At some point, we’ve all been intoxicated by the magic of cinema. The experience is difficult to describe, but it’s unmistakable when it hits you – it’s the opposite of that feeling in Get Out when Daniel Kaluuya’s body drifts downwards into the sunken place.
Movie magic inspires, empowers and elevates your soul until you’ve floated up into cloud nine with your movie ticket still in hand.
It’s a transcendent experience where the world fades away, leaving you wide-eyed and exhilarated by the pinnacle of the art form.
We treasure these golden moments because they’re few and far between. It’s seeing Heath Ledger’s Joker step on screen and feeling 1000-watt jolts running through your body. It’s having your soul rocked by Samuel L. Jackson’s “I will execute great vengeance upon them” speech in Pulp Fiction. And it’s that chill shooting down your spine when watching Jurassic Park for the first time and hearing the T-Rex’s thundering footsteps as it sends ripples through a cup of water.
And now, you can add the electrifying action sequences in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One to the list.
In an era when computer-generated effects make rendering the impossible easy, director Christopher McQuarrie and series star Tom Cruise opt to do things the hard way: with death-defying, in-camera stunt work. And the result is breathtaking. There were moments during my screening when the audience collectively gasped at the insanity unfolding on screen.
Dead Reckoning doesn’t deviate from the series successful blueprint. At this point, each film’s structure is as formulaic as an episode of Law & Order or CSI. But hey, if it ain’t broke…
This installment sees series stalwart Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team set out on a globe-trotting mission to prevent a weapon of mass destruction from falling into the wrong hands. Making matters worse, an antagonist from Ethan’s past returns to exact his revenge.
With the world’s fate hanging in the balance, Ethan and his IMF team find themselves battling a near-omniscient enemy that understands them better than they know themselves.
I’ve kept the plot vague because the surprise twists and turns are part of the fun. But also, you know the routine by now: the good guys need to track down a doohickey, the bad guys have it, and they chase each other around the world until the story culminates in an explosive climax. The plot exists only to chauffeur viewers from one frantic action sequence to the next.
The film races through its convoluted plot at a mile a minute, which is on brand for the series. Screenwriters Bruce Geller, Erik Jendresen, and Christopher McQuarrie’s screenplay strives to make a meaningful statement about the weaponization of AI and fake news in future global conflicts.
Thematically, this film couldn’t arrive at a better time. There have been countless movies about rogue AIs terrorizing humanity, but all these films came before the technology provided a plausible threat. Now, as programs like ChatGPT are finally out in the world and accessible to everyone, the potential dangers presented by advanced AI aren’t just the stuff of campy sci-fi flicks. Dead Reckoning’s depiction of weaponized AI is a disturbing wake-up call that comes across as horrifying as a chemical weapon attack.
Tonally, Dead Reckoning falls in line with McQuarrie’s previous two Mission: Impossible films, with one noticeable tweak. It’s the series’ most self-aware installment.
At this point, Mission: Impossible’s outrageous stunts – and Cruise’s commitment to performing them – are part of the brand. And McQuarrie makes the choice to insert the series’ meta-textual narrative straight into the text. That’s a fancy way of saying Dead Reckoning acknowledges it’s a ridiculous action flick, and it’s not afraid to make fun of itself. So right when you think you’re about to witness some stylish badassery, McQuarrie subverts your expectations with humour.
Marvel films often use this trick to keep people emotionally invested in outlandish stories featuring talking raccoons and 9-foot-tall purple aliens. When filmmakers throw nods and winks to the audience, it tells us it’s okay to suspend our disbelief and have a good time.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have films like Fast X. While the characters and action sequences are just as unbelievable as Mission: Impossible, those films take themselves gravely serious.
In Fast X, when Dom Toretto drives straight down an exploding dam, the film’s straight-faced tone undercuts the moment. It’s impossible to take the sequence seriously, so that spectacular action beat comes off as a campy insult to viewers’ intelligence.
I was excited to see Vanessa Kirby’s White Widow return after her knockout debut in Fallout, where she showed up and took over the film for ten minutes. Last time out, she had the sexiness and air of mystery reminiscent of the best Bond girls. But Kirby’s on some whole other villainess level here. This time out, she has the haunting presence and tortured gaze of the best Bond villains. Kirby throws subtlety out the window and goes joyfully unhinged in yet another delectable performance.
Nobody is having more fun in Dead Reckoning than Guardians of the Galaxy star Pom Klementieff as the ferocious assassin, Paris. This woman is a human wrecking ball, willing to destroy anything standing between her and her target. Adding Klementieff to the cast is like injecting rocket fuel directly into Dead Reckoning’s film stock. Now all I can think about is one day seeing this badass actress square off against Keanu Reeves in a John Wick flick. Hollywood needs to make this happen!
This film’s title is Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One. Emphasis on the “Part One.” Minor spoiler here: Know going in that this movie doesn’t leave you with a Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse-style cliffhanger.
Whereas people walked out of Across the Spider-Verse shocked and appalled by the sudden ending, Dead Reckoning feels like a complete movie with a satisfying conclusion. The entire plot isn’t resolved by the end, but the final moments feel like the closing chapter of this nearly three-hour story. Ultimately, it’s a gratifying conclusion that leaves you enticed by the thought of what comes next.
Dead Reckoning doesn’t reach the immaculate highs of its predecessor. To be fair, Fallout is a near-perfect action movie, and any film franchise would be lucky to have one Fallout-calibre film in its oeuvre. That this film comes so damn close to matching Fallout is a testament to McQuarrie, Cruise, and the rest of the Mission: Impossible crew.
With another strong outing, The Mission: Impossible series proves that it represents the pinnacle of blockbuster filmmaking. Even though Dead Reckoning isn’t a perfect movie, it features enough perfect movie moments that it demands to be experienced in a packed theatre on the biggest screen possible.
This exhilarating summer blockbuster is guaranteed to reignite your belief in movie magic.