Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING PART ONE (2023)
Starring Tom Cruise, Hayley Atwell, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, Henry Czerny, Esai Morales, Pom Klementieff, Frederick Schmidt, Charles Parnell, Rob Delaney, Indira Varma, Mark Gatiss, Shea Whigham, Greg Tarzan Davis, Mariela Garriga, Cary Elwes, Ioachim Ciobanu, Yennis Cheung, Andy M. Milligan and Christopher Sciueref.
Screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie and Erik Jendresen.
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie.
Distributed by Paramount Pictures. 163 minutes. Rated PG-13.
This is the seventh Mission: Impossible movie since 1996, with an eighth coming up early next year (as suggested by the “Part One” in the title here). While they still have a long way to go to outdo the TV series that inspired this franchise (171 episodes over seven seasons spanning the late 1960s to the early-1970s, plus a two-season, 35-episode revival in the late 1980s), at this point Tom Cruise’s superspy Ethan Hunt has long since replaced Peter Graves’ Jim Phelps as the pop culture face of the impossible Mission. In fact, the late Graves is probably remembered as well for playing the inappropriate Captain Clarence Oveur in the comedy classic Airplane! as for his near decade headlining this series.
And – with the exception of perhaps the Jack Reacher series and last year’s smash hit reboot of the Top Gun series – this is pretty much all that Tom Cruise is known for at this point in his career. (Which is kind of a shame, because early on is his career the guy could juggle lots of types of films, from comedies like Risky Business and Jerry Maguire to dramas like Born of the Fourth of July, The Color of Money and Rain Man. However, now he’s pretty much dismissed as an aging action star, and the Mission: Impossible films are greatly responsible for that.
It's a little bit surprising that this series has made it to seven films, because for the most part the first few were moderate successes. Even the last few, while they have done better, have not exactly been blockbusters. Early on, the series tried on a bunch of directors and styles – from Brian DePalma’s oh-so-serious first film to John Woo’s martial-arts adventure to JJ Abrams’ lightweight (and rather unpopular) third film. It was animated film director Brad Bird who seemed to put the series on the right track.
Now the last three films (four if you count the one coming next year) have been helmed by director Christopher McQuarrie and it is there – for better and for worse – that the series has reached its stride. And surprising as it is to say, Dead Reckoning Part One may be the best film in the series yet. (It’s certainly the longest, at nearly 2 hours and 45 minutes.)
Actually, even within the tight structure of the M:I universe, Dead Reckoning Part One allows for a bit of experimentation that the series sometimes eschewed. Particularly Cruise in the title role; he is willing to actually act and look his age (in his early sixties) in this film, giving Hunt a nice vulnerability as compared to the unkillable superhero of the earlier films. (Not that he isn’t still an unkillable superhero here, but it at least seems to take more out of him than in the previous films. Also, the stunts seem to be a little more earthbound than some in recent chapters.)
It's a good look for the character. Just like his character in Top Gun: Maverick, a little unsureness and humility looks good on Ethan Hunt. It makes Dead Reckoning Part One much more than a stunt spectacular – a slightly brainier version of a Fast & Furious film – and actually gives the film a bit of much-appreciated nuance.
In fact, for all the rumblings about evil AI, secret keys and world domination, to a large degree Dead Reckoning is a film about friendship, sacrifice and teamwork. Hunts’ team, made up of Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson and new recruit Hayley Atwell, has become a well-oiled machine with obvious connection. And that is speaking of the actors, not the characters.
Even the evil AI program’s henchman, played with malice and intelligence by Esai Morales, is given shades and contradictions that make him more intriguing than the average villain.
Of course, the stunts – and there are a ton of them – are mostly pretty spectacular, too. And unlike so many two-part films, Dead Reckoning Part One actually has a somewhat concrete ending so that the audience does not feel left in the lurch when the credits roll.
I’m looking forward to seeing what comes in Part Two.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2023 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 16, 2023.