Mission Impossible 7 review: An epic action head-scratcher
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 is an enthralling, year-defining action picture caught in the crossfire of itself; your jaw will drop beneath a twitching eye.
“It’s my job to use you, just like it’s your job to be used,” Kittridge tells Ethan Hunt early in M:I7. Our relationship with Tom Cruise is similarly transactional, but who’s the user: us, the audience who relish and crave his insane antics; or the actor, a madman who gets a kick out of defying death for the greater good (aka, our entertainment). Hunt may “live and die in the shadows for those we hold close, and those we’ll never meet”, but Cruise’s calling relies on the light.
His steadfast pursuit of the next Impossible dream is what makes him the unreachable movie star, but in an age of studio churn and ballooning budgets – cough cough, Indiana Jones 5 – it’s also refreshing to see a film that makes a case for its costs. Dead Reckoning Part 1 is full of bonkers, brilliant action, but it’s also frequently gorgeous and rarely compromises on practicality; this is a must-see event on a pure cinematic level.
That will be more than enough for most people; it’s hard to imagine many will walk away feeling anything other than stuffed and satisfied – but answer me this: did you really understand it?
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning is more than a Part 1
More so than ever before, Dead Reckoning deserves some delicate dancing around the plot. We can say this much: the IMF (not the International Monetary Fund, as one clueless bigwig asks) is in an odd, even quiet place. Recruits are coming in, but the theatricality of it all suddenly seems old-fashioned (when Ethan meets a new delivery boy, he refuses to take the package before the young guy says the second part of the secret code). He’s still very much in the game with Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames); Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) less so, always getting into trouble that Ethan digs her out of.
But a bad moon is rising: Kittridge (Henry Czerny) warns the US government about a dangerous new… thing. Let’s call it an “incontestable form of world dominance”, and he’ll need Ethan and his crew to put a stop to it. This puts him on a collision course with Grace (Hayley Atwell), a lone-wolf who smiles and pickpockets her way out of any jam, Gabriel (Esia Morales), a figure from Ethan’s past, The White Widow (Vanessa Kirby), the black market dealer rather fond of a certain John Lark, and Paris (Pom Klementieff), a ruthless, Bond-esque villain; in one scene, she pulls out a classic Xenia Onatopp move.
There’s a concern baked into the title, but M:I7 feels like a complete movie. Yes, there’s big setup for the next part, but it’s undoubtedly another chapter of the larger story; this has a beginning-to-end arc that’s conclusive on its own terms. That said, the storytelling isn’t perfect. The screenplay, penned by director Christopher McQuarrie and Erik Jendresen, effectively recaptures the high-wire essence of the first entry – “I understand you’re very upset” even gets a callback – and well-placed humor breaks the gnawing tension, but the actual explanations of the thing are somehow strained, clunky, and not enough. Again, this is Part 1, so there’s stuff we shouldn’t know, but there’s headache-bound confusion in working out what we should know.
Tremendous action with a killer ensemble
McQuarrie and Cruise’s finest hour is still Fallout, but this is an embarrassment of action riches, even in the wake of John Wick Chapter 4. The Rome car chase is one of the best ever filmed, the oft-hyped motorcycle base jump is an insane feat of filmmaking, and the train sequence is full of franchise highs; this is also the movie at its best, where the juggling of plot, emotions, and awe-inspiring chaos is seamless. (Weirdly, there are a few moments that seem nicked from the Fast Saga, albeit every one of them is executed far better).
What’s particularly striking is the overall look of the movie. With McQ retaining his belt for three movies, some worried that the entry-to-entry individualism would be lost – give me another series that swings from Brian de Palma to John Woo – but this harks back to the heady, dutch-angle-filled visual flair of the original thanks to Fraser Taggart’s cinematography, not to mention some sweeping Arabian photography. Fallout had quite a cold palette, whereas the colors and lighting here have a harder, brighter pop. Let’s hear a massive cheer for the return of close-up magic, too; there is a lot of it, delicately and impressively handled like they’re seasoned, tricksy pros.
The cast are on fabulous form: Pegg and Rhames don’t have as much to do, but their charms as the guys behind the computer never cease, while Cruise has once again proved himself to be the movie star. A little more of Ferguson would have been nice, but her badass screen presence is foolproof. Kittridgeheads can rejoice, because every scene with Czerny is a teeth-grinding joy; it’s taken more than 25 years, but he’s finally back.
The runaway MVP is Hayley Atwell, a total smokeshow operating at the peak of her powers; funny, action-ready, and an instant favourite. The mind casts back to the oomph of Jennifer Connelly in Top Gun: Maverick, and Atwell comes armed with an effortless radiance that catches you from the first time she turns her head. The powers that be once considered handing the reins over to Jeremy Renner, but she has the juice to light the fuse.
Mission Impossible 7 review score: 4/5
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 is a whooping, stirring bonanza of cinema magic; this is what the big screen was made for.
Mission: Impossible 7 hits cinemas on July 10 in the UK and July 12 in the US. Find out more about the movie here.