Tom Cruise simply gets it. Impossibly upping the action, suspense and thrills, he's created the best film in the MI series seven films in, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE DEAD RECKONING PART ONE.
WOW, just WOW.
As he proved last summer with "Top Gun: Maverick", Cruise is truly the last big American movie star we have and he's personally committed to entertaining you.
With a $290 million budget for the first half of the series finale, this globe hopping adventure opens with an intriguing submarine sequence under the ice cap that will seem very familiar to longtime James Bond fans.
(It's just the first of many OO7 references from start to finish, I'll write a separate article on those Easter Eggs after everyone has had a chance to see the film. NO SPOILERS!).
Henry Czerny makes a welcome return to the film series, his first since the original film back in 1996. He's still our slimy, clandestine government force head guru Kittridge. He's back to set Ethan up for a mission that ups the stakes on every previous film.
With a suddenly sentient AI super computer called "The Entity" probing every defense and banking system around the globe, there appears to be only one way to shut it off.
Luckily for us, it's an old fashioned cruciform key, the two halves of which are in the hands of different players around the world.
Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his team Benjy (the hilarious Simon Pegg) and Luther (a reliably great Ving Rhames) are off to Abu Dhabi in pursuit of their confidant Ilsa Faust (series favorite Rebecca Ferguson). Upping the massive dust storm of "Ghost Protocol", Ethan battles against a large force of horseback assassins in pursuit of Elsa.
DEAD RECKONING has the best sound mix of any film I've heard in recent memory. You don't just watch this movie. You FEEL IT. The wind blasts literally barrage you in your seat. Alongside composer Lorne Balfe's fantastic, nearly non-stop music score, my ears haven't been this happy in a movie in a long time.
The action moves to an incredibly complex and entertaining sequence at the ultra-modern Abu Dhabi airport, where US agents Briggs (Shea Wingham from "Take Shelter) and Degas (Greg Tarzan Davis from "Top Gun: Maverick") are in hot pursuit of Ethan. Kudos to Wingham and Davis as new characters that provide some serious laughs and action chops to the film. Wingham's Briggs is a trigger-happy maniac and Davis is the voice of reason. These two could do their own "Lethal Weapon" style spinoff to great effect.
The airport is full of intrigue, introducing us to professional pickpocket/thief Grace, perfectly embodied by Hayley Atwell, Peggy Carter for all you Avengers fans. Grace steals the key from the man looking to sell it, but Ethan is hot on her trail.
This sets off a two hour series of non-stop events as every government on the planet comes after the key.
A massive scale car chase through the streets of Rome is one of the best ever filmed, all the more so because it's done "French Connection" style with no CGI. That really is Cruise driving handcuffed to Grace through the Eternal City.
The action moves to Venice where The White Widow (the effortlessly menacing Vanessa Kirby) is reunited with Ethan and his team as she stages a massive party at which she's hoping to secure/sell the key.
Every film lives and dies by its villain and wow do we have a great one this time around. Gabriel is The Entity's right-hand human, a violent, explosively dangerous man from Ethan's past motivated to bring him loss & pain. Esai Morales, who I know best from his four seasons on "NYPD Blue" back in 2001-2004 is an inspired casting choice. He's so good in the role that you regret he hasn't been making big screen appearances the last two decades.
His henchman is the lethal assassin Paris, played in bad-ass form by Pom Klementieff, who plays Mantis in the "Guardians of the Galaxy" films. She is relentless. Her maniacal laughs during the Rome chase sequence as she slaughters everyone in her way cuts deep.
The finale aboard the Orient Express as it speeds through Norway is simultaneously a tribute to the train sequence finale of the first film, while one-upping it X 100.
Unless you've been under a rock, you've seen the behind the scenes features on Cruise's daring jump off a mountain on a motorcycle. But the payoff of that jump is a complete surprise and a huge, much needed laugh in a suspenseful sequence.
The train crash that follows is the greatest ever filmed, combining live action, full size trains and a fantastic scene with Hunt and others (I'm not spoiling anything!) trying to escape the train as it falls one car at a time off a cliff.
This is action film making in its finest form.
Director Christopher McQuarrie and Cruise are great partners again in this, their fourth film together and third MI entry in a row as a team. Those last three MI films are arguably the three best action films of the last 8 years.
Just as he did with "Top Gun: Maverick" last summer, Cruise isn't satisfied with thrilling you. He wants to entertain you. Once again, he's topped himself, with a perfect blend of laughs, thrills, suspense, drama and high stakes intrigue.
At two hours and 46 minutes long, the pace never lags, setting up a Part Two that I can't wait to see. Forget that, I can't wait to see this again ASAP to experience it all and see what I missed.
DEAD RECKONING PART ONE is the best Mission: Impossible movie yet.
If only the James Bond producers approached their films with the same commitment that Cruise does to MI. The Mission Impossible series passed OO7 two films ago and never looked back.
The opening credits, set to a booming new version of the classic theme song, don't even kick in until about the 30-minute mark. If you don't get goose bumps during those sixty seconds, you're in the wrong theater.
See this on the biggest screen with the best sound system you can find.
It's the ultimate summer thrill ride and gets an A+.
Thank you, Tom Cruise. You GET IT.
An instant mover into my all-time Top 100 films.