Planes, trains and automobiles, a cliffhanger and the running man. No, not the films of the same name. But the essential ingredients of any Mission:Impossible movie. In Dead Reckoning, the train and cars take centre stage and the man certainly runs. And while there’s no plane to speak of, there’s a whole lot of airport.
A Russian submarine prowls the icy seas. On board are interlocking keys. Together they open a Pandora’s Box of artificial intelligence. A sentience so switched-on even the sub itself doesn’t realise it’s the target. Flotsam and jetsam later, the keys are soon in the marketplace of dodgy dealings. It’s up to Ethan Hunt and the IMF – no, not the monetary fund – to seek and destroy the keys. No one, he reckons, should have that kind of power.
Momentarily gabbed about for Tom Cruise’s bike-off-a-cliff stunt, Dead Reckoning got kind of eclipsed by the Barbie vs. Oppenheimer face-off. Cruise’s breathtaking bike jump is certainly high-octane. And the Orient Express carriage-car denouement is thrilling in its visual clarity. But there’s something missing.
Dead Reckoning’s a two-parter. Unlike the taut, against-the-clock excitement of the previous movies, screw-tight in their plotting and fizzing towards their finale, this one’s over-stretched at two-and-three-quarter hours. Peppered with great scenes, including an epic car chase culminating in a bumpy ride down the Spanish Steps, the action’s streets ahead of the blurry CGI of most movies. But there’s a lot of talking in rooms.
Actor-producer Cruise puts himself in the firing line time and again, oozing cool and charisma. Hand-cuffed to the untrustworthy newcomer Grace (Hayley Atwell, Captain America’s Peggy Carter), a comedy element added to a car chase, driver and passenger somehow swapping seats as the car rolls over. It’s redolent of the more comedic James Bond movies, a comparison which the Mission:Impossible series has avoided till now.
Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames are back as Hunt’s teccie fellow agents and friends. But if this movie really marks the departure of a pivotal character, Dead Reckoning does the person a disservice, with a rushed and uncharacteristic bow-out. Unless of course Part Two redeems itself.
Rebecca Ferguson as the wonderfully named Ilsa Faust - the feisty fighter and fellow agent and Hunt’s on-off lover – impresses but is underused. Newbie baddie Gabriel (Esai Morales) is creepily evil. But Vanessa Kirby’s White Widow, the double-dealing underworld lynchpin is scene-stealingly luminous yet again, funny and quixotic. And getting two roles – thanks to those Mission:Impossible rubber masks.
From the opening hints of The Spy Who Loved Me, the movie invites comparisons, mostly with its own siblings. Wonderfully shot throughout and with Tom Cruise running along some lovely roofs and past hundreds of candles in jars - for so long we wonder who lit them - it’s beautiful to look at.
By contrast the fight scenes are lazily-lensed, chopped-up messes.Staggeringly so when the ultra-bruising bathroom fight in Mission:Impossible - Fallout was so spectacularly staged. If you choose to accept it, this Mission rewards you with great characters, sheeny visuals and some thrilling set pieces. Thankfully, it didn’t quite self-destruct.