Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Cast: Tom Cruise, Hayley Atwell, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, Henry Czerny, Esai Morales, Shea Whigham, Rob Delaney
By Paul Bramhall
In the closing line for my 2018 review Mission: Impossible – FalloutI had expressed the hope that if Tom Cruise did return, all he would need was “someone to put him in touch with Gareth Evans to Mission: Impossible 7”. I remember writing that line half-expecting that we would receive another dose of Ethan Hunt’s increasingly death-defying globe-trotting adventures, as the expectation for a Hollywood star approaching 60 to continue in one role that he was defined by his physicality seemed like an unreasonable question. Thankfully, it’s Tom Cruise, and if anyone wants to defy expectations of what can be achieved in a film industry whose action genre has become almost exclusively populated by superheroes and fast cars (and “family”), then it’s the man who does. Then while Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, first part doesn’t see the star teaming up with Gareth Evans, reunites with director Christopher McQuarrie.
As a director, McQuarrie got off to a shaky start at the helm of the Mission Impossible franchise, taking over from Brad Bird after 2011 Ghost Protocol, which acted as a reboot of the series and remains the star of the franchise. McQuarrie’s crack in the series with 2015 Rogue nation was a worthwhile entry, however from an action movie perspective it committed the cardinal sin of foreground loading its most impressive action sequence, rather than saving it for the finale (in this case, having Cruise legitimately cling to for life alongside a flying plane as a pre-credits sequence!). Being the first director to receive a 2na crack driving a stake, McQuarrie is back for 2018 Falland fortunately he had taken notes from his own ME debut, delivering a voice that understood the importance of stepping up set pieces, as well as offering a number of subtle nods to the original.
Proving he is a director who learns from experience, it is no surprise that producer and star Tom Cruise has decided to stick with McQuarrie as director for the latest installment, which features a storyline so epic that it is split into 2 parts. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, first part landed in 2023, and while the original plan was for both sides to be filmed back-to-back, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a stop to those intentions, meaning that as of this writing Second part it is still in production. Clocking in at 163 minutes, it’s perhaps a testament to McQuarrie and Cruise’s pairing as director and star that time flies. In a climate where the action is increasingly franchised tries to justify their existence with extended runtimes, it can be a fine line between epic and bloated (John Wick 4I’m looking at you), so it’s a relief to say that M:I – DRPO (as I shall refer to it from now on) belongs exactly to the former.
The plot involves the most dangerous mission ever, as Cruise and co. (Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, and Rebecca Ferguson all return) set out to stop an AI program that has gone rogue. Having disappeared into the cloud during a test and showing worrying signs of becoming sentient, the world’s addiction to digital platforms is suddenly faced with a reality where nothing online can be trusted, be it intelligence or posts. on social media. The only way to stop it is to recover a pair of interlocking keys that can provide access to the program’s source code, allowing it to be destroyed or, in the case of nearly every government in the world, controlled. However no one knows exactly what unlocks the keys to reveal this source code and, put in a situation where even their own government can’t be trusted, the team is against the clock and pretty much everyone they meet to find the keys.
The fear of artificial intelligence is timely, especially given the feverish speculation about what rapid advances around AI could mean for humanity right now. M:I – DRPO publication. Portraying the threat of computer programs on screen has always been a challenge for the action genre, with everyone from Timothy Olyphant in the 2007 film Live free or die hard to Johnny Depp in 2014 Transcendence struggling to make a truly memorable character responsible for some sort of digital threat. Fortunately M:I – DRPO addresses the question of the casting of Esai Morales (Never give up: no surrender), a mysterious figure from Cruise’s past who willingly works for the program, and is accompanied by a scene stealing bodyguard played by Pom Klementieff (Mantis of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise).
Together, the pair impart a legitimate sense of danger to every scene in which they appear, with Morales always one step ahead thanks to the program’s predictive abilities, and Klementieff lending a chaotic physicality to many of the scenes in which he appears (a vehicular chase and an alley fight are highlights). Another MCU alumnus for the ride is Hayley Atwell (who has played Peggy Carter in multiple MCU titles), playing a professional pickpocket who gets in the way of her head, eventually finding herself reluctantly partnering with Cruise to survive. Before that, though, she amusingly undermines Cruise’s abilities through a series of events that see her constantly evade her tutelage and serve to show off the latest entries’ action pedigree.
We’ve seen vehicular chase sequences in many of the ME rumors, however McQuarrie and Cruise are clearly still hopeful enough to include one here, presumably believing they can surpass anything that has come before. It is fair to say that their trust is not misplaced. A chase through the streets of Rome includes a multitude of motorcycles, cars and an armored vehicle which is a frantic masterclass in how to film and edit a car chase, avoiding any gratuitous slow motion and offering several spine-tingling moments. The beats may be familiar, but when delivered with such skill and bravado as this, it serves as a reminder that when it comes to action, you can never have too many good things.
Like the previous entry, McQuarrie once again strikes a healthy balance between intrigue and action, further bringing the series full circle with some nods to the 1996 original. For the first time since Cruise’s first outing we have Henry Czerny (Scream VI) returning as the closest thing to the head of the IMF (Impossible Mission Force), and Cruise’s original reason for joining the team in the first place underpins the narrative in ways we can expect to see expanded into Second part. A very subtle flashlight delivery seems to be starting to catch on M:I – DRPOand while nothing is explicitly stated, some scenes indicate that if Cruise isn’t always able to hang from helicopters and the sides of planes, that doesn’t necessarily mean the series won’t be there.
For now, though, a lot is still at stake, and the escalating action scenes culminate in a thrilling chase sequence that sees Cruise attempting to reach the Orient Express steam train on a motorcycle, with the odds of course almost insurmountable (or to put it more simply, impossible) success. It would be a spoiler to get into any of the highlights here, but needless to say, it’s one of the best busy filming action sequences in recent years, encompassing a crazy motorcycle stunt and a literal hang ending. It’s almost as if McQuarrie thought it was time to silence those naysayers who were always complaining that the original’s train-set ending was a disappointment, so he decided to put together the most train-themed action finale. explosive that could be conjured up, and do it all for real. It’s a joy to watch.
There are some minor issues with the 7th episode, as whenever the rogue AI program is discussed, the dialogue tends to repeat the same points as all the previous times it was mentioned, and there isn’t a standout fight sequence like the bathroom brawl in which we had Fall (a bridge fight in Venice in which Hayley Atwell and Rebecca Ferguson take on Esai Morales seems surprisingly superfluous). However, these are literally just that: minor inconveniences. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, first part is a reminder of what an action blockbuster should be like: consistently entertaining, adrenaline-pumping entertainment that reminds you why you’re a fan of the genre in the first place. After you Second part.
Paul Bramhall’s assessment: 8.5/10