We live in a world now where the term “blockbuster” seems to be all but dead. There is almost a point of oversaturation. If one film does well enough, surely it has to be turned into a franchise. Take Barbie, for example. This past year, Greta Gerwig’s take on the iconic doll not only won a ton of critical and commercial praise but also began one of the first films, in a post-COVID world, to gross over a million dollars. Originally meant to stand alone, the Gerwig-directed film now has whispers of a franchise circling it.
If it’s not a franchise, then it has to be an interconnected universe full of larger-than-life characters and high stakes. Superhero fatigue is a very real thing. It’s something that I’m starting to experience more and more here recently. Not to be the angry man screaming at the clouds, ala Grandpa Simpson, but I miss the days where blockbusters used to be events. Now they happen every couple of weeks.
Even though it’s a part of a franchise, ironically enough, Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible films feel like they are the last of this dying breed. They are truly event films that come across every few years. Every new adventure feels like a visit from old friends who just happen to be spies and are saving the world time after time. In their latest adventure, Dead Reckoning: Part One, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and the gang (Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg) are on the hunt for a key that could bring about the end of the world.
There is an element of timelessness that the Mission Impossible films have always had. Aside from John Woo’s signature style on Mission Impossible II, the majority of these films have always felt out of time. With Dead Reckoning: Part One, there is a very timely aesthetic to it. We live in the age of AI now, but what would happen if science fiction became true and AI became the enemy? This is a concept that has plagued many sci-fi stories since the 1950s. However, this entry into the Mission Impossible series takes that tiresome concept and breathes big, beautiful life into it.
Writers Christopher McQuarrie and Erik Jendresen found a way to put a fresh spin on the tiresome trope. Some of our lives are digital now. Some of the things this film explores not only make AI a little bit more terrifying but also a real threat. The result is that we are presented with a Mission Impossible film that feels grounded. Even if the stunts, which are practically done, feel big and brash, It maintains that grounded feeling because of how they have made out the AI and surrounding characters. If the events of this movie were to ever transpire in our lifetime, I imagine they would go down the same way as they do here.
The thing I have always really loved about these films has been the chemistry between the core cast of characters we’ve been blessed to grow with over the years. Pegg, Cruise, and Rhames all have impeccable chemistry. These three actors have always been an anchor for the franchise, and Dead Reckoning Part One is no different. The other anchor would, of course, be the stunts that Cruise has made the franchise famous for. While the film’s 164-minute run time can certainly drag in certain portions of the story, it allows the action sequences to breathe.
This film is the definition of a blockbuster. The climax of this film takes place on top of a moving train, for Pete’s sake. I really admire them for keeping this plot simple and evolving naturally. The previously mentioned run time presented a bit of a problem for me. This film is pushing three hours and is the longest film, to date, in the series. I felt like outside of the action sequences and stunt work, the pacing of the movie seemed to come to a snail’s pace. If this movie isn’t presenting something larger than life, it’s such a quiet movie.
That was really my only complaint about the film. It’s well acted, and the fight choreography is exceptionally done. McQuarrie has great direction and makes it another slam dunk for the series. On the one hand, it’s hard to judge this movie because it is the first part of a two-part story. As a stand alone, it works well enough. The pacing for a standalone was a little slow for my taste.
Overall, Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One proves the franchise still has thrills to deliver. The Tom Cruise-led vehicle is just as exciting today as it was in 1996, when the cinematic series first started. Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg continue to be series highlights. Dead Reckoning also presents high stakes and a grounded narrative, which prove to be refreshing for the franchise.
Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One is now available to own or rent on DVD, Blu-Ray, digital, and on demand.