Movie Review: Mission Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One
Last summer, Tom Cruise was given credit for saving the theatrical experience with the widely beloved “Top Gun: Maverick.” Has he pulled it off again this year?
One of our last true movie stars returns over a year later as the blockbuster experience seems to be fading with high-budget Hollywood endeavours like "The Flash". Can he be Hollywood's saviour again? I hope so because “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” is a ridiculously good time. Once again, director Christopher McQuarrie, Cruise, and their team have crafted a deceptively simple thriller, a film that bounces good, bad, and in-between characters off each other for 163 minutes. Some of the overcooked dialogue about the importance of this particular mission gets repetitive, but then McQuarrie and his team will reveal some stunningly conceived action sequence that makes all the spy-speak tolerable. Hollywood is currently questioning the very state of their industry. Leave it to Ethan Hunt to accept the mission.
It all starts with Dead Reckoning's central villain—an omniscient A.I. system referred to as "the Entity." Like the Eye of Sauron from “Lord of the Rings”, this all-seeing, sentient technology now makes decisions on its own with global consequences. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his merry band of spies embark on a mission to acquire a key that can shut the A.I. down. Think Frodo, Mount Doom, the Ring, and you're on the right track. “Dead Reckoning Part One” is the seventh film in a nearly 30-year-long franchise, and if Tom Cruise wants to turn it into James Bond meets “Lord of the Rings”, I'm all here for it. Still, the star is Mr. Cruise himself. It may not surprise you that what drives the excitement for “Dead Reckoning Part Two” isn't how they'll stop the Entity from controlling the world—but how Tom Cruise will top himself yet again. Maybe he needs to know how long he can breathe in space. Or does Cruise want to parachute into a volcano? Hell, I'd like to see him drive a car straight up the Empire State Building. Either way, he'll continue sparring with the Entity. Our 61-year-old hero is clearly on a mission to look at this digital god in the eye and ask, "What else do you have for me?!" Of course, we're often asking the same of Cruise—and he delivers time and time again. Although “Maverick” featured plenty of digital whiz-bangery, its most spectacular draw of course was again Tom Cruise. To that point, while there’s little of substance that I remember about the first film other than it was directed by Brian De Palma, I can vividly picture — with the crystalline recall that only some movies instil — two distinct images of Cruise-Ethan from it. In one, he races away from a tsunami of water and shattered glass; in the second, he hovers inches above a gleaming white floor, his black-clad body stretched head to toe in a near-perfect horizontal line. The filmmakers imprinted those images on my memory; so did Cruise.
Cruise does action like no one else. And that's why, if you're interested in seeing Mission Impossible's seventh entry, you should do it. The motorcycle jump everyone talks about is breathtaking. Of course, Cruise doesn't stop there. His mission, should he choose to accept it, is to challenge death by making these movies for us. “Dead Reckoning Part One” also features a long car chase through Rome, a fistfight in a tiny alley, an airport heist, and a final escape—which I won't spoil. Fans and critics often say this of the MI films, but the stunts alone truly make the entire experience worthwhile. Despite the new faces, there are, unsurprisingly, no real surprises in “Dead Reckoning Part One,” which features a number of dependably show-stopping stunts, hits every narrative beat hard and, shrewdly, has just enough winking humour to keep the whole thing from sagging into self-seriousness. This is the third movie in the series that Cruise and the director Christopher McQuarrie have made together, and they have settled into a mutually beneficial groove. On his end, McQuarrie has assembled a fully loaded blockbuster machine that briskly recaps the series’ foundational parameters, adds the requisite twists and, most importantly, showcases his star. For his part, Cruise has once again cranked the superspy dial up to 11. The action is impressively gender neutral, with men and women killing and dying with equal relish (plaudits to Pom Klementieff, whose relentless – and largely silent – assassin, Paris, could give Grace Jones in “A View to a Kill” a run for her money). It all builds to a frankly jaw-dropping train-bound finale in which the heavily trailered sight of the real Tom Cruise really driving a real motorbike off a real mountaintop is only an appetizer for what is to come – one of the most audaciously extended action set pieces I have ever seen, which left my nails not so much bitten as gnawed to the bone. The fact that this is “only the beginning” is cause for celebration. Roll on “Dead Reckoning Part Two”.
Overall, the obvious effort that Cruise puts into his “Mission” stunts and the physical punishment he endures to execute them — signalled by his grimaces and popping muscles — have had a salutary impact on that persona, as has the naked ferocity with which he’s held onto stardom. It’s touching. It’s also difficult to imagine any actor today starting out in a superhero flick and reaching commensurate fame, not only because the movies, Hollywood’s at least, no longer retain the hold on the popular imagination that they once did, but also because the corporately branded superhero suit will always be more important than whoever wears it. Tom Cruise doesn’t need a suit; he was, after all, built for speed. He just needs to keep running.