‘Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One’: AI meets Cruise, can’t outrun him

In a tense, terse scene, Ethan Hunt (who else but Tom Cruise) informs his rag-tag team that nothing outside their current, daunted conversation can be construed as the truth. That line, in essence, is the crux of the latest IMF (not the one handing out doles and country ratings who need the former and give a damn about the latter) caper, which now welcomes its latest villain, an omnipresent but never quite visible voice; who controls not just conversations and a plan to take over the world via a wormy infiltration of countries’ defense lines, intelligence information, and financial networks, but the entire narrative and what the actors see. It’s not a new idea, of course, but to finally feel a sentient power throw punches at the IMF—instead of scarred, cigar-chomping demented millionaires and spy rings—feels unnervingly the zeitgeist of our race to save our jobs, our countries, and our world (always in that order, whether you like it or not). Not the cloudy by lanes where assassins waited without; it’s now the cloud where a neural genius chomps data and then creates new sets, a perpetuating digestive system without excretory options, who’s simply named the Entity. It could well have been Alexa or Siri had they turned rogue. For now, we’re safe. We are, right?

Tom Cruise: mission (AI)mpossible.

If Ethan has his way, we’ll never find out. In this latest caper, that’s a rollicking ride for the most part, it’s the Russians who’re at the receiving end of AI—there, I finally said it—in the opening sequence. It’s the Frankenstein of modern times, the equivalent of the dictators and tinpot rulers backed by the self-anointed democratic keepers, who then turn into something bigger than the hand that fed them could ever imagine. That everywhere that poking hand turned to provide, eventually lost an arm is a lesson that’s never been learned. AI may change it because that lesson would’ve come too late. Instead of a rogue nation, we’ll be data feed for the rogue model that controls all our chats, lives, conversations, friends, and reality. While countries seek to control the Entity—via a surprisingly two-pieced physical key: how else would we get to chew our nails during sumptuously mounted action sets? No fun if Ethan takes a crash course in blockchain technology and spends all his time tracing the blocks and ledgers to figure out the encryption-decryption handshake.

From the opening Russian disaster to a sand-laden, dusty samiel is but a cruise for Ethan, as he races to get that key, and the key to that key is Ilsa Faust (a spunky Rebecca Ferguson)—how she gets into this biz is something the plot reveals, but only as much Ilsa’s character wants you—and Ethan—to know. Continents are traversed as Ethan teams up with semi-simmering flame Grace—the sprightly, feather-touch Hayley Atwell—who, with Cruise, provides some crisp banter a la Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. There’s tons of fun as the duo, in Rome, drive a Fiat with handcuffs and change the driver’s position with the magical—and comic—dexterity of Aamir Khan switching those Rooh Afza glasses in the mad Andaz Andaz Apna. The IMF team is in fine form as well, with Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) providing ample coordinates—both physical and moral— that don’t necessarily help Hunt. 

Hayley Atwell with you-know-who: each other’s car(e)taker.

In the race to get both pieces of the key, director Christopher McQuarrie, also co-writing with Erik Jendresen, throws in other characters, both inimical and helpless, to kill or survive. Gabriel (Esai Morales) dissolves from the past, now seemingly working with the Entity. Black market arms dealer Alanna Mitsopolis (Vanessa Kirby, cool as a cryogenized lettuce)—whose mother was Max, in the same line of business and played by Vanessa Redgrave in the first of this series—may or may not have all the answers, but she does hold some answers for Ethan and the others. Paris—played with chilling precision by Pom Klementieff, is a razor-sharp assassin who works for Gabriel and also gets a big helping of the action sequences. And that’s the thing about this installment: the women play critical pieces in the jigsaw that is not yet complete and are contiguous to the thrill and comedy that plays out—no longer gawking at Hunt’s spiffy moves but breaking out in some mean ones of their own. 

Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Tom Cruise. Rebecca Ferguson: here we go again.

There are, of course, the IMAX-worthy sequences themselves, all of which Cruise played himself, as did most of the other cast. While Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny) —director of the IMF in the debut movie—the current CIA director and disavowing the IMF sets off intelligence agents in hot pursuit of Hunt, including the redoubtable Shea Wigham as Jasper Briggs, both Briggs and Paris add to the fun of the chase, and—call me old-fashioned—the chain of who’s chasing who is delirious joy. If the now trailer-fueled bike-off-the-cliff stunt makes you scream or hold your breath, there’s more as the Orient Express provides a speeding ticket to a stunning sequence of vertiginous and vertical-dangling struggle that’s a highlight. 

AI may or may not take over our lives in the future, but Tom Cruise knows that to get people back to the movies, the stunts must be real. There’s no joy in watching CG (or AI)-generated landscapes that show the ostensible truth but are more like listless captchas that take all of us to be bozos who’ll select someone’s backside when asked to identify a street bum in a dull photo. (That our selections help feed that monster is another story.) Plus, no amount of technology can ever make any man (or person) run as Cruise does: they may help in making those ridiculous masks in the movie, and we enjoy this silly conceit precisely because we know it’s ludicrous—but that graceful, frantic, unstoppable hoofing is all human. Keep running, Ethan, even after you’ve done with the reckoning. 

Movie data powered by IMDb. All images owned by the producers.Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is rated U/A ((Parental Guidance for children below the age of 12 years and for those with vertigo)

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One
Director Christopher McQuarrie Time 2h 43min
Writers Christopher McQuarrie, Erik Jendresen 
Stars Tom Cruise, Hayley Atwell, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Vanessa Kirby, Esai Morales, Pom Klementieff
Genres Action, Adventure, Thriller