“A Tom Cruise Production”: this is the caption that, after about a quarter of an hour in which just about anything happens, between a new Hunt for Red October in the time of digital intelligence, a desert shootout in the middle of the imposing set of a ruined town hit by a sandstorm and an infiltration (with a mask, a series classic that will return several times in this seventh episode) into the offices of government high-ups, kicks off the theme song of Mission: Impossible 7 – Dead Reckoning: Part One, the first act in the grand finale (?) of the saga starring Tom Cruise, once again directed by faithful sodal Christopher McQuarrie (on his third directing stint in the franchise, already making it four with Dead Reckoning: Part Two coming next year).
And from then on, along the span of its impressive 163 minutes (a little less than the far more ‘vulgar’ John Wick 4 (here is our review of John Wick 4), Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning explains what a ‘Tom Cruise Production’ is all about, reminding us also of the hows and whys of this film saga, which grew out of the 1960s TV series of the same name and was set to music by the famous theme of Lalo Schifrin, has produced the best action strand of Hollywood cinema in the last 30 years.
Mission: Impossible 7, Tom Cruise’s long goodbye
McQuarrie, as mentioned in his third installment of the franchise after Rogue Nation and the miraculous Fallout (Not counting a total but uncredited rewrite of the script for the fourth film, Ghost Protocol, directed by Brad Bird), with Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning continues in humanizing protagonist Ethan Hunt while, at least seemingly, starting the series along the tracks of a conclusion that from the get-go demonstrates epic flair and fearful ambition.
The choice of the enemy – a virtually immortal artificial intelligence and semi-invisible capable of acting in cyberspace as ‘the perfect spy’ and capable already on its own, let alone when controlled by the wrong people, of overturning global dynamics and why not ending civilization as we know it – sums up well the approach of the Cruise/McQuarrie duo, that digital vs. analog conflict that is the very nature of Mission: Impossible and its reckless stubbornness in wanting to create the most dangerous and incredible action scenesfrom life.
Ethan Hunt is an old-fashioned hero acting in a world where everything is virtual and enemies have become algorithms that can predict his every move, just like Tom Cruise acts before our eyes by rejecting the use of CGI for his most unthinkable stunts (if you missed it, here’s our ranking of the Best Tom Cruise Movies besides Mission: Impossible).
Rarely cinematic art has used practical effects so effectively, surprisingly and stunningly as in ‘Tom Cruise Productions’: whether it’s a very long and spectacular chase through the streets of Rome (step aside Fast & Furious 9) or a motorcycle jump off a cliff (with an overhanging free fall and subsequent parachute deployment), of a wonderful and scenic fight in a narrow alley in Venice or a ride on the roof of a real moving locomotive (a vehicle with a centuries-old cinematic tradition, think of Buster Keaton’s The General, the ancestor of action cinema). Quite simply, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning does things that no other movie has done before, and in this way it tells us about the continuing fusion of story protagonist and movie protagonist: Ethan Hunt risks his life as Tom Cruise risks his life.
Less ‘perfect’, in the strict sense, than Mission: Impossible – Fallout (the best action of the century since Mad Max: Fury Road) and with perhaps a few too many narrative zigzags, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning: Part One is still a victory across the board for Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie: with its irresistible sarcasm, its funny dynamics at the Lupin III (there is an Inspector Zenigata, there is a kind of Fujiko, there is even the yellow 500 of Hayao Miyazaki’s The Castle of Cagliostro) and especially with the uncommon ability to turn every single action sequence into a key point in the story, with the place at stake always very high and the feeling of always being faced with a decisive moment, this Part One succeeds in the impossible mission of making an unthinkable Part Two.
What could they possibly have in store for the ending, if the beginning is this here?