A rogue weapon threatens the entire world order in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One.
Superspy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) returns for the seventh film of this stunt-filled action franchise. Hunt takes on a new mission, but this time with a personal twist that hearkens back to his days before joining the Impossible Mission Force. He and his veteran team are joined by a new recruit who’s not quite sure that any of this spy business is her cup of tea. Together, they accept the task of tracking down a tantalizing key that few, including Hunt, know what it unlocks. One thing of which they’re sure is that, should it fall into the wrong hands, the world as we know it would cease to exist, so no pressure.
For the first time, Cruise looks a bit weathered as Hunt, sparking memories of many past action stars trying to hold on to the illusion of youth well past its best-by date. The same is true for his fellow compatriots Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg. It’s fitting that this film will try to unseat 81-year-old Harrison Ford‘s action-packed Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny at the top of the box office charts. Oh, what interesting times we live in.
This isn’t to say that the effort is a flawed one. Quite the contrary. The feel of the past films, for better or worse, remains throughout. The stunts are just as stunning. The effects are just as extraordinary, and the campiness is… okay, that’s one thing that’s changed. In aging Bond film fashion, writer/director Christopher McQuarrie has amped up the playfulness in a welcome way that delivers more chuckles than all six past films combined. It’s Cruise’s easygoing chemistry with franchise newcomer Hayley Atwell as a capable, crafty crook that’s mainly responsible. Their intimate interactions are so effective that many scenes with the rest of the team feel diminished by comparison.
The baddies in this one are led by a winning performance from Esai Morales as the insanely focused and ever-capable Gabriel. His performance all but embodies the word “suave.” I’ve been a fan of his going back to 1987’s La Bamba.
The latest entry in the series is helped along by one of the best built-in scores of any franchise. It’s just not possible to be melancholic with such overtones permeating your entire being at every turn.
The speed bumps come from several areas, starting with the already-stale storyline of a rogue AI that threatens the status quo. Even worse, the dialogue related to AI feels about as genuine as a room full of janitors trying to sound sage about the details of nuclear fission. There’s also a major plot hole that doesn’t resolve for two-thirds of the film’s nearly-three-hour running time. This big distraction is entirely unnecessary. Two late stunts, done in quick succession, totally ruin the immersion. It screams of writers lacking any hint of creativity. “I know! Let’s solve this problem with a cool stunt.” Not cool. Finally, as the story winds down, you feel every bit of this being a setup for Part Two.
Sure, it’s formulaic, but Formula is Cruise’s middle name. Ethan Hunt’s latest adventure charts a rocky, but often rewarding, route.