Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. Warp Speed, Scotty.

MI 5Love him or loathe him, Tom Cruise is box office Teflon, shrugging off sticky questions about his private life with a blinding white grin as the tills keep ringing. His latest, MI5, shows no sign of bucking the trend.

 

You know the drill. Tom is Ethan Hunt – so named long before a certain Tory Culture Secretary became the nemesis of BBC news presenters. Can you imagine John Humphries covering the MI5 red carpet? The Sloth would gladly pay to see the ensuing Wrath of Scientology reign down. But we digress.

 

Ethan pops up in London, specifically in a vintage record store (Kids, people used to buy music in flat black plastic circles. Yes, really), to receive details of his latest mission. Except he’s been duped. Instead, he’s been lured there in an assassination attempt by The Syndicate, a rogue terrorist organisation intent on destroying both Ethan and the IMF. But he escapes, because he can’t get killed in the first scenes, vowing to hunt down and destroy The Syndicate.

 

Back in the US, IMF boss Brandt (Jeremy Renner) is embroiled in a battle with head of the CIA, Hunley (Alec Baldwin), who tries and succeeds to get the IMF shut down. So Ethan has no choice but to Go Rogue himself, taking trusty Scotty, sorry, Benji (Simon Pegg) with him in his pursuit of The Syndicate. So ensues a non-stop, all action romp that takes in Europe, Morocco and the US, a ton of proper, Old Skool stunts which Mr Cruise, looking remarkably spritely for his 53 years, did the majority of himself, including hanging for dear life onto the side of an airborne plane and an epic underwater scene where either his acting skills are superlative or he really was on the brink of drowning.

 

All in all, it flies along at a rollicking pace and is great, popcorn fun. Not least due to being backed up by a smart, supporting cast including Rebecca Ferguson as kick-ass agent Ilsa Faust (at which point forgive us for getting on our high horse but, having given us a strong female character, the producers totally let themselves down by including a completely gratuitous arse-shot. Come on, you’re better than that) and the marvellous Tom Hollander as the UK PM with Simon McBurney as Atlee, his advisor. Yes, UK TV ‘Rev’ viewers, that’s Rev and The Archdeacon together in a Hollywood movie!  Obvs we were waiting with bated breath for Atlee to announce he “can’t stop, I’m late for brunch at The Wolseley with Melyvn Bragg” and were most disappointed when it didn’t happen. Maybe keep it in mind for MI6?

UK release 30 July

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American Hustle. The Con Is Glamazon.

hustleEveryone loves a comedy ‘tache. So the moment a virtually unrecognisable Christian Bale swaggers onscreen with paunch, comb-over and luxuriant hairy slug atop his lip, you know American Hustle is onto a winner.

A fictionalisation of true events, American Hustle is based loosely around the ABSCAM scandal of the late 70’s and early 80’s. Involving corruption at the highest levels, it saw members of Congress convicted of accepting bribes in return for political favours.

Our players in this version are con-artist Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his foxily glamorous partner in crime, Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). Kindred spirits, their initial business relationship expands into a romantic affair, ignited when they discover a shared talent for hustling money. Unfortunately, their illicit trade attracts the attention of FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper resplendent in tight poodle curls). Richie realises they are the tool he needs to crack a nut of corruption involving casino mob boss Victor Tellegio (Robert De Niro) and political fixer Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). And with Irving’s neurotic, unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) still lurking in the background, you have an explosive potboiler waiting to happen.

Cleverly, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Yes, it has ‘1970’s Scorsese Mobster Epic’ written all over it, but the tone is tongue-in-cheek homage, not reverential reconstruction. Mr Cooper busts impressively snake hipped moves on a dance floor, winking slyly to Saturday Night Fever. Amy Adams is a Studio 54-esq diva, adopting a faux British accent to impress the naive Yanks and wearing slashed to the naval frocks for breakfast, while Mr Bale’s corpulent belly undertakes a surprise bid for Best Supporting Actor, with copious screen time all to itself (NB The Sloth has it on good authority the notoriously rigorous Mr Bale prepped thoroughly for his role by, erm, eating all the pies. No prosthetics involved, that belly is the genuine article).

Fun, raucous and with just the right amount of 70’s cheese, American Hustle pens a frothy ode to an era of excess, where money, big hair and shiny fabrics talked. Get in the mood with a Screwdriver and blast of Stayin’ Alive, then enjoy.

UK limited release 20 December. General release 3 January.

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