hardest-working movie star in the world, that he has to hang from the world’s tallest building, an icon climbing an icon. The more bad press he generates, the more intensely he will stare, and the higher he will climb up tall things. Fair enough – I can’t imagine Taylor Lautner keeping up that kind of pace into his 50s. Graduating to live action more successfully than his Pixar stablemate Andrew Stanton (responsible for the John Carter debacle), Brad Bird handles action and plotting with the same composed precision you might readily apply to a pixel-built rat or superhero; the 45-minute Dubai sequence, which catalogues one of the IMF‘s most elaborate operations, is one of the most breathtaking and wittily sustained stretches of action cinema I’ve seen in years, moving effortlessly from a cliffhanger on the Burj Khalifa to a car chase in a sandstorm, but aside from killing off some subsidiary villains, it does next to nothing to advance the plot. It’s all control, no progress, but fabulously exciting while it happens.
It does mean that subsequent scenes, set in India but mostly filmed in Dubai again, suffer from a comparative slowdown; they also jolted me back into the realisation that, post-Bourne, and with the embarrassment of Ferrero Rocher ads finally fading, there’s no good excuse to still be representing such shiny sanitised versions of foreign locations; you might be forgiven for thinking, on this evidence, that Mumbai is a non-stop, slumless ambassador’s ball, or that Prague can stand in unnoticeably for Moscow and Budapest. Franchise films always leave space for sequels: Jeremy Renner, professional franchise interloper, always the last to join a movie series, holds out promise of a fresh reboot, even though Cruise has done nothing to imply that he’s ready to let anyone else have a turn: while he performs the biggest stunt-climb since King Kong shimmied up the Empire State Building, Renner gets Cruise’s leftovers, replaying the first film’s vertical drop mission with less cool clothes.