"Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning - Part One" delivers nonstop thrills
By Diane Carson
Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie’s “Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning - Part One” takes viewers on an exhilarating theme park ride with unexpected twists and turns. Throughout, Tom Cruise actually does all his mind-boggling stunts, each one delivering visceral impact. As Cruise says, “Everything comes down to one thing, ‘How do we involve the audience? I just want to give them that thrill.’”
Unsurprisingly, the story revolves around a maniacal intent to grab power of a weapon that could destroy humanity. Relevantly, here AI and digital manipulation drive the villainy. As usual, adventures include dazzling locations: Rome, Venice, Abu Dhabi, and under the Bering Sea. As central IMF operative Ethan Hunt, Tom Cruise brings his extraordinary physical acting skills, but he also charismatically commands the camera in quieter, emotional scenes.
That his friends, the two who support him through these adventures, matter most in his life is explicitly established several times, an important subtext. Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn and Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell, both IMF technical experts, contribute significant details in, alternately, tense and humorous moments. The women hold their own in the many combative and devious interactions, with Haley Atwell as Grace the most important. And the villains are properly heartless.
Technically, Fraser Taggert’s cinematography heightens the appeal of splendid locations and also delights in compelling close-ups of characters, even in the midst of action scenes. In a good way, Lorne Balfe’s music almost overpowers at some moments, and it complements Argentinian jazz pianist Lalo Schifrin’s original, iconic, 1967 “Mission Impossible” theme, deliciously and necessarily recurring here or it would not be “Mission Impossible.” It is imperative to see “Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning” in IMAX or the largest screen possible to enjoy and absorb the full audiovisual experience.
There are fabulous stunts: the motorcycle chases, the surprising Fiat 500 in Rome racing over cobblestone streets and down the Spanish steps, boats in Venice canals, and, as always, Cruise running and running and running. The piece-de-resistance, however, is one involving a cliff in Norway. I was at that exact site last November, had the details described for me by people there during filming, and it is beyond sublime. This is Part One, and I’m already eager for Part Two next year.
For legacy history, “Mission Impossible” goes way back, initially a popular CBS television series from 1966 to 1973, created and produced by Bruce Geller. I can remember the excitement Sunday nights when the theme played, the fuse burned, and the smoke wafted after the taped message greeted Mr. Phelps with a new Impossible Missions Force (IMF) assignment, “should you choose to accept it” and a farewell “Good luck, Jim.” It returned with two ABC seasons in 1988. After the first season, Peter Graves wonderfully inhabited the role of Jim Phelps, with Barbara Bain and Greg Morris the most familiar, marvelous team partners. The first “Mission: Impossible” film was released in 1996, with “Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning – Part One” now the seventh. Reportedly, “Part Two” will be the last. I both look forward to it and will very much miss this franchise.