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'Mission: Impossible 5': How the franchise has found under-the-radar talent

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(Read caption) The 'Mission: Impossible' films star Tom Cruise.

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The newest “Mission: Impossible” movie, “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation,” is set to be released this July.

The new film finds actor Tom Cruise reprising his role as Ethan Hunt, a spy for the fictional Impossible Missions Force agency. Cast members from the fourth film, 2011's “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” that will return for the fifth film include actors Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, and Jeremy Renner. The film will also star Alec Baldwin and Rebecca Ferguson.

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The movie series is based on the 1960s espionage TV show. The first film the series' modern incarnation was released in 1996.

The franchise has sustained itself incredibly well creatively over the years, with some critics selecting "Ghost Protocol,” as one of the best films of the year in 2011. (“Ghost” was also the seventh-highest-grossing movie of the year.)

How has the franchise kept itself fresh? One strategy has been to bring on talented up-and-comers to helm the films. The first film was helmed by Brian De Palma, a veteran who had already directed such movies as “Carlito’s Way” and “Scarface” before he took on “Mission Impossible,” and the second was directed by John Woo, already an established force in action films. But for the third movie, executives brought on J.J. Abrams, who is now pop culture royalty (he’s been trusted with the new “Star Wars” movie, after all), but before directing “Mission: Impossible III” had only directed episodes of the WB drama “Felicity” and ABC’s hit shows “Lost” and “Alias.” 

And for "Ghost Protocol,” producers brought on Brad Bird, who was chiefly known for animated movies “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille.” Many critics praised Bird’s direction, with Monitor film critic Peter Rainer writing that Bird “makes the transition smoothly … [the movie is] a very good thrill ride,” and Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan writing that “Bird has done a stylish and involving job here, turning in an entertaining production that's got considerable visual flair.” 

The director for this summer’s movie? Christopher McQuarrie, who directed the 2012 critically panned movie “Jack Reacher” (also with Cruise). McQuarrie is also a screenwriter and worked on the scripts for such misfires as “The Tourist” and “Jack the Giant Slayer” as well as the better received “Edge of Tomorrow” and the critically acclaimed film “The Usual Suspects.” 

We’ll see how McQuarrie does when the movie comes out next month, but the “Mission Impossible” franchise certainly has a good track record for spotting talent.