MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING PART ONE Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Stars: Tom Cruise, Hayley Atwell, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Pom Klementieff, Esrai Morales, Shea Whigham, Vanessa Kirby, Cary Elwes, Henry Czerny, Greg Tarzan Davis.
I am a fan of the original Mission: Impossible tv series, which ran from 1966-1973, and I even have it on DVD box set. But the tv series is vastly different from the series of big budget action movies from Tom Cruise that began in 1996. In the series the IMF used subterfuge, clever disguises and psychology to achieve their missions, but in the Tom Cruise series of Mission: Impossible movies Ethan Hunt and his agents adopt a different approach that is more akin to kicking down the door and throwing hand grenades into the room. One of the main attractions of the movie series has been the audacious action sequences and the amazing stunts, and it seems as though each subsequent instalment has attempted to outdo the previous movie. And this seventh film in the series features two amazing action sequences including a car chase through the streets of Rome and an extended sequence set on the Orient Express speeding out of control through the Alps that once again raise the bar.
Mission Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One is the seventh film in the film series that began in 1996, and has been written by Christopher McQuarrie, a frequent collaborator of Cruise’s and Erik Jendresen (Band Of Brothers, etc) and they adhere to the familiar tropes and formula of the series. The complex plot centres around an omniscient AI device simply known as “the Entity”, a sentient algorithm which has the power to destroy the world if it falls into the wrong hands. It is a piece of technology that has infiltrated the world’s computer networks, but it can be controlled by a pair of keys that look like crucifixes and need to be interlocked. The US government and other powerful rogue states would like to obtain these keys.
Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is tasked with gathering boths key, but he believes that no-one person or government should control this technology and he goes rogue with the intention to destroy it. He is accompanied by his usual sidekicks Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), a computer expert, and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), a technical field operative who brings touches of humour to the film, and disavowed IMF agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson, from Rogue Nation and Fallout, etc). But Hunt and the teams are being pursued by a number of mercenaries including the enigmatic Paris (Pom Klementieff, from the Guardians Of The Galaxy series, etc), who works for Gabriel (Esrai Morales), a powerful terrorist who shares a tragic past with Ethan. The US government has sent Jasper Briggs (Shea Whigham) to stop Hunt and his team. And an arms dealer known as the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby) also wants to possess the keys and sell them on the black market to the highest bidder. And where the loyalties of former IMF director Kittridge (Henry Czerny, returning to the series after a 15-year absence) lie are uncertain.
Also along for the ride is international thief and pickpocket Grace (Hayley Atwell) whose loyalties are ambiguous and who proves to be a thorn in Hunt’s side. As Ethan and his team head to Abu Dhabi airport to intercept the key, Grace manages to steal it first. But their paths constantly cross as they chase the key around the world. Atwell is a great new addition to the franchise and she and Cruise share a great chemistry.
Here the female characters prove to be very capable and more than hold their own in the action sequences. The action races from the deserts of Morocco to the streets of Rome to Venice and onto the Orient Express, and it has been nicely shot on location by cinematography Fraser Taggart (Robot Overlords, etc). This seventh film in the series also leans more into the humour, especially with the sight of Cruise and Atwell racing through the streets of Rome in a small yellow Fiat 500.
And Cruise and McQuarrie’s insistence on doing the stunts old school style and without an over reliance on CGI special effects adds to the suspense, especially during the extended set-up on the Orient Express. And of course, there is Cruise’s motorcycle and parachute jump that has been front and centre in the advertising campaigns for the film. One wonders how the producers are going to top these for the next instalment. Cruise’s commitment to realism is to be applauded, and he tackles the role here with his usual energy and enthusiasm.
At 163 minutes this is the longest film in the franchise to date, and although there are a few patches where the pace slows for some necessary plot exposition McQuarrie the director maintains a fast pace throughout.