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Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1

19th July 2023

Words: Shane Ramdhany

Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise emphasize their superlative streak with their current Mission Impossible iteration: Dead Reckoning Part 1.  It is the quintessential experience of cinematic spectacle and a sharp reminder of the unmatched thrill of the theater experience.

Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is back in the foray with a new enemy that manages to attain a level of complexity not previously seen within this franchise.  This serves as a device for added depth to the challenges faced by Hunt as he navigates them with immeasurable determination.  It is clear that the narrative objective of this ordeal is meant to push Hunt to his very limits, bucking his resilience and subverting his intellect.  This results in storytelling that exposes Hunt’s emotional vulnerabilities in an unprecedented manner, yielding a raw depiction of a protagonist known for his charisma.

Hunt does not endure these challenges alone as his loyal associates, Luther and Benji (Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg, respectively) remain relentlessly at his side.  Rhames’s and Pegg’s performances are at their most earnest as well, emphasizing the unshakable camaraderie between all 3 protagonists.  Rebecca Ferguson returns as the as the stylish MI6 operative who again adopts a somewhat enigmatic aura initially that appears to dissipate in exchange for clarity on her role in the film. We are also introduced to Hayley Atwell’s character, Grace, who provides a fresh narrative that, in some aspects, signals the evolution of the franchise.  It remains to be seen, however, how her role will or will not define future films. The cast as a whole manages to yield perfect synergy in capturing the frenetic suspense of the narrative. There seems to be a positive correlation between rising narrative tension and depth of performances, which serves the film well.

There are moments when this mostly intriguing epic falters.  This is primarily due to heavy exposition delivered in a somewhat cliché manner.  This results in a narrative construct that is simultaneously convoluted and insincere in its delivery.  These moments are most evident when centered on characters’ explanation of the intentions of the film’s elusive antagonist.  Thankfully, these moments are sporadic at most and are quickly eclipsed by plot twists and developments that bring the viewer’s lens back into crystal-clear focus.

The true star of the film is inevitably its action set pieces and it manages to exceed this benchmark in a multitude of ways.  The cinematography serves to elevate its most intense moments, which in turn serve to provide visual fodder for its cinematography, resulting in a perfect cinematic harmony.  The film demonstrates the concept of a choreographed set piece with limitless scope.  It masterfully raises the bar in not only what is possible but also what is now ultimately expected of a film within this genre.

Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1 is a transcendent experience for the senses in the context of its fast-paced sequences.  Its narrative does not consistently match its spectacle but it is nonetheless ample reason to forego the couch in service of your local theater.  The most detrimental characteristic of this film is the inevitable challenge faced by its own cast and crew to elevate the standard it has established here.

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