The American summer blockbuster has changed face more times than I can count. Recently, superhero movies have been the meta. Previously, it was westerns, crime thrillers, love stories, spy dramas, and more. Essentially, anything that involved good guy beats bad guy, coupled with a lot of gun violence and action. It’s hard to say which era is the best as each has their own strength, but at the same time, too much of one thing isn’t good. It’s tantamount to declaring one flavor of ice cream superior to the other. It’s almost nonsensical to say something is nostalgic and a breath of fresh air and yet, that is exactly what Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning is. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience seeing this movie and it just may end up being my favorite movie that comes out this year.
Tom Cruise is one of the last remaining movie stars left. In this day and age, no one is truly famous. Or at least, not like it used to be a few decades ago. The age of movie stars donning the silver screen once every year or two has been done away with actors and actresses appearing in the occasional film and television series on your phone. More often than not, the appearance of that star, at least in my circle, is met with a “oh wow, they got him/her/them in this thing?”. But Mr. Cruise hasn’t done that. He hasn’t made a series with Netflix or created a streamer fodder film for another of the myriad of services available. He has stuck true with the medium that made him rich and famous: the big screen. I met Tom on the red carpet of the New York premiere of the film where I asked him: With all the stunts you’ve done, are you afraid of anything? To which he replied, in paraphrasing, “It’s not about the lack of fear in the stunts, it’s about the willingness to push beyond our limits”.
There’s something to be said about that. This may sound like trivial tripe or the wailings of an old man. However, the detail, care, and passion that goes into his movies are unlike the average movie being churned out. These days, the goal is to have a movie ready for release on a streaming service as opposed to really make something great. Who else, aside from James Cameron (another old fashioned filmmaker who has delightfully not changed with the times) and a few others would take years to develop and produce a film that was meant primarily for theaters? The practical effects in this film alone reminded me why I love going to the movies. Recent films, even well received ones such as Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 have left me struggling to stay awake during it’s boring runtime. CGI is an amazing innovation that has made modern movies spectacular, but at the same time, has crippled the beauty of a well-done stunt. For example, the latest in the Fast franchise features a chase scene in Rome that’s not too dissimilar to the one in this film. However, here, that chase scene is done with practical effects as opposed to CGI and it makes the action feel altogether much more gritty, engaging, and entertaining.
With all my gushing out of the way, I must admit it is an uneven movie but in the best way a film could be uneven. While the film may start a little slow with some clichéd events, things pick up in the second act with some tense scenes which are on par with some of the better action movies of the early 2000s and the third act is simply one of the best sequences of action I seen in a while. When it comes to combat and gunplay, there is no competing with the John Wick series. However, when it comes to spectacle, practical effects, and stunts, I think the same acclaim belongs to Mission Impossible. When the motorcycle stunt in the trailer and early footage of the film actually does appear in the film. It takes your breath away. There’s something about seeing a real person literally risk his life driving a motorcycle off a real cliff as opposed to a CGI background that captivates and fills you with dread for everyone involved. I haven’t been that close to the edge of my seat since Top Gun: Maverick.
Things haven’t exactly been so great at the box office since Covid. People are clearly fatigued and tired of superhero movies, which to me is especially evident in the fact that Oppenheimer and Barbie are met with such hyped anticipation. I am very excited for both of those films as well, but I am pleading with you, do not sleep on Mission Impossible. A huge reason why is because of how innovative this film is. With Dolby Atmos, which is a new feature added to movie theaters which allows you to have an almost 3D audio experience. Watching Tom Cruise sprint while dodging bullets while hearing the direction of where they came from is a surreal experience. There’s also Dolby vision which adds a lot of depth and character to each frame, making for a more rich movie going experience and helped tip this experience over the top to being one my favorite movie going experience in years. I have not seen enough praise or anticipation for this movie, but it is certainly something worth a watch. This is the beginning of a great finale to one of cinema‘s best series.