Movie Review: Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning (Part One)
The Mission: Impossible franchise has been the most consistently excellent action film franchise in Hollywood over the last 25+ years. Forget about the MCU or DCEU, with their tonal inconsistencies and varying quality between films, where you can get a dreary Ant-Man film and an electric entry like Guardians 3 within mere months of each other. Forget even the James Bond or John Wick movies, Mission: Impossible is as close to an assured great time at the movies as you can get.
The latest entry in the franchise continues a streak of hits for star-director pairing of Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie. Tense, timely and flecked with the perfect mix of humour and pain, Dead Reckoning Part One manages to tell a complete story while also making sure we know that the mission is not yet accomplished. For the last 27 years, Tom Cruise, now 61 years old (!!!) has spent the vast majority of his time running, dangling and jumping for our viewing pleasure (and I’m sure to satisfy his adrenaline addiction).
He has been the face and brains of the franchise from its inception and continues to perform edgeof-your-seat stunts. He has climbed the Burj Khalifa, freedived for 8 minutes underwater and done everything possible to put on the most exhilarating show for us, and I, for one, am very thankful. Trying to one-up its predecessor (Mission: Impossible Fallout), a nearly flawless film in Mission: Impossible Fallout is a tall order that I don’t think this film fully achieves, but it’s a thrilling attempt nonetheless.
Directed by Cruise’s new favourite director Christopher McQuarrie (Top Gun Maverick, Mission:Impossible Rogue Nation and Fallout), Dead Reckoning follows Ethan Hunt and his crew as they try to avert a new, different kind of existential threat: Artificial Intelligence. The team chases and is being chased all over the globe as they try to keep the advanced technology from falling into the wrong hands. With a plot synopsis that would’ve sounded too far-fetched to believe even 15 years ago, the film seems almost prescient in its prediction that the next frontier for conquest isn’t on the battlefield but in the control of truth.
Being able to determine what is moral and amoral, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt posits is too much power for one entity to wield. One thing I’ve loved about the Mission: Impossible movies is the “lived-in” nature of the world in the films. The tropes never seem to get old. There’s a checklist each film hits without fail (“your mission, should you choose to accept it”, masks, Cruise running, car chase, huge final stunt), but each film finds a way to put a new spin on said tropes.
Dead Reckoning is no different. The film jaunts around the globe, from scenic Italy, to arid Abu Dhabi, the UK and many more, with our heroes chasing after a key that controls something called the Entity. Along for the ride with Cruise are series regulars Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg and Rebecca Ferguson. Vanessa Kirby also reprises her role from Fallout as the vivacious White Widow.
As for newcomers, there is none more interesting than Hayley Atwell, who plays Grace, a thief who strikes up an almost instant bond with Ethan Hunt. Sparks fly on screen whenever Cruise and Atwell interact; so good is their chemistry together. Very much looking forward to part two for more of the same. The soundtrack by returning composer Lorne Balfe is excellent again, with a great interpolation of the iconic theme worked into a lot of the film. As great as this film is, the runtime is a problem for me.
The 2hr 43 min runtime is breezily paced up until the middle of the 2nd hour of the film. I found myself checking my phone a bit during that period, but I very quickly dropped it again when the final action sequence began. Probably one of the most exciting sequences in the history of the franchise; all I’ll say is, it involves Tom Cruise skydiving onto a train.
Similar to Fallout, the sequence keeps ratcheting up the action, and when you think the stakes can’t get any higher, the film ratchets it up another level. The influences from games like Uncharted 2 and Metal Gear solid are the sorts of easter eggs I love pulling out from films like this, and it all comes together to make a whole that, while not quite as cohesive as Fallout (not a bad thing, Fallout is definitely a top 5 action film of the decade so far), is a very tight story nonetheless.
Despite its longueurs and shortcomings, this movie is still a bag of extravagant treats. A submarine attacked by an invisible foe beneath the Arctic ice. A grand piano suspended directly over Ethan and Grace and prevented from dropping only by a slowly weakening clamp. Rebecca Ferguson wearing a sniper’s eye patch (Metal Gear!). A nuclear bomb that asks the person trying to defuse it whether he is afraid of death. And, best of all, in Rome, a yellow Fiat 500 rocking and rolling down the Spanish Steps—which, as we are charmingly assured in the closing credits, were not harmed in the making of the film. Thank God. Or thank Tom Cruise. The choice is yours.