Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

Year: 2023
Studio: Paramount
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Producer: Tom Cruise/Christopher McQuarrie
Writer: Eric Jendresen/Christopher McQuarrie
Cast: Tom Cruise, Hayley Atwell, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, Esai Morales, Pom Klementieff, Shea Whigham, Cary Elwes

I was surprised to learn a few weeks after this movie came out that it, like Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, had underperformed at the box office.

I mean, if my taste was any arbiter of box office performance I would have expected it, because after the last couple of Mission Impossible films I was pretty disappointed, but the moviegoing public has proven nothing if not the fact that they sometimes fall in love with weird ideas and eschew good ones entirely (see; Barbie).

I'm not sure what the last couple of outings for Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and the gang had that this one didn't – it's got the Bondesque globehopping, the action set pieces and even the central jaw dropping stunt Cruise prepared, trained for and did himself that they hung all the marketing on.

But where I remember those last few films in the series having seamless joins between exposition and action, this movie just let it all flop wetly on the ground and lie there. There was a long action sequence, then there was a scene of the gang, their allies and enemies standing around talking in hushed tones about the stage of the quest they're at, then another action set piece, etc.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that, unlike James Bond, Cruise and cowriter/director Chris McQuarrie have made the last three or four films a single story with recurring characters, and I just haven't been invested enough to remember who they all are.

Aside from Ethan, Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames), we're left with the pretty English secret agent Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) whose loyalties I can never quite work out, that blonde woman from the last film who turned out to be an arms dealer (Vanessa Kirby) and now a whole host of other characters, from a fearsome assassin (Pom Klementieff) to a pickpocket Ethan joins up with (Hayley Atwell).

The plot, inasmuch as it has anything more to offer than any other MI movie, is described thusly; 'Ethan Hunt and his IMF team must track down a dangerous weapon before it falls into the wrong hands'. There's also the tired old trope that Ethan has to go rogue to do so, with his own agency gunning for him as well as a host of bad guys on every side.

I could describe the whole story here but honestly, I couldn't do it any more justice than the Wikipedia page description of the plot. Firstly it's just not that interesting and secondly, whenever they all gathered in a dank basement room to discuss where everyone was and what stage the mission was at, I understood about thirty percent of it.

Suffice it to say it's the villain du jour in Hollywood right now, an AI software agent in control of the world's weapons. There's also a human villain who has the power to vanish into thin air somehow (Esai Morales), masks, bombs and car chases, and it certainly all looks like a MI film.

It's just too overstuffed with characters and plot, a lot of it eye-rolling motifs like the corruption going right to the top, the lone wolf going it alone to save the day and the hero having A Past, all cliches that just make you disengage from it all further.

The action and chase scenes are good, taking us from Venice to Rome and underneath the ice pack of the Arctic sea to the mountains of Austria.

There's also a funny sequence about the iconic Orient Express train service that sums up the approach of the franchise perfectly. In European movies it's the setting for a genteel murder mystery solved over tea and cucumber sandwiches, and in the American movie it careens off a blown up bridge to explode into smithereens in the river valley below.

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