Tom Cruise aims to save the box office again with the Perfect Summer Vehicle
DIRECTED BY: CHRISTOPHER MCQUARRIE/2023
Your mission…should you choose to accept it, is to read this spoiler-free review of Mission: Impossible-Dead Reckoning Part One and then get yourself to the largest screen possible (preferably IMAX) to watch Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, and Ving Rhames reunite their Impossible Mission Force to save the world. Last summer, Tom Cruise was credited by Steven Spielberg of having saved cinema with Top Gun: Maverick. Its box office haul seemed to bring people back to the theaters post-Covid providing a nostalgic romp that was also modern and vague enough in terms of its antagonist to make sure the global box office found it inclusive enough to embrace it. With his return this summer as Ethan Hunt, Cruise seeks to save the box office all over again in a mission that is equally thrilling and with an antagonist that is very modern, while dabbling in some Mission: Impossible nostalgia as well.
With a script from director Christopher McQuarrie, Bruce Geller, and Erik Jendresen, Dead Reckoning Part One starts off with the set-up of what has been billed as the two-part send-off of Ethan Hunt (Cruise recently referencing Harrison Ford’s 80 year old Indiana Jones as a model for what he wants to be doing with Mission: Impossible, so maybe its not the send off of Ethan Hunt after all). This mission involves multiple nations having to contend with an Artificial Intelligence, dubbed “the entity”, that has become self-aware and is moving with rogue actors to challenge the safety of the world. Various agents of multiple nations also have designs to take control of this entity and use it for their own designs regarding their place in the global hierarchy. Joining Cruise for this latest stunt-filled action adventure is Hayley Atwell, Pom Klementieff, Shea Whigham, Cary Elwes, and Esai Morales. Returning from Mission: Impossible- Fallout is Vanessa Kirby, and from the first Mission: Impossible, Henry Czerny, as Kittridge.
While the last few entries of the series have featured elaborate stunts handled by Mr. Cruise himself, such as halo jumps, flying helicopters, falling from helicopters, holding one’s breath underwater for nearly 7 minutes, scaling the Burj Khalifa, and more, Mission: Impossible-Dead Reckoning Part One feels like a much more grounded film in terms of practical stunts. Sure, Cruise does a much discussed motorcycle jump off of a mountain into a parachute chase to catch a speeding train, but everything else feels more practical: car chases through Rome, train stunts, fire fights, knife fights, etc.
That being said, even these more “grounded” set pieces are very sophisticated and exciting, furthering the plot without relying on an extensive amount of cut-shots like a Jason Bourne film typically uses to achieve the frenzy of the action. While there are some, McQuarrie is able to keep many wide shots of the action to take advantage of his locations, and the large screen size they are going for. As I mentioned in my review of Indian Jones and the Dial of Destiny, there is about 30 minutes of the two films that are beat for beat the same, albeit in different contexts of both the time setting and the action. Having seen both of these films back-to-back, that was a little unsettling, but nothing that will ultimately distract you from either film’s action pieces or plot, but enough that you might feel a little deja vu.
If Tom Cruise’s ulterior motive with this film is to once again save the box office, he has the perfect summer vehicle to do so with Mission: Impossible-Dead Reckoning Part One. This is one of the tightest films of the Mission: Impossible series with the action coming fast and furious where you don’t even notice its 2 hour and 43 minute run time. It’s also one of the best. While being a two-parter, Dead Reckoning Part One is able to fully resolve its initial storyline, while setting up the viewer to know exactly what has to be tackled for Mission: Impossible-Dead Reckoning Part Two. This is a credit to McQuarrie who has been a part of the writing for the last several entries, and who truly knows this series inside and out. His partnership with Cruise which extends outside these Mission: Impossible films to other such properties as the Jack Reacher films, Top Gun: Maverick, Edge of Tomorrow, and The Mummy, has reached a sweet spot as this is their best work together to date.
The stakes for each of the characters feel organic across the board, encompassing consequences for actions that span throughout the 7-film series going back to 1996’s debut film for Ethan Hunt. This film draws from the first film in several nostalgic set pieces, especially those involving a train. While Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is the centerpiece of this series, each of his support team is given the opportunity to shine. Hayley Atwell, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, and Pom Klementieff are especially given some rich parts in this installment by the time the credits finally roll. Atwell gets a true opportunity to show off her true ability to do action that the Captain America films didn’t provide. The casting was perfect for this film and I’m excited to see how well it plays over the remainder of the summer.
So, as the fuse is lit for another adventure featuring the Impossible Mission Force, I encourage everyone to catch up on the entries they may have missed (most are on Paramount+) and book your ticket to your local IMAX, Dolby Cinema, or other large screen options, to experience a film that delivers exactly what is expected of it at the highest level of quality. Namely, action, spying, danger, masks, intrigue, gadgets, over-the-top stunts, and most of all fun. Tom Cruise continues to give audiences reasons to pack theaters to experience the cinematic communal experience, and like Top Gun: Maverick in 2022, Mission: Impossible-Dead Reckoning Part One is the reason for Summer 2023. Like Tom Cruise in every single film, run as quickly as you can to enjoy your time at the movies with the Impossible Mission Force. This review will self destruct in 5 seconds….5…4…3…2…poof (insert smoke).