By Bob Grimm
The Mission: Impossible franchise (or, as I like to call it, Tom Cruise Jackass) gets another vital and extremely fun installment in Mission: Impossible—Dead Reckoning Part One. Yes, it is part one of what’s supposed to be a two-part conclusion to the series, and yes, the title implies zombies.
However, there are no zombies in this installment, just another movie in which Cruise throws himself into a bunch of situations that could very likely kill him for cinema’s sake—and you will get no complaints from yours truly for such an enterprise. Seriously, he should just do a Jackass movie with Johnny Knoxville.
Cruise teams up, yet again, with director Christopher McQuarrie, who is probably the only director who can handle all of the star’s filmmaking shenanigans. Hopefully his blood pressure meds are working OK, because Cruise literally jumps a motorcycle off of a cliff in this one, subsequently parachuting to the ground.
While some CGI trickery is involved in the big jump (they built a ramp leading up to the cliff drop-off, which they erased in post-production), Cruise did indeed drive a motorbike off of a very high cliff MULTIPLE TIMES for this movie. And he does, in fact, deploy a parachute to avoid certain death. The guy is a fucking nut.
I thought I was done with action atop speeding trains this summer after the lackluster set piece in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, but the train scenes in this puppy are an all-time-great action sequence. There are lots of tunnels and ducking, and McQuarrie makes it thrilling by conveying great speed, visually and with effective sound editing. It’s a heart-stopper, and the sequence plays out in a way that certainly piles on the thrills, one after another.
Oh, yeah, there actually is a plot. Ethan Hunt finds himself searching for some physical keys that have something to do with a worldwide virtual threat called the Entity; it’s a nefarious AI enemy that will give the power of world domination to those who control it … or those who think they can control it.
The usual crew is onboard, including Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg and Rebecca Ferguson, and all are in top form. Vanessa Kirby also returns, and her work in this movie is sure to be underrated. (She has a few moments on the train that count as franchise-best acting moments.) Hayley Atwell is terrific as Grace, a hired thief who finds herself getting into a lot more than she originally intended. Esai Morales shows up as a villain from Ethan’s past, and a real headache for him in the present day. It’s a nicely nuanced, nasty performance.
I always get turned around and confused with these movies, and I was glad to see this film almost goes into “Mission: Impossible for Dummies” mode, with plenty of exposition cleanly describing what the hell is going on. I never felt lost, and I appreciated the handholding, although some might find it annoying.
Part Two is due out next year, and while the film does have a bit of a cliffhanger, McQuarrie and his co-writers still manage to make Part One feel like a complete movie. You won’t feel cheated at the end; you’ll just be looking forward to the next one only a year from now (presuming the Hollywood strikes don’t delay things).
Cruise almost singlehandedly saved the movie-theater business with Top Gun: Maverick, a huge box office hit. Surprisingly, Dead Reckoning isn’t doing similarly well at the domestic box office, and is performing below expectations. It’s no bomb; it’s just not the phenom that Top Gun: Maverick was, which is unfortunate, because it’s a very good film that demands to be seen on the big screen. Word of mouth could help, but Tom Cruise goes up against Oppenheimer and Barbie next weekend. It’ll be tough to maintain the top domestic box-office spot.
We now have a movie in which a major movie star jumps a goddamn motorcycle off of a freaking cliff, and parachutes on to safety afterwards like it’s no big thing. That’s worth the price of two admissions, and further proof that nobody puts more on the line for a movie than crazy Cruise. Seriously, the guy is out of his mind.