Even after all this time, it’s still worth accepting the mission.
As the 7th film in the franchise, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Part One sees the return of Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF team as they attempt acquire a new weapon that portends to create global chaos. As he and his crew embark on their mission, a devastating ghost from Hunt’s past re-emerges in the form of Gabriel (Esai Morales). With his motives known only to Ethan, Gabriel’s reign of terror feels personal and threatens the lives of those who are closest to Hunt.
Once again directed by Chris McQuarrie, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Part One is the biggest entry in the franchise so far. (And actually, this statement is true on multiple levels.) First and foremost, Reckoning is easily one of Hunt’s most globetrotting adventures and features some of its most massive set pieces. (That’s saying a lot for the Mission: Impossible franchise too.) On the other hand, the film is also one of the longest entries, clocking in at roughly 2 hours, 40 minutes. Having said this though, McQuarrie keeps things moving quickly enough that the viewer doesn’t notice how much time has passed.
Amazingly, in McQuarrie, Cruise has truly found as has found his muse. On this, his third mission, McQuarrie continues to push the envelope and give Cruise the opportunity to do bigger and wilder stunts. Whether it’s recklessly driving through the streets of Rome, or running atop the roof of a freight train, McQuarrie and Cruise have found the perfect working relationship. In McQuarrie, Cruise has found someone who is a master at translating his physical stunts into stunning cinema. And, in Cruise, McQuarrie has a man who is literally willing to try anything. As a result, Reckoning Part One features some of the grandest stunts that we have seen yet in this ever-expanding franchise.
However, the anchor to this series remains Cruise himself. Even at the age of 60, the man continues to push himself beyond the physical limits of the average human being. After 30 years accepting these missions, Cruise understands this character intimately. But, more importantly, he knows how to make a film spectacular. The ageless wonder never frets when asked to drive motorbikes off cliffs or hang from perilous heights. Cruise has always known that his job is to entertain the viewer, but he seems more determined than ever to do whatever it takes to accomplish that goal.
For this franchise—and Cruise himself—that is ultimately the mission.
What’s also interesting about this franchise is that it continues to delve more deeply into its connected universe. Whereas the franchise began with exclusively standalone films, Mission has changed course in recent films by continuing to build upon each other’s stories. As a result, Reckoning does rely heavily on the audience’s knowledge of previous entries. Although the film works as a standalone, returning characters and deepening relationships have greater meaning if you remember who the proverbial players are on the board.
In the midst of the spy-themed chaos, Reckoning asks some interesting questions about the nature of truth. Without giving any spoilers, this is a film that calls everything we understand from our technologically-based world into question. Tapping into the brave new world of AI that we live in, Reckoning highlights how our ever-changing information landscape affects our moral compass. Although Ethan has all always wanted to do what’s right, Reckoning asks how one can know the difference between good or evil anymore. This sort of ethical dilemma hovers ominously over this entry, clouding every decision that Ethan is forced to make.
What’s most amazing about this franchise though is its ability to consistently create content of high quality. (Simply put, by the 7th entry, most franchises simply seem unable to deliver the quality that Mission: Impossible has accomplished over the years. Cruise has gone on record about his passion for the audience, and it shows up on the big screen. With Mission: Imposible – Dead Reckoning, Part One somehow he continues to deliver something worth seeing on the biggest screen possible.
And, if they continue to set the bar for modern action films, I hope Cruise continues to accept this mission for years to come.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Part One is available in theatres on Wednesday, July 12th, 2023.