"Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation" is the fifth installment of the successful 20-year-old spy franchise, based on the iconic, eponymous 1960s TV series. With 53-year-old Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise still at the helm, the intelligent thriller offers an excellent plot and breathtaking action.

As in the previous films of the series, Cruise insists on performing all of his own stunts. His greatest challenge? Surpassing his prior daredevil acts.

In this installment, the Impossible Missions Force faces its deadliest enemy yet: a group of powerful rogue agents turned against its masters. Calling itself the Syndicate, it wreaks havoc in the global economy by assassinating world leaders.

Ethan Hunt (Cruise)  and his team, the only force able to stop them, are disbanded by the CIA, forcing them to operate off the radar. One unexpected asset: mysterious team member Ilsa Faust (played by Rebecca Ferguson), an independent agent who warns Hunt of the Syndicate's sheer invincibility.

"I really wanted to make this for an international audience, and I wanted to bring you to places that you might not otherwise be able to go to," filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie, who wrote and directed MI5, said in a Paramount Pictures release. "And that’s why we explored Vienna the way we do. That’s why we explore London the way we do, and Morocco was no different.”

The production team chose Morocco to stage its pulse-pounding motorcycle chase, where Cruise's character swerves down a winding mountain road without even wearing a helmet. But he does not seem to mind.

“I feel fortunate 'cause I get to work with the best bikes so that we can do very extreme things," Cruise said, according to the Paramount release. "We are not doing a lot of CGI [computer-generated imagery]. We don’t have other stunt people doing this."

Cruise also performed the stunt in which he had to jump into thousands of gallons of water without an oxygen tank. The film sequence lasts over three minutes, and Cruise had to train to hold his breath for longer than that.

“We are doing up to six-and-a-half-minute breath holds," he said. "It surprised me, actually, the physical toll that it took and how challenging it was.”

But despite the action scenes, Cruise still acknowledges that what audiences love most in the "Mission: Impossible" movies is a good story, so the script is king, he said. “I want to be on the edge of my seat when I am watching a movie," he said. "I want to deliver that for an audience, and that is storytelling."

Simon Pegg plays Hunt's sidekick, Benji Dunn. The tech guru endures a lot of stunt action next to Hunt, but Pegg said in the Paramount release that "none of those stunts would have any effect if you don’t care really about the people involved in them. I think the important thing for us is to create characters that you cared about so when they were in those situations, you gave a damn, you know?"

The rest of the cast, which includes Jeremy Renner and Alec Baldwin, is as charismatic. But the star remains Cruise, who in every "Mission: Impossible" installment keeps raising the bar in the stunts he performs.

After all, in a $150 million production such as "Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation," you would expect him  to tether himself to the side of a cargo plane and reach an altitude of 5,000 feet at 200 miles an hour. Right?

He said that when the aircraft left the ground, he felt "the force of my body going against the side of that fuselage. ... I guess I did it eight times ... but I wanted to make sure that we had that shot. It’s pretty exhilarating, actually.”

How will he top this next time? It remains to be seen.