A review by Cliff Homewood
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If a youngster wants to know what a cassette tape is – watch Mission: Impossible. This film cleverly covers itself; analogue is less likely to be hacked.
Tom Cruise’s latest McGuffin Hunt film after the disappointing Mission: Impossible – Fallout. See, told you this review would self-destruct. Am I the only one who disliked it? Maybe because I viewed in 2D which detaches me when I see 3D shots like Tom Cruise on his bike heading towards camera. Was the filmic equivalent of an RPG, ‘and now go here’ ad infinitum, until a shonky helicopter finale. Also Tom Cruise runs like an 8-bit character.
This film starts in a Russian Submarine. Putin is at least doing movies a favour; Russians are the bad guys again. Not here, started before lockdown this accordingly became Tom’s most expensive film, where he infamously lost it, you witness things running through Cruise control. He had a good point but you have to be careful in an argument with Tom Cruise not to tell him to jump off a cliff. Balancing this out is gentlemanly behaviour, if we want such a thing, refusing to hit an actress who desired it. Tom pulls his punches and couldn’t sleep at night worrying about the ending, “This can’t be a cliffhanger; Its got to be satisfying. The audience has to feel a sense of completion.” So, rest assured there.
The film then delivers a high-powered meeting, starting interesting before becoming apparent all that’s missing is Basil Exposition. The plot intrigues, making it the Science Fiction Spy film that Mission: Impossible has always been on the edge of with its face masks. The Big Bad’s a sentient AI, recalling films like Demon Seed, 2001, Lawnmower Man and the classic Superman III. It airs modern concerns around the prevalence of surveillance equipment and data collecting. Then there’s the ‘trust no-one’ paranoia that emergent deep fake technology is bringing and the unreliability of internet facts which enabled Donald Trump to bark ‘Fake News’.
“It may be that by watching everywhere we go, by watching everything we do, by analyzing every word we say, by waiting and passing judgment over every association we make and every person we love, that we could uncover a terrorist plot, or we could discover more criminals. But is that the kind of society we want to live in?” Edward Snowden.
Such themes gives the film depth. Writer/Director Christopher McQuarrie wanted the film to be emotional instead of intellectual, why not both?
The film begins with two plots going on making it absorbing. McQuarrie states the story’s complexity made it a 2-parter. It felt plot, as opposed to action, driven which is good. Set pieces weren’t up to standard, Tom Cruise’s most dangerous yet, however Bond did similar and better. There’s a South Park episode called “Simpsons Already Did It”, surely action movies have the same issue with James Bond. The Mission: Impossible franchise had always been original because Tom Cruise’s stunts were physically exerting. Whether it was due to injury, like 80 year old Harrison Ford’s Indy, Tom Cruise, 61, mainly sat down for this one.
Dead Reckoning cribs from Bond and the Italian Job, both simultaneously in its car chase. As well as doing his own stunts, including actually driving handcuffed (he’s a Producer of his films enabling him to do his own stunts), he also performed his own hand magic. But did you know he uses an acting double?* Tom Cruise, a good actor, appears to have abandoned serious roles like Born on the Fourth of July and Interview with the Vampire. It would be nice to see another Magnolia or Tropic Thunder. He’s now likely to be leading a team that’s all about him. His Shatner-esque approach to team building ruined The Mummy. The original Mission: Impossible series was more ensemble based, here the team grabs the occasional good scene.
Although the actions derivative the plot’s better, including a dramatic backstory for Ethan, giving the villain Gabriel (Esai Morales) extra gravitas. It satisfyingly ties together with a master manipulator AI that’s seemingly unbeatable. The film has some welcome light-hearted moments, although there’s an art in comedy by repetition the film couldn’t quite manage.
There was a questionable scene early on. Tom Cruise’s slippery foil, Grace (Hayley Attwell), is suddenly unable to escape for a while (plot?) She provides great chemistry, the film reminds of screwball comedies in their situation and dialogue. At the finale the film stretched my incredulity, it’s a ‘movie movie’ as Tarantino would put it, as it clambers through plot holes.
Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning’s a mixture of modern and old. Good, albeit familiar, set pieces combined with a storyline echoing modern technological development and concerns.
*WARNING – This review may contain a sense of humour. May be needed for Couch Conquering Cruise’s face pulling in an emotional scene. Normally he has me with him, not this time.