Perhaps the most seemingly impossible feat pulled off by Tom Cruise's tv-series-based franchise thus far is that it's managed to last 20 years.

Not because of a lack in quality - although the first sequel is terrible - instead when it looked like the series was about to end with a whimper, thanks in part to poor relations between Cruise and top brass at distributor Paramount, the whole saga got a much needed jolt in the arm and went on to have its most successful run to date with Brad Bird's 2011 M:I: Ghost Protocol.

Now, and keeping with tradition, a new director has taken the helm and put thier own mark on the series.

Christopher McQuarrie is probably best known for writing The Usual Suspects (1995), though he made an impressive and low-key directorial debut with The Way Of The Gun (2000), belatedly followed by 2012's Tom Cruise starring Jack Reacher - which was surprisingly entertaining. He's also worked with Cruise on the scripts for Valkyrie (2008) and the wonderful Edge Of Tomorrow (2014), so the pair clearly have a good working relationship.

How each new director has applied their mark to the franchise has always balanced with the requirements of delivering a huge, stunt-filled popcorn spectacular. Brain DePalma's 1996 effort was a deliciously tense Hitchcockian-spy extravaganza; John Woo's 2000 follow-up was drenched in artistic tics and slow-motion kicks; J.J. Abrams made his feature debut with his installment in 2006 that displayed the same breakneck pacing and narrative winks he would later apply to Star Trek; and Brad Bird's 2011 film was like a live-action continuation of his superb The Incredibles, nimbly creating a film that balanced humour and nail-biting tension to near-perfection.

McQuarrie's film is somewhere between the first and most recent installments, perhaps in an effort to bring the series in some way closer to the television show upon which its based. Indeed, in each film the screenwriters always seem to come up with a new way to dissolve, kill, shut-down or temporarily suspend Ethan Hunt (Cruise) from the Impossible Missions Forces, and here it's no different.

After another bout of luck preventing a world threatening disaster the head of the CIA - Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) - thinks the IMF's time is up, whilst William Brandt (Jeremy Renner, returning from 4) tries to keep the organisation going. Especially as Ethan is convinced of an emergent threat known ominously as the Syndicate that could be on the brink of doing something very bad indeed.

Alas, the IMF is shut down and Ethan - determined to uncover the Syndicate - goes rogue, after a while in hiding he begins to enlist the assistance of his former team mates including Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg returning from 3 and 4) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames the only other cast member from every film). Together they find themselves drawn into the world of the Syndicate and the mysterious Isla Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) who may or may not be a Syndicate agent, or perhaps she's a double agent, or working in her own interests, or... Who knows?!

Faust is the saving grace of M:I:RN (better acronyms warmly welcomed), keeping the audience guessing as to her motivations without her shifting allegiances becoming gimmicky or clever-clever. Instead Ferguson gives the camera a depth and internal conflict hinted at in the script.

The same cannot quite be said for this episode's villain, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) who is clearly set-up to be the intellectual better than Hunt yet his hands-off nature makes him less of a menace than say Philip Seymour Hoffman's excellent and gleefully malicious Owen Davian from the third film. Lane has an intriguing, and politically ripe, modus operandi but the games played between Hunt and Lane throughout the film aren't quite as cat and mouse as I think they would like, and it's all rather upstaged by the play between Hunt and Faust.

All of this means that the breaks between set-pieces fall a little flat, especially when a plotline involving kidnapping the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (Tom Hollander) pops up, not least of all because I find it very hard to care about the fate of the UK PM currently. Also, rather distractingly, Simon Pegg and Sean Harris have a peculiar resemblance to one another, so when they do share a scene you keep waiting for them to mention how much they look alike!

Fortunately, when the action and adventure kicks in the film works excellently. Skimming over the opening set-piece which is a "curtain raiser" that - much like Hitchcock's cameos - gets the big stunt out of the way quickly, there are plenty of nifty skirmishes such as Ethan's torture, a The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 and 1956) referencing scrap at an opera, and - most entertainingly - a break-in that turns into a car chase, made all the better for some much needed levity.

Ultimately it would seem that the set-pieces are the reason to watch these films, but this installment goes a long way to illustrate that the mix is much more of a balancing act than that, one that they've - in my opinion - got right (to varying degrees) three times out of the four preceding installments. This latest addition is a solid, if thusly disappointing, continuation of a series that is always welcome on Hollywood film schedules, though could do with another jolt come the inevitable sixth film.