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AN INDEPENDENT STUDENT NEWSPAPER SERVING THE GW COMMUNITY SINCE 1904

The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One’ was made for the love of movies

Cruise+is+doing+all+he+can+through+his+bonkers+stunts+and+unexpectedly+layered+plots+to+remind+audiences+one+last+time+of+the+power+action+movies+hold.
still via Skydance Media
Cruise is doing all he can through his bonkers stunts and unexpectedly layered plots to remind audiences one last time of the power action movies hold.

Tom Cruise loves only one thing: movies.

In his latest big-screen foray, “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One,” the seventh film in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise, Cruise reaffirms his determination to entertain the audience at all costs. But “Dead Reckoning” adds extra substance to the typical “I can’t believe he actually did that” stunts the franchise is known for, serving as a tribute to past “Mission: Impossible” films and a warning about potential downturns in moviemaking.

“Dead Reckoning” follows Cruise’s Ethan Hunt as he, yet again, must travel the globe and track down an object that may determine the fate of the world before a villain with unclear motivations — aside from a desire for world destruction — can acquire it. Plus, Hunt is isolated from and being hunted by his own government, who assumes that this time Hunt has really turned evil, unlike the past six times.

As with many “Mission: Impossible” movies, the plot is borderline incomprehensible at times. But the occasional confusion doesn’t make the moments where Cruise comes to the slow realization that he’ll have to perform some crazy stunt, like climbing the world’s tallest building, to get to the next step in his journey any less satisfying.

While not the franchise’s best — that title still belongs to 2018’s “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” — “Dead Reckoning” succeeds as one of Cruise’s better over-the-top globetrotting adventures in no small part because of the film’s locations. Much of the movie’s action occurs in Rome, Venice and the Austrian Alps, three of the most scenic places in the world, making spending time with Hunt and company a delight.

The set piece in Venice is a particularly inspired use of location to further the story. Cruise and costars Hayley Atwell and Rebecca Ferguson are forced to run around the famously confusing, moonlit and claustrophobic stone alleyways of Venice while receiving baffling and often incorrect directions — the only possible improvement would have been a gondola stunt.

“Dead Reckoning” is also probably the funniest movie in the franchise, with Simon Pegg’s portrayal of the doddering Benji, Hunt’s friend, getting many of the best laugh lines. On multiple occasions, he cracks meta-narrative jokes about how he, Hunt and the rest of their team always end up going rogue, saving the day with just milliseconds left and other franchise tropes.

The entire supporting cast of the film turns in strong performances, with franchise newcomers Atwell and Pom Klementieff standing out through their boatloads of charm and intensity in action scenes. Atwell even accomplishes the task that has eluded Cruise’s female co-stars for 40 years — she’s so charismatic that she manages to have some semblance of chemistry with him.

But as incredible as these developments are, there was only ever going to be one highlight of “Dead Reckoning,” the so-called “biggest stunt in cinema history”: Tom Cruise driving a motorcycle off a cliff to do a base jump. After well over a year of the stunt being promoted in trailers ahead of every movie, my expectations were quite high.

Unsurprisingly, the jump completely delivers. The moment is tense and shot breathtakingly, and the whole time one can’t help but think “I can’t believe he’s actually doing this.”

Between the big stunt, classic “Mission: Impossible” mask switcheroos and other brilliantly choreographed action I can’t spoil here, the finale of the movie does not disappoint. It’s a long film, clocking in at more than two and a half hours, but the third act is worth the wait due to the thrilling action.

Perhaps more unexpectedly, “Dead Reckoning” comments on the current state of blockbuster moviemaking. Cruise, who has shown time and again that he will do anything to further cinema, uses the movie as a chance to comment on the rise of artificial intelligence in filmmaking.

The villain of the film is the “Entity,” a sentient piece of artificial intelligence Hunt is determined to destroy, while every world government and a foe from Hunt’s past, Gabriel played by Esai Morales, is determined to use it to their advantage. Coming in the midst of both writers and actors strikes in Hollywood where AI is a central issue and in the middle of a summer full of blockbusters criticized for poor CGI like “The Flash” and “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” the subtext of the plot is hard to miss.

The movie also acts as a throwback to the original “Mission: Impossible,” released in 1996 before every blockbuster was made almost entirely in front of the green screen. The near-constant use of close-up, angled shots evokes director Brian De Palma’s style from that first movie, and plot elements from the late-night scene in Venice to the return of CIA director Eugene Kittridge recall Ethan Hunt’s first mission going rogue.

“Dead Reckoning” is one part tribute and another part eulogy to this nearly extinct style of filmmaking. The follow-up to the film, “Dead Reckoning — Part Two” is expected to be Cruise’s final go-round as Ethan Hunt, marking the end of an era for a franchise that has bucked many of the trends in blockbuster filmmaking over the past 30 years.

Cruise is doing all he can through his bonkers stunts and unexpectedly layered plots to remind audiences one last time of the power action movies hold. He’s even willing to drive motorcycles off cliffs for it.

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