Cruise control is the real deal

Mick Ferris
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Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1 (12A, 163 mins)

On the very first day of shooting for MI7 in September 2020, Tom Cruise rode a motorcycle off a mountain, his safe landing by parachute prompting crew members to hug each other with relief as the entire job could have ended before it really begun.

Then came the message on the intercom: “Let’s go again. I think I let go of the bike too early.”

By the end of that day, the daredevil actor had done it five times plus a practice jump from a helicopter.

At the time he was 58 years old.

Say what you like about Cruise, and he can be the equivalent of cinema Marmite, but he certainly gives value for money. If the film calls for his character Ethan Hunt to hold onto the outside of an aeroplane taking off, hang off a sheer rock face or dangle from a multi-storey building, then what you see on screen is him actually physically doing it in the actual location where it looks like he’s doing it (green screen – what’s that?) and it’s that knowledge that has helped to successfully carry the franchise through seven films over 27 years, each looking to come up with more outlandish stunts than its predecessor.

As a result we’re being enthralled by the sort of real action that hasn’t been seen since the days of silent epics.

In turn, the bad guys have become increasingly villainous until this time, the arch enemy isn’t even human.

In a move which has managed to predict present day concerns, the threat comes from artificial intelligence which has become self aware inside a downed Russian submarine at the bottom of the Barents Sea, is seemingly able to infiltrate any of the world’s networks and can anticipate every move against it, consequently posing a threat to all of humanity.

Obviously, the world’s governments are in a race to gain ultimate control of the AI, and through that the future of mankind, which rests on who can possess both parts of a key that will provide access to the system.

And so, the IMF is called upon to do the CIA’s dirty work, but Ethan realises that such power should never be in the hands of one person, or one nation and so, with the team (Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson) on board along with Hayley Atwell as an expert pickpocket and extortionist, it really is a case of them against the world as Ethan comes face to face with an old nemesis and the group quickly learn that their greatest strength could be the secret to their undoing.

It’s rare for any long running franchise to improve so consistently, but the Mission Impossible series has done just that, especially the last four, and Dead Reckoning Part One is almost three hours of riveting, winding storyline, edge of the seat action sequences and apart from one twist I take strong issue with (no spoilers) a lesson in how to make an action movie.

Director, writer and longtime Cruise collaborator McQ (Christopher McQuarrie) is the perfect creative foil. He knows exactly what is required and how to up the ante – the discussion pre production basically being: “What do you want to do?” Cruie said he wanted to ride a motorcycle off a mountain. Mc Q wanted to crash a train. For real.

Fast And Furious and Extraction wish they could do a fraction of this.

Part 2 is due for release next year and there’s are indications that this will be the end of the road. With the star now 61 there has to come a point where the death defying stunts have to stop.

But not today thank goodness.

RATING: 9/10


Mick Ferris

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