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Spoiler-Free Review: Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Pt. 1

The seventh sequel in Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible franchise has finally exploded onto screens around the world, and it may be the series’ biggest installment yet. Set around Ethan Hunt and the IMF team fighting a self-aware AI program gone rogue, it’s perhaps the most thematically rich film we’ve yet to see from Cruise and co: Postmodernism, loss, friendship and numerous countries vying to control the program and ensure their global dominance make for a thrilling, thought-provoking ride. Something I always appreciate about these films is how they play with the ‘us vs them’ trope often found in spy movies. In Mission Impossible, the enemy isn’t some menacing foreign country, but is instead our own government’s thirst for power, and that’s no different in this newest addition. As epic as the trailer, smartly written, and full of mind blowing stuntwork, this is cinema at its most grand.

You might think my favorite shot of this movie is the now-infamous motorcycle off a cliff scene, or one of the many other death-defying feats performed throughout its near three-hour runtime; but the moment I can’t stop thinking about is actually the opening sequence. Cutting between some slick pans, Dutch-tilts and zoom-ins, the pace is heightened alongside our heartrates, and there’s some great use of practical lighting. Such attention to detail is present throughout the film, and really captures how each of these movies is a love letter to cinema. Going where no Mission Impossible has gone before, this latest sequel was shot digitally. One might say this was merely due to budgetary constraints, and it might be, but I also think it folds the film’s themes into the visual language of the movie. The AI program hacks into databases of intelligence agencies throughout the world, distorting so much they’re not sure what’s real and what’s not. Similarly, the use of digital cameras has an ability to heighten reality to the point of it being a kind of refraction, almost reminiscent of David Lynch choosing to shoot Inland Empire (2006) on a digital camera. There’s an uncanniness here that lets viewers know we can’t trust what we’re seeing, something modern audiences know all too well.

The idea of being post-truth is one we heard often during the 2016 presidential election, and I appreciate how this film plays with that idea. We aren’t post-truth, we are simply in a society that’s constantly inundated with disinformation so political elites can tighten their grip on power. The idea of the enemy being a nameless, literally shapeless entity could have been sticky—potentially xenophobic, even—but I actually think Dead Reckoning managed to stick the landing by firmly grounding that abstraction within a geopolitical landscape. There are some moments where the dialogue gets a bit heady or overly-philosophical, but I applaud an action movie for taking those kinds of swings. This is a film really trying to explore the ideas it engages with, and that’s made successful by some great acting.

Cruise is decent enough here, perhaps overacting in a few scenes, but I appreciate his commitment. The real star of this film, if you ask me, is Pom Klementieff. With hardly any dialogue, she manages to sculpt a character out of facial expressions and body language, almost harkening back to performances in silent films. Her character crashes through this movie with the destructive force of a wrecking ball, yet she imbues her role with enough depth that we’re left with what is perhaps one of the most memorable henchwomen in film history. Esai Morales also does a phenomenal job as one of the primary antagonists, giving us the feeling that there’s a chaos burning beneath his character’s cold exterior; and Hayley Atwell should be applauded for the range she showed. As with any well-made action film, these actors didn’t just convey emotions and interiority through line delivery alone, but managed to craft their characters’ humanity through stunts and physicality as well.

Overall, this movie is easily some of the most fun you can hope to have in a theater this summer. Opening with franchise-high box office earnings, it’s clear that the first real blockbuster of the summer has finally arrived. Before Barbenheimer madness sweeps the nation this Thursday, be sure to watch Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One in a theater near you! This is one of those movies that you should experience in IMAX while you can, nothing else can do justice to just how big this film is. If you enjoyed this review, consider subscribing to the blog’s Patreon by clicking here! It helps pay the various fees that come with running a website, and keeps this blog ad-free and independent. There are also some cool benefits for those who choose to support the blog including: suggesting which movies I review, getting personalized movie recommendations, access to free giveaways and more!


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