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  • Writer's pictureRob Ervin

Rob Reviews "Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning, Part One"

The Mission: Impossible series of films has been an interesting case study in Hollywood franchises. Most properties of this type tend to stick to some form of formula in storytelling, visuals, and/or theme in order to cater to their audience giving them that sense of cinematic “home” that keeps them coming back. Tom Cruise (who has long brought himself to stories and storytellers that push the envelope in one way or another) kind of bucks this trend with this incredibly successful group of films by using five different directors over what is now seven installments in the journey of Ethan Hunt and his IMF team.

Respectively, he has worked with Brian DePalma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams (in his cinematic directorial debut), Brad Bird (in his live-action cinematic directorial debut), and Christopher McQuarrie with the latter handling now the last three (and the next one), and they have all brought different visions to the stories put in front of them to differing levels of success. Each one seems to build on the one before it (a lot of people poo-poo on II, but I liked it for what it was) with Cruise upping the stakes for both him as a character and as a human in the same way buy next-leveling filmmaking and stunt work alongside cool visual effects and edge-of-your-seat action that has raked in a TON of money worldwide. With Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Part One, there are questions to be answered and I don’t know if I want them to be.

Hunt and his team face their biggest threat yet as they chase down a special key that can unleash a weapon upon the world that is virtually impossible to defeat, especially in the wrong hands. Alongside Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg), he winds up working with a petty thief with a flair for unpredictability in Grace (Hayley Atwell) as they are chased by a figure from Hunt’s past in Gabriel (Esai Morales) and by his side the deadly assassin, Paris (Pom Klementieff). As they all chase after this special key, a number of other forces are working against at least one if not both sides as well… but I may have already said too much.

One thing I have appreciated about this franchise is although there have been so many different styles and stories, they have kept the soul of the original Mission: Impossible television series and their elements intact. From the “this message will self-destruct” message to the many different disguises and globe-hopping locations, all of the things I loved about the source material has had me coming back time and time again to see what new insanity Cruise and his cohorts bring to the screen. This film kept me completely bought-in for two hours and forty minutes with a delicate dance of action and story (and trust me here, this story has A LOT going on in it) that gave me just enough time to breathe between chases to properly reinforce the “why”. Honestly, this is one of the few franchises that has done that last part on a consistent basis; with so many action films and series basically dumbing that “why” down so stuff can “’splode,” Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Part One dares to tell the audience that they are going to need to keep up with them and not the other way around. This isn’t a “trust us, this is going to be bad if we don’t stop (insert villain here)”: on the contrary, it’s more “we’re gonna give you the stuff you want, but you are going to consume it on OUR terms and in a way that WE want you to understand the stakes,” and I found that incredibly refreshing.

Even as the plot starts to get under way, there is a section that takes place in the Abu Dhabi International Airport that houses multiple plotlines at the same time and finds a way to get them to get them all intertwined in a narrative that doesn’t seem forced and pushes the overall plotline forward in a beautiful way that works its way all the way through the rest of the film. Each detail folds into the next with not even the simplest of moments wasted that borrows elements not only from the spy genre but even has overtones of the “whodunnit” films that have also made a huge comeback over the years. What I truly dig about this type of storytelling is that it prods its audience (me included) to go back and watch it again to see how we could have missed these details before and possibly to see the film overall in a different and even better light than we did the first time. Using Hunt’s overall character arc (including what got him to the IMF in the first place) pushes the stakes of this film that much further as does not only the return of past nemesis Kittridge (Henry Czerny) but also with new wrinkles in what the IMF does in Denlinger (we have a Cary Elwes sighting, people!) and federal agents Briggs (another favorite in Shea Whigham, whose character may have deeper issues than we realize) and Degas (Greg Tarzan Davis, who was “Coyote” in Top Gun: Maverick and whose character here may see the big picture Briggs cannot) that keep this film moving at light-speed.

The more I am thinking about it, the more I may have stumbled on Cruise’s master plan with his franchise. Using different directors for the first five films gave him the ability to see a long-term plan for it that functioned as de facto “auditions” for who he wanted to see carry the proverbial ball across the finish line. As well as the previous four did, McQuarrie (also responsible for directing Cruise in Jack Reacher and another great film in The Way of the Gun, but don’t sleep on his writing credits either; he co-wrote all of the M:I films he directed too along with quite a bit of what Cruise has done in the last decade and a half along with The Usual Suspects) seems to have taken this film series to the level that makes it all come together in a way the others seem to have set up but not necessarily stuck the landing in the same way that this film, Rogue Nation, and Fallout seem to have done.

I know I have said this before about another two-part film that was released earlier this year (since it seems to be a spoiler, I won’t way which one it was if you didn’t read my review, but that is shocking since they said that for the six months leading up to it… but I digress), but I honestly can’t wait for the second part of this story to unfold. Where Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Part One leaves off is the perfect part of the story with mixed wins and losses for our IMF team as they continue the mission they have… chosen. (See what I did there?) Given that the screening I attended was in IMAX, I would be hard-pressed to not recommend it in a premium format of SOME form, with the larger the screen the better to really take in all that this film has to offer. As the summer movie season hits its peak, this is not one to be missed!

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