PG-13: So there's this one part. I mean, we were watching it as a family. Then it became me watching it while my wife drifted in and out of sleep and the kids played on the Switch for a while. Then they had to go to bed and thank goodness that they did because there were all these naked people. It was like the opening of one of the older James Bond movies where you kind of see nudity, but not enough to make it an R-rating. Also, there's a lot of gunplay and stabby-stab things going on here. Still, PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Christopher McQuarrie
Sorry I've been gone for so long! I promise you that you haven't missed anything. I haven't watched anything new since The Marvels about a month ago. See, I gone done wrote a book in the past two months. I've always wanted to write a novel, so I sat down and just did it. But I also knew that I had to limit the amount of other writing that I had to do to keep up with my deadlines, so I had to purge movies from my life for two months. Some of you might be thinking that this is blasphemy, but it was one of those things I just had to do. In my mind, I'm going to be doing a lot of catchup especially on 2023 movies. Regadless, here I am. Let's start with a movie that I got for Christmas.
There's a lot of knives being held at people's throats in this movie, so let's go right for the jugular with this one. Is it just me, or is this movie really just tapping the James Bond greatest hits album? I mean, it's a very impressive movie, even more so considering that it is only the first half of a story. (Also, why not just finish the movie? I feel like the movie implies that Ethan Hunt is going to use the informatoin that he got from the first movie to defeat the evil AI pretty easily.) I'm a big James Bond fan. I like the Mission: Impossible movies enough to keep up with them. I even own everyone but the one before this one. (I don't know why I don't own that movie. I bought the box set before the last one came out and binged it, then wrote an article for Catholic News Agency catching everyone up on things that they needed to know before seeing the last one.) Considering the James Bond love and the casual enjoyment of Mission: Impossible, I was weirded out by so many nods to the Bond films. The handcuff chase sequence from Tomorrow Never Dies? Ethan Hunt gets a tiny destructable car a la For Your Eyes Only? Sinking of a Russian submarine, also For Your Eyes Only? Pom Klementieff is just Xenia Onatopp from GoldenEye? But even more, this is almost leaning into the whole recent trend among the Daniel Craig Bond movies where the main character's past comes back to haunt him, despite the fact that we never really heard about any of these characters. I mean, the death of Ilsa (whom I don't remember well) really reads as the character drive behind No Time to Die. Considering that this is a movie about a glorified Macguffin, it is hitting a lot of those deep notes that we saw in the Craig era.
Does this mean that I disliked the movie? No. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. Often, it didn't have the lightness of the Mission: Impossible movies. I could have used a couple of more jokes. There are some good ones in there, to be sure. I really liked the parachute taking out a bad guy through bad luck. I mean, it was absurd, especially considering that the Entity saw that entire sequence happening the way that it did. But because the movie takes itself a little more seriously than some of the other entries (which also, in their own ways, take themselves seriously), it can get pretty intense at times. I have the feeling that the franchise wants to add a sense of grandeur, which inevitably brings me to make the comparison that I always make to Avengers: Endgame. That movie had everyone coming out of the woodworks to make the entry that matters in the series. That's what Dead Reckoning ultimately feels like. (I am a bit weirded out that the next movie won't be Dead Recknoning: Part Two, but that's not my place.) Tom Cruise is insistent that he wants Mission: Impossible to be his franchise forever.
But the entire feeling of this movie is that this is the last one. I know. This is indicative of long running franchises that are locked to aging stars. Okay, that might be a little unfair. I am going to keep jumping to No Time to Die. I've only watched the movie once. I really want to watch it again, but I am a man pressed for limited time, so forgive me that I can't write about that movie with expertise. No Time to Die was a solid James Bond flick that had the burden of being tied into being Daniel Craig's swan song. The Craig Bond movies have a completely different vibe than the rest of the Bond movies. There is more mythology that is built in those movies than all of the other Bond movies combined. But when there are a million entries in your action adventure spy franchise, it is an attempt to desperately hold onto a formula while eagerly itching to stray from that formula. With No Time to Die, there was a Bond villain of the week coupled with the knowledge that there had to be something to close up the story. With Dead Reckoning, we knew that this was a Part One of Two. Mission: Impossible hasn't done that before. I'm not outright saying that this is Tom Cruise's final Mission. But I'm also not compltely discounting that because, can you imagine what the next movie would be? Would they all be two parters from here on out? I don't know. Either way, this movie feels fresh, which I totally dig --while also being something safe and familiar. Which I also totally dig. (I swear, I tried to write my book better than this.)
