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Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One (Christian Movie Review)

About The Movie

Tom Cruise is not just among the last remaining bankable film stars. He’s also the embodiment of a movie-making philosophy. In recent years, he has been elevated as the savior of cinema, a hero who champions “old-school” moviemaking in an age of mind-numbing CGI spectacle. From that perspective, Dead Reckoning Part 1 may be his most persuasive manifesto. A relatively mediocre plot does little to detract from this endlessly entertaining action flick, which is filled with exhilarating stunts and set pieces that live up to the hype. It is not just a great film; it’s a reminder of why we go to the movies in the first place. 

Let’s get the negative out of the way first. With Mission Impossible movies, the plot has never been terribly consequential. It typically acts as a thread to string together a series of fun action set pieces. But even by these standards, the plot of this film isn’t very compelling. Characters globetrot to fun, exotic locations but never seem to accomplish or learn much that moves the narrative forward.    

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has competed against global powers and covert agencies, but now he  faces a new threat—technology. The story focuses on AI that has become sentient and gone rogue. It is a bold creative decision that is timely and culturally relevant (more on that below). It’s just not always interesting. Despite several exposition dumps, the faceless, disembodied adversary is never clearly explained. At times, it possesses almost godlike ability and omnipresence; at other times, it seems inexplicably inept.

But this is a Mission Impossible movie. Any time audiences start scratching their head at an inconsistent plot point, Tom Cruise rides a motorcycle off a mountain or performs some other stunt. The plot matters, but audiences watch these movies for the action—and there is plenty. My only criticism about the stunts is how the movie’s marketing campaign spoiled them ahead of time. Still, even knowing much of what was coming, the moments themselves deliver. The action in Dead Reckoning Part 1 is some of the best ever put to film.

The action is exhilarating not just because of the spectacle but because it feels tactile and real (largely, because it was). This triumph is all the more impressive when compared to the glossy and CGI-saturated action of other recent films like Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny or Fast X. Notably, this seventh Mission Impossible flick is primarily an action movie, with the clever espionage from previous entries taking a back seat. But did I mention that Tom Cruise jumps off a mountain on a motorcycle? Because he does…and it’s awesome. 

Speaking of Tom Cruise, he remains as much a movie star as ever, showcasing emotional vulnerability to supplement his age-defying action-hero persona. He is joined by several returning cast members from earlier entries in the series, but the standout is newcomer Hayley Atwell. She is a fantastic addition, fitting seamlessly into the cast. She showcases her own intelligence and capability but never sidelines Tom Cruise (the way Phoebe Waller-Bridge occasionally did with Harrison Ford in Dial of Destiny).

Despite a lengthy 2:45 run time, the movie maintains its brisk momentum. Even the incomplete nature of being Part 1 of a two-part story doesn’t feel nearly as unsatisfying as Fast X or Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. In the end, Dead Reckoning Part 1 is a rare film that delivers exactly what it promises—exhilarating action and a good time at the movie theater. As several other legacy series seem to be stalling out, Tom Cruise and company continue to deliver increasingly impressive entertainment. A movie franchise that continues to up the ante and improve seven films in shouldn’t be possible. But I suppose these guys know a thing or two about doing the impossible.   

On the Surface

For Consideration

       

Beneath The Surface

Engage The Film

AI and Dangerous Technology

A sentient AI may not make the most compelling villain for a Mission Impossible story, but it is nevertheless a timely one. The film has been released into a world ripe with anxiety and valid concerns about the cultural impact of advanced AI due to algorithms like ChatGPT. Leaning into these concerns, the movie suggests that the biggest existential threat we face today is technology (and those who wield it).

The sentient AI—called “the Entity”—is left largely ambiguous. As a result, the movie suggests that it is not the immense capability of AI technology that is the main problem but the selfish and corrupt nature of humans that cannot be trusted to wield the power benevolently.  

The film is more concerned with action stunts than deep cultural commentary, but the conflict is clearly inspired by real-world concerns. Multiple characters verbalize the destructive potential of controlling the world’s expanding digital ecosystem as a means of regulating morality and truth itself, shaping the way people think in subtle and subversive ways.

Interestingly, the Mission Impossible movies are famous for using various fancy gadgets. But in a contemporary environment that is reevaluating its relationship with technology, the movie reflects this new reality, exploring the possibility that the advantage of technology is quickly becoming a destructive obstacle as we become too reliant on it. The movie doesn’t provide many answers to the problem (at least, not in Part 1), but it raises some intriguing questions.  

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