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Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation: when good agents go bad

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The plot of blockbuster Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation revolves around a rogue IMF (that's Impossible Missions Force) called the Syndicate. Daredevil secret agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) must get his team back together and stop these ruthless assassins before it's too late.

From double agents and triple agents to out-and-out criminals, good agents gone bad are a staple of espionage thrillers. Here we pick (00)7 of our favourite evildoers who were supposed to be on our side.

WARNING: SPOILERS!



1)  GoldenEye (1995)

The traitor: Alec Trevelyan

The story: The rogue agent is such a common feature of the Bond movies that it's a wonder 007 trusts anyone at all. We could, for example, have picked Rosumund Pike's MI6 agent Miranda Frost from Die Another Day, who turned out be a dastardly villain and had to be memorably dispatched by Halle Berry. In the first Pierce Brosnan Bond flick, GoldenEye, we're introduced to 007's chum 006, aka Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean). Having faked his own death, Trevelyan pops up again nine years later as the vengeance-crazed head of the Janus crime syndicate.


2)  Skyfall (2012)

The traitor: Silva

The story: Making arguably the most memorable entrance of any character in a Bond film since Ursula Andress in Dr. No, Javier Bardem's slightly camp, ultra-creepy villain Raoul Silva has an entire island as his lair. Turns out he's a former MI6 agent-turned-cyberterrorist with a particular grudge against M, leading to a shocking denouement.


3)  Salt (2010)

The traitor: Ted Winter

The story: When a major star is accused of being a wrong 'un, you can be sure they've been framed. So it proves as CIA operative Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is identified by a recent defector as a sleeper agent for the Russians. Naturally, she goes on the run to clear her name. So who's out to stitch her up? Well, let's just say that Liev Schreiber, who plays Salt's CIA colleague Ted Winter, has a CV of bad guy roles as long as your arm.


4)  Safe House (2012)

The traitors: just about everybody

The story: Denzel Washington is a turncoat rogue CIA agent. And he's the good guy! After he's seized and taken to rookie Ryan Reynolds' sleepy South African CIA safe house for interrogation, hordes of gun-toting goons burst in and attempt to kill him. As the duo go on the Bourne-style run together, it emerges that Denzel is in possession of a data file that contains the dirt on corruption among intelligence agencies around the world. Little wonder everybody seems to be out to get him, with Brendan Gleeson and Vera Farmiga at the front of the lengthy queue.


5)  Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

The traitor: Bill Haydon

The story: In this adaptation of John le Carre's Cold War spy classic, George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is summoned from retirement to finger the long-term double agent who operates at the highest level in MI6 HQ, aka 'The Circus'. There are four chief suspects. But who could seriously believe that Mr. Darcy would betray his country?


6)  The Ipcress File (1965)

The traitor: Dalby

The story: Brain-washing and mind control were popular themes in sixties Cold War spy movies. In the first and best of three film adaptations of Len Deighton's Harry Palmer spy novels, Harry (Michael Caine) has his noggin fiddled with while investigating the kidnapping of a scientist. Who'd have guessed his own boss could be responsible?


7)  Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002)

The traitor: Douglas Powers 

The story: No, not dentally challenged superspy Austin himself, obviously. But if you pay attention to the (Basil) exposition in Goldmember, it's revealed by Nigel Powers (Michael Caine, knowingly cast because of his Ipcress File role) that Austin and Doctor Evil, aka Douglas Powers, are his twin sons who were separated at birth. Despite being its best student, Douglas was snubbed by the British Intelligence Academy, while Austin won the International Man of Mystery Award. Jealousy drove him to become the world's greatest supervillain instead. One with a love of 'a miiiillllliiiioooon dollars.'


The rogue agents of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation take over our screens on 31st July. 

Who are your favourite turncoat characters? Suggestions via coded message @Cineworld.