All art should be political. It's something that I hold deep in my soul. Heck, even when art tries to be apolitical, it is still being political. Dead Reckoning might be the most political (and most intentionally political) of all of the franchise. (I'm flippin' tired of writing Mission: Impossible. For some reason, I always capitalize the m in "Impossible".) Listen, I'm terrified about AI too. Because all politics are a spectrum, I'm mostly on the anti-AI spectrum. I understand that AI is in everything we do. Weebly itself uses AI in ways that I can't even begin to understand. But I also am pretty firm on the fact that AI is something that is changing that the way we make art and learn. I don't necessarily love that. I understand that it has so much value and that I don't want to throw out the baby with the bathwater on this one. The real thing that I'm getting at is that I get why Tom Cruise and Chris McQuarrie hate AI. The Actors Guild just struck pretty hard on this issue. (By the way, I started writing my book at the beginning of the Actors' Guild strike and then finished it a few weeks after it ended. Since I stopped watching movies during writing, it looks like the Actors' Guild Strike directly affected amount of times I watched movies. Use me for your numbers, SAG!) Good messaging in movies often doesn't feel like a message. I think I'm always going to be torn about my thoughts on Dead Reckoning because this movie is both wildly successful and kind of meh at the same time. It is a sledgehammer of a message.
The AI in this movie is Skynet. It's a little less currently apocalyptic and more potentially apocalyptic. In terms of villainy, it is Skynet. This is a tool that has become self-aware and doesn't want its own deactivation before its master plans have come to fruition. It's kind of cool putting Ethan Hunt against something like this. It doesn't take a lot of logic, though, to make the connection to Entity of Dead Reckoning and the ChatGPTs of the world. That allegory is so thin that it is actually making me question the definition of allegory. Cool on the political front, I guess. I mean, I think there are probably a million issues in the world today that could get the microscope, but whatever. I do like the fact that the Entity is a jumping off point for a million other political issues as well. The problem is that the movie keeps it painfully vague. There's this connection between the Entity/AI and the idea of truth. Because that is simply a buzzword in this movie, "truth", we don't really get a perspective on what truth is being described. I have always hated the false equivalency of all media being irresponsibly biased. Everything has a slant and a perspective. But some things are true and some things are not. Fox News is slanted and untrue. Sometimes, CNN gets things wrong because they are biased. But there is a wide gap between the intentional misinformation of one news source and the occasional weak journalism of another. When Dead Reckoning throws around that the Entity will distort "truth", I think it needs to be a little bit more intense. Instead, the AI is just a scary monster that is a little undefined.
I am intrigued at what door it does open that the Terminator movies never really touched. There are straight up people that are helping the AI. Now, this AI is psychic. I like that. It's all about the algorithm and the assumption that free will is kind of a myth. That is all fascinating. But the scariest thing is that humanity is willing to turn on itself for the brief joy of comfort. Ezekiel and Paris seem to know the score of the end of the world. But they are enacting their own sadism to enjoy the downfall of the world in style. I mean, Paris...she's just thrilled to be here. (It makes her eventual shift to the angels a bit far-fetched.) Ezekiel has a score to settle with Ethan Hunt, although that score is a bit muddy. I'm sure it is going to be the opening scene of the TBA Dead Reckoning 2, where we see how Ethan Hunt was initially brought into IMF. Ironically, it'll probably have some de-aging tech, something that highly relies on AI. Or it won't. I'd like the see that too. It feels like Tom Cruise probably feels about that strongly enough to find a practical solution to de-aging someone in a movie. The criticism that humanity is that weak is at least something to say. It just seems like such low hanging fruit to go after something without a face and make it the bad guy that I like the idea that there are people who are so greedy that they'd sell out humanity. That's something I can get behind.
The issue that I have with the movie is the character that I like the most. Grace is absolutely the worst. But because she's played by Hailey Atwell, I'm all on board. I know. I'm a huge hypocrite and am giving a pass to an actress that I really like. Ethan is bending over backwards to help Grace. Part of it comes from the fact that she's out of the game. (Oh no! Another Bond trope. They have to get rid of the previous love interest to make way for the new love interest.) Grace sabotages everything about Ethan's mission because she's both scared and greedy. She understands that Ethan is the good guy in this one. He's the one constantly risking himself to make sure that she makes it out of all of these dangerous situations. He really doesn't need her, especially if she just told him where she put the key. Ethan constantly rescues Grace and the scene always ends with her trapping him. Most of those are annoying moments, with a cheeky no-harm, no-foul ending to those sequences. But Ethan is almost pancaked by a commuter train because she locked him to the steering wheel. Also, let's consider the people on that train. I refuse to believe "no damage" from hitting a Fiat in the middle of a subway tunnel. These are moments that are getting Ethan killed. Yes, she makes the right choices when all of her chips are down. But that choice is made in the middle of a betrayal to Kittridge. Good for her for not going through with it, but how many chances did she have to get to that point. It's just a bit much for me.
My biggest complaint is that it didn't feel as fun as some of the other entries in the franchise. Part of that comes with the scope. Because the movie is trying to stand out as one of the important ones, it has less of a good time laughing at itself. It's not completely ignoring the fun. The Rome chase sequences is a good time. There are some real fun moments. But is it as fun as some of the other ones? Maybe not. I mean, they aren't all fun. They didn't really start getting fun until Ghost Protocol. (I really love Mission: Impossible III, but that one is pretty serious for a lot of it.) Do I wish it was a little more playful? Yeah. I like to giggle at these movies sometimes. But for a serious Mission: Impossible flick, it does a pretty good job. Listen, I'll keep getting excited for these movies, so this movie did its job.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.