Monday, 24 June 2024

‘Mission: Impossible’ more than delivers action spectacle


Tom Cruise has spent nearly half his life cranking out the “Mission: Impossible” franchise to great, everlasting success that continues, considering the title of the new entry is “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One.” Sadly, we must wait another year for resolution.

At the age of 61, the actor retains his youthful looks and a stamina that seems incredible given that he apparently does a lot of his own stunts, much to the trepidation of studio executives and the production team.

Case in point with the seventh entry in the franchise, on the first day of filming, Cruise drove a motorbike off a mountain.

Specifically, he drove a custom-made Honda CRF 250 off a purpose-built ramp on the side of a Norwegian mountain, a high rock face 4,000 feet above sea level.

Then he plunged that distance into the ravine below before opening his parachute barely 500 feet from the ground.

When he landed, director Christopher McQuarrie and the small crew of co-stars who had assembled to watch the sequence on video, breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The even crazier part is that Tom Cruise picked himself up and did it all again another seven times, just to make sure the footage was perfect. I am wondering about the cost of insurance premiums to cover this daredevil actor.

Stunts could get more extreme for “Part Two,” as the director confirmed the bike jump was “far and away the most dangerous thing we had ever attempted. The only thing that scared me more than that stunt was what we had planned for “Part Two.””

That “Mission: Impossible” fans will be left hanging at the end of “Part One” is not really a bad thing except for having to wait for the release date of “Part Two” in June 2024. Anticipation will lead to speculation, and interest is not likely to fade.

Once again, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and his colleagues, Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), the tech wiz who’s now more involved in field operations, and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), a veteran of the entire series, risk their lives in another unsanctioned mission.

The opening of the film involves a Russian submarine under attack that houses an Artificial Intelligence threat for world domination known as The Entity. As the sub sinks to the ocean floor, The Entity becomes an object of desire for all sorts of villains.

The Impossible Missions Force is once again, with Ethan as the lead, engaged in another mission-if-you-choose-to-accept-it situation where the retrieval of two interlocking keys will shut down the dangerous The Entity that bad guys desperately seek.

With Ethan, Luther and Benji as the core of the IMF, old friends, allies, and even occasional enemies resurface. Familiar faces include the return of Henry Czerny as the CIA director and former IMF leader Eugene Kittridge, who often seems to have ulterior motives.

Returning like a guardian angel in a desert scene is Rebecca Ferguson’s rogue MI6 agent Ilsa Faust, whose sniper skills save Ethan from an ambush. Like so many other spies, Ilsa can be something of an enigma.

On the villain side of the ledger, Vanessa Kirby is back as the unscrupulous arms dealer White Widow, assisted by her henchman Zola (Frederick Schmidt), and then there’s ruthless newcomer assassin Paris (Pom Klementieff) serving as Gabriel’s deadly accomplice.

A welcome addition is Hayley Atwell’s Grace, a pickpocket that Ethan runs into at the Dubai airport. She’s after the key for its monetary worth, and then becomes something of paradox as an ally of convenience to Ethan.

Topping all the villains as a deadly adversary to Ethan and this team is a terrorist named Gabriel (Esai Morales) with a connection to The Entity. As the chief villain, Gabriel is not your commonplace bad guy; he’s slick and menacing, even if a bit eccentric.

There are so many great action scenes in this movie that are jaw-dropping that it may be hard to choose a favorite beyond the bike jump. A car chase through Rome is quite thrilling, but there are even better spectacles.

A speeding train through the Austrian alps finds Gabriel and Ethan in manual combat on the roof, where the thrills are far more convincing that what occurred in the most recent “Indiana Jones” movie.

Released at the end of May last year, “Top Gun: Maverick” was the blockbuster film of the summer. “Mission: Impossible” should be the same this year, and the trifecta may come to fruition with “Part Two” next summer.

What else is there to say than Tom Cruise is on a roll, and “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” probably has no competitor on the horizon during the balance of summer. “Barbie,” for instance, is no threat to anyone other than Ken.

Make haste to see this movie on the big screen, because the action sequences are so stunning that any misgivings about the nebulous artificial intelligence that is The Entity is not even worthy of a thought. In brief, “Mission: Impossible” is a grand action spectacle.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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