Style Living Self Celebrity Geeky News and Views
In the Paper BrandedUp Hello! Create with us Privacy Policy

Cruise takes yet another blockbuster leap

By SCOTT GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Jul 16, 2023 5:00 am

Even before the Paramount logo comes up, there’s no pretending we’re not here waiting for a particular sequence: we’ve been seeing it on movie trailers and various production videos for weeks now. It involves Tom Cruise, on a motorcycle (specifically a custom-built Honda CRF 250), roaring down a ramp over a mountain’s edge, plunging into the air, and then freefalling until his parachute opens.

And it’s this scene that Mission: Impossible—Dead Reckoning Part One has largely been constructed around. Tom filmed the stunt himself six times on Day One of shooting. Setting the tone, as it were.

Dead Reckoning could be just another MI entry, but it’s not. Directed once again by Steven McQuarrie, it’s the franchise’s first two-parter, and it spends a lot of time reestablishing the rules of IMF (that’s Impossible Mission Force to newcomers), as well as re-injecting some of the early vibe and aesthetic of the very first MI entry, directed by Brian De Palma back in 1996.

Keeping it real: Tom Cruise proves once again he will do anything to land a blockbuster.

You can see the De Palma touch in the odd, titled camera angles, suggesting paranoia (spread across a huge IMAX screen, this can be somewhat disorientating). And it’s most visible in the return of IMF head Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny) from the very first movie, now grayer but no less sketchy, reminding Ethan Hunt (Cruise) of his “choice” to join the outfit, and of his loyalty pledge to it. Kittridge, of course, always claims he’s doing shady things to “save the country.” Hunt, meanwhile, takes on missions to save the world.

Vanessa Kirby returns as White Widow.

That’s not the only reunion in Dead Reckoning. In addition to Hunt’s IMF pals Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames), there’s Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), returning to the IMF fold for a Venetian boat ride or two; and arms dealer Alanna, aka White Widow (The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby), last seen in Fallout, to perk things up.

Cruise may not be able to singlehandedly save cinema box office—that may truly be an impossible mission—but with blockbusters like this reminding us of what movies are/were about, it’s a very solid effort.

New to the game is Hayley Atwell (not really Cruise’s real-life lady, as has been rumored), playing pickpocket extraordinaire Grace. She first encounters Hunt when she disrupts an IMF attempt to secure half of a MacGuffiner, very important keyfrom a certain target in Abu Dhabi International Airport. It’s a meet-cute-before-the-airport-blows-up scene worthy of Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief.

Hayley Atwell and Cruise have a Hitchcockian chemistry in Mission: Impossible—Dead Reckoning.

In fact, Hitchcockian blood and suspense pulses through Dead Reckoning, and it’s legit fun to watch, as Hunt and Grace are (literally) chained together, trying to outrun IMF forces and a certain hit squad engineered by international terrorist Gabriel (Esai Morales) and his determined accomplice Paris (Pom Klementieff, whom you might know as Mantis in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies).

What’s the goal? Gabriel wants to control The Entity, a globally linked sentient AI that will be able to control what people are seeing better than a pickpocket or David Blaine ever could. (“The Entity,” as a concept, feels like a rough sketch of an idea that was cooked up by scriptwriters back when AI was still only a near-distant fear. Lines by Luther to Ethan like “You’re tryin’ to play four-dimensional chess against an algorithm!” feel a little basic, now that we have actual robots holding presscons in Geneva. So it will be interesting to see if this new “villain” gets outstripped by reality by the time Part 2 comes out next year.)

Gabriel (Esai Morales) and Paris (Pom Klementieff)

Anyway, in the best Hitchcock sense, it’s not really the key that’s important, it’s the mission. And here, Cruise and Atwell have so much chemistry together, whether it’s commandeering a yellow Fiat 500 for a comical chase scene in Rome, or dodging pianos while dangling from upended train cars, that it’s not really the details of the plot that matter. “You’ll find that details only slow things down,” quips Beni at one point, when Grace asks a legit question about how to get Ethan onto a moving train.

Dead Reckoning has an easygoing wit and lived-in feel to it, like a franchise that knows its strengths. The switch to comedy mid-car chase has a classic ‘60s spy movie touch to it; Stanley Donen (Charade) would approve. In the opening scene, a food delivery guy turns up in a safe house somewhere, delivering Hunt’s new mission, and Hunt solemnly reminds him of the IMF oath (“Live and die in the shadows for those we hold close and those we never meet”). But it’s the food sack that gets laughs. The core IMF crew are great fun together (Ferguson adds a certain je ne sais quoi. Sayang), and it’s Grace’s wide-eyed determination to stay alive and Hunt’s commitment to be kind instead of ruthless that win the day.

The gang is back, including Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg.

But the other huge part of MI is the stunts, and Dead Reckoning has some mind-blowing ones. We hear Cruise has been cooking up the motorcycle/BASE jump idea for years, maybe decades; the fact that he relies on “air molecules” and engine revs to determine his speed while taking the leap instead of an odometer tells us a lot about the actor’s commitment to real moments onscreen. But even those tiny bits between him and Atwell, linked together in a Fiat, feel like movie magic. It’s one of the few Part Ones out there in cinemas that make you want to get to Part Two already.

Cruise may not be able to singlehandedly save cinema box officethat may truly be an impossible missionbut with blockbusters like this reminding us of what movies are/were about, it’s a very solid effort.