Last summer, when “Top Gun: Maverick” was making roughly all the money printed in the United States during that fiscal quarter, I read a number of articles (many publications jumped on the trend at once) calling Tom Cruise various iterations of “The Last Movie Star.” The moniker is obviously an exaggeration – Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt haven’t exactly been left in the dust in Hollywood – but it’s understandable where it comes from. It may take a few beats to remember that the “Avatar” movies star Sam Worthington or that Tom Holland is the most recent (live-action) version of Spider-Man, but there is no such confusion with a Tom Cruise movie. I bet most people, when discussing the “Mission: Impossible” movies, say “Tom Cruise” instead of his character’s name of Ethan Hunt. For that matter, I wouldn’t be surprised if people say “Tom Cruise” instead of “Jerry Maguire” when discussing the film named after the character.
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All of this is to say that Tom Cruise has an undeniable screen presence and charisma. He certainly has the straight-up talent to justify this popularity, but his blockbuster appeal is about more than that. He clearly believes that if he’s going to be at the top of the industry, he should push himself harder than the rest of the industry. That’s why he insists on undertaking difficult tasks like long sequences of running and dangerous stunts involving planes and motorcycles. This kind of dedication is why “Mission: Impossible” is a respectable franchise unto itself and not the James Bond knockoff that it would be otherwise.
The new installment sees Hunt racing around the globe to stop The Entity, a computer program that has seemingly become sentient and bent on world domination. Whoever can access The Entity first, whether it’s a government or an individual, can basically control the world. Hunt is initially sanctioned by the U.S. government, represented by Impossible Mission Force leader Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny), but he soon realizes that nobody should be allowed to have that much power, so he goes on a rogue mission to destroy The Entity.
Hunt is aided by faithful teammates Luther (Ving Rhames), Benji (Simon Pegg) and Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson). Complicating matters are money-driven duplicitous characters like high-class pickpocket Grace (Hayley Atwell) and black-market arms dealer Alanna (Vanessa Kirby). Full-on villains include assassin Gabriel (Esai Morales) and his henchwoman Paris (Pom Klementieff, gleefully maniacal in a role that frankly doesn’t call for it), who are apparently representing The Entity itself, and no, I’m not sure how that business relationship works.
The mission involves gaining possession of two halves of a key and then figuring out what exactly the key opens. It also involves an elaborate series of druggings, pickpocketings, thievery, bomb scares, knife-fights, shootouts, car chases, crosses and double crosses, and a ton of antics with a runaway train. Oh, and those super-realistic masks that this series loves come into play. This movie really hopes you like Vanessa Kirby, because you’re getting a double dose of her here (no complaints from me).
I spent most of this movie having a hard time deciding if it was worth recommending. Cruise and his team are their usual delightful selves, but it seems like this movie’s been done several times before. The villains are more memorable than some of the others in this series, but their motivations are questionable. The action is mostly pretty exciting, but the stakes are affected by the “Part One” in the film’s title, which tells me that nothing too conclusive is going to happen here. At the last minute, the film pulled out an effective action sequence with a train that finally earned it my endorsement. I reckon you’ll have a good time with the seventh “Mission: Impossible”
“Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some language and suggestive material. Its running time is 163 minutes.
Robert R. Garver is a graduate of the Cinema Studies program at New York University. His weekly movie reviews have been published since 2006.