Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One

7 out of 10

Hayley Atwell and Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One

The Mission: Impossible franchise is an amazing achievement in that it is still bringing in audiences even after 27 years.

We are introduced to the McGuffin of this film in the opening moments when a Russian submarine is sunk. The McGuffin is a special key, what it unlocks we don’t know, but what we do know is that everyone wants the key. Kittridge (Henry Czerny) makes a nice return to the franchise and pursuades Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his ragtag team with Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) to find Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) who has half of the key.

The mysterious Gabriel (Esai Morales) and his psychopath sidekick Paris (Pom Klementieff) are also after the key. And there’s also The White Widow (Vanessa Kirby) who is tracking down the key to sell to someone, whom we don’t know.

The movie also throws in it’s main villain, which is not a human, but an AI (media is just frothing at the mouth about AI). This AI is aptly named “The Entity” has evolved and can bring the world to its kneeds. It has so much processing power that it can predict the future and it knows where anyone and everyone is. The Entity has fun by breaking into top secret networks and leaving its digital fingerprints behind just to taunt people. Over-the-top? Yes.

The best thing about this movie is Hayley Atwell who steals every scene – scratch that, she steals the movie. Atwell seems to be the one having the most fun onscreen and it really shows. She basically carries this movie.

Tom Cruise seemed a bit detached in the movie. Maybe he’s just tired from all the stuntwork, but he does not seem like he’s having any fun in the movie.

I enjoyed seeing Shea Whigham in the movie. He always is able to bring the everyman to a part. It is also nice to see him and Atwell together again – if you have not seen the excellent Marvel show Agent Carter, it’s well-worth a watch. Greg Tarzan Davis (Top Gun: Maverick) isn’t given enough to do in the movie as Whigham’s partner, I wish he could have had something more meaty – though it felt like they were setting these two up for something larger in the next movie.

There were some nice callbacks to the first movie in this movie – small things for longtime fans of the franchise. First, is the return of Henry Czerny as the smarmy Kittridge. The line Kittridge says when he meets Hunt for the first time was taken directly from the original movie, but with a much different kind of emotion behind it. The (long) train sequence that closes out the movie is a creative take on the train sequence at the end of the first movie.

The score by Lorne Balfe is suitable for the action. I did not hear anything that stood out as new. But, it does work within the context of the images presented onscreen.

After seven movies, they finally explain the IMF in more detail. We are given insight into what country the IMF serves, how they operate, how secretive they are and how agents are recruited – it’s almost Suicide Squad in nature, but at least candidates get to choose, though it’s not much of a choice.

While the promotions for the movie heavily feature the motorcycle jump, I did not find that to be the best sequence of the movie – the lead up to it is questionable and a bit too drawn out. But, the stunt itself was capped by some really unconvincing coincidences that mar it.

My favorite action sequence in the movie was the car chase in Rome. It was creative and well done. It mixes thrills with subtle laughs. While not the most thrilling chase scene of the franchise, it was one of the welcome creative things about the movie.

Dead Reckoning Part One is bloated at two hours and 43 minutes (the longest of the franchise and over an hour longer than the first movie). I felt every minute of the movie and did find myself looking at much watch multiple times. It would had been more bearable if the action sequences were closer together, but there are some long talkative lulls between sequences that killed the momentum. It is unfortunate that these slower moments were not for letting the characters breathe – rather they were long scenes of exposition that were laced with pseudo-technobabble. Characters like National Security Chief Denlinger (Cary Elwes) spends time asking what “sentience” means to try to help the audience – I doubt a person in that position would not know what “sentience” means.

I did enjoy Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning - Part One, but a lot of it felt old and stale – as if they were recycling bits and pieces of previous movies and using bubble gum to keep them together. My enjoyment of the callbacks to the first movie could easily be seen as recycling from the first movie.

Here’s the thing, if you’ve enjoyed the movies in the Mission: Impossible franchise so far, you’ll enjoy this one too. It has all the requisite ingredients (including Tom Cruise doing multiple long runs onscreen). But, don’t come into this one thinking that it will top Fallout. Fallout is a peak for the franchise that Dead Reckoning - Part One cannot climb over. At almost three hours, come to see the excellent stunt work and get out of the baking heat.

Watched at the Oakridge Century 20.

Spoilers

Hayley Atwell and Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One

Maybe it is just me, but this movie felt like it was setting up a new (younger) IMF team. The core of the team is a bit long in tooth. Rhames (and Cruise) have been in the franchise since the first movie in 1996. Pegg joined in 2006 and Ferguson in 2015. Ferguson got an exit in this movie – which I did not like.

Cruise was supposed to exit the franchise in Ghost Protocol, but McQuarrie’s rewrite kept him in the franchise. Jeremy Renner’s William Brant was supposed to replace Ethan Hunt, but that never came to fruition.

I felt that the movie was setting up a new IMF team that is led by Grace (Atwell). Joining her would be the underutilized Degas (Greg Tarzan Davis), a reformed Paris (Klementieff) and the adult of the group, Briggs (Whigham). Hunt (Cruise) would still be around as the overall leader or mentor. Benji (Pegg) and Luther (Rhames) would be around for computer support.

The whole premise for the movie reminds me of Asimov’s Foundation. From chaos, using math and calculations the future can be predicted.

The train sequence is a nice mirror of the first movie. In the first movie, Max (Vanessa Redgrave) is negotiating for a device while Kittridge is onboard the train. In this movie The White Widow (Vanessa Kirby) is negotiating for a device directly with Kittridge. The neat callback to the first movie is that The White Widow is Max’s daughter.

I loved Kittridge’s throwaway line about sorting dead mail. This was a small reference to a scene in the first movie where Kittridge banishes some one to a radar tower in Alaska by the end of the day.

The callbacks continue with Luther’s character as they bring up his nickname Phineas Phreak from the original movie.

I am glad to have seen this movie in the Screen X format, it was more impactful than the last movie I saw in the format, Dungeons & Dragons. The most memorable part was when the screen expanded for the motorcycle jump and that was perfectly timed and awe inspiring. This is something I would have never experienced at home or in the future rewatching this movie.

The opening sequence was a bit of a let down compared to the ones in the previous films. It felt fake and removed from reality. And there was no thrill or any sense of danger to the whole sequence – which is hard to fail at since it is in a submarine.

The climbing portion of the train sequence reminded me of Uncharted 2’s train sequence. It was also unlike some of the other stunt work in that there was some obvious bluescreening used in the sequence which made it feel and look fake.

Examples of the recycled bits: * The train sequence is from the first movie, but beefed up. * The car chase is like the car chase from the Rogue Nation, complete with stairs and driving backwards. It is also reminiscent of the car chase from Fallout with the smaller car. * The motorcycle chase has been done in Rogue Nation also. * The parachuting was a much less exciting version of the HALO jump from Fallout. It was also like the base jumping (that we didn’t actually see onscreen) from Mission: Impossible 3. * Tom Cruise running, there were multiple long scenes of him running – the one on top of the Abu Dhabi airport really reminded me of him running in Fallout. Also, I get that this is somewhat of a running joke (pun intended) that Cruise run in all his movies. But, there was too much of him running in this movie. * There is a haboob that reminded me of the haboob from Rogue Nation.

Watched at the Oakridge Century 20.