Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

M:I-7 – Cruisin’ for a Brusin’

Okay, up-front honesty: I don’t really like Tom Cruise. He’s an egotist, a bully to his film crews, and a Scientology shill. With the bucks he rakes in with his action films, he is probably the industry’s highest-paid movie star. But, Tom, there’s a difference between being a movie star and being an actor.

All that said – credit where credit is due – I have to admire his staying power, and nowhere is that more on display than in this latest entry in Mission Impossible franchise.

The first IMF flick hit theaters in 1996, trashing almost everything that made the ‘60s TV show so fun and keeping only Lalo Shifrin’s tremendous theme song (and of course the dopey mask trickery). Its inevitable sequels were sometimes worse, sometimes better. But the franchise seems to be maturing, and more recent entries are arguably some of the best action films being made today, or ever, up there with Bourne and Mad Max.

In this seventh IMF movie, the villain is more relatable than most and certainly timely. Apparently, a rogue AI program has educated and weaponized itself (did nobody watch Terminator?). Ethan Hunt and his team (Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, and welcome Hayley Atwell) must race to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. Yes, this time Tom and crew are saving mankind’s very existence!

But the real cinematic superstars here are director Christopher McQuarrie and his collaborators, who know how to assemble a blockbuster. They acknowledge the project’s essentially silly nature and inject some necessary humor at precisely the right times (sometimes even the camera work is slyly winking). They use plenty of the requisite tourist-brochure locations, and include in the character development strengths, weaknesses, wit and humanity. Finally, and this is something the Fast/Furious films never figured out, they’ve tied it all together with a more-or-less comprehensible plot.

The film is two and three-quarters of an hour long but never drags, and this is only the first half of the story. I’m hoping the decision to split it into two parts doesn’t interrupt its great momentum and rhythm. (163 min)