Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE DEAD – RECKONING PART ONE is a top shelf spy action blockbuster. There’s plenty for people to quibble with about how it compares to its six predecessors, but to me it’s another strong variation on and evolution of a series that has managed to go for 27 years and still feel special each time out.

After only a few weeks of release, conversation in movie lover world has already moved on, except to note that DEAD RECKONING is unlikely to make back its huge budget in theaters. I’ll be sure to send a sympathy card to the bean counters, but I appreciate this case of a movie going overbudget to (on top of COVID delays) allow leeway for the filmmakers to tinker with it and take the time to try to meet their enormous ambitions. Director/co-writer Christopher McQuarrie has a weird, partially improvisatory way of building these that other filmmakers shouldn’t copy, but it sure seems to work better than rushing everything to meet a deadline.

Part of the magic of these movies is their mixture of simple and complicated. They’re simple enough that they can advertise this as the one with a motorcycle jump and a train crash and know we don’t need more than that. And boiled down the premise is as simple as that a nefarious A.I. known as “The Entity” has infiltrated all databases around the world, including the entire knowledge base of every intelligence agency, threatening to mix it all with bullshit to destroy our whole civilization’s understanding of reality, so various parties are fighting over two literal keys they believe lead to the only way to get at The Entity. Everyone wants to control it, except Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, LOSIN’ IT), who wants to destroy it.

The complications come in with the convoluted missions they undertake to achieve each individual objective on the path toward saving the world, and the even more complex workarounds they have to improvise each time something doesn’t go as planned (which is most of the time). These involve the old standbys such as disguise and impersonation, hacking, augmented reality glasses, parachutes, motorcycles, knives, guns, druggings, a swordswoman, sleight of hand, and a whole lot of pickpocketing.

The newest elements are a villain named Gabriel (Esai Morales, SUPERFLY [2018]) and a heroine named Grace (Hayley Atwell, JIMI: ALL IS BY MY SIDE). Gabriel is a ghost, a mystery man from Ethan’s past, also a chaotic force of nihilism, very well dressed, all that shit. What makes him different from previous villains of this type is that he’s not necessarily a mastermind, he’s probly just a stooge following what a computer screen is telling him to do! He serves The Entity, willingly doing what it tells him, so it’s not always clear what kind of 4D chess he’s up to, or if he even knows. I really think he’s just following along – he may have his theories, but he’s in just as much suspense as anyone to find out where this is all going, like they’re all watching the same TV show as it nears its finale.

Grace is a highly skilled pickpocket hired by another party to steal one of the keys. Ethan spots her while trying to get it himself, and immediately sees how she can help and how to convince her it’s in her self interest. It’s not an instant conversion (deceit and betrayal are tools of the trade for everyone involved) but they get stuck in enough shootouts and car chases (many of them while handcuffed together) to become a team. I think the movie stays on the side of Ethan genuinely wanting to help Grace and others, but it burns when Gabriel brings up the interpretation of him as a serial manipulator and doomer of women. Come on, man. That’s not fair. Is it?

One thing about Grace is she’s an excellent new female lead in a series that already has one: Rebecca Ferguson (HERCULES, DOCTOR SLEEP) as Ilsa motherfuckin Faust, already the highlight of MISSIONs: IMPOSSIBLE ROGUE NATION and FALLOUT. She starts the movie outnumbered by bounty hunters in the middle of the desert with one half of the mcmuffin around her neck like an ’80s latchkey kid. I thought Ethan and Ilsa were in love, but I guess some people think they’re just ride-or-die besties. Whatever the case they have a romantic night seeing the sights in Venice and they also have some time to exercise their craft together. Seeing the IMF team, currently consisting of Ethan, Ilsa and their tech support department of Luther (Ving Rhames, DEATH RACE 23) and Benji (Simon Pegg, READY PLAYER ONE) operate has been a big part of the joy of this series, especially since part III. And seeing the shots where they just stroll around together, often in small open boats, always looking very serious and confident because they’re very aware of their own awesomeness, is another big part of it.

I’m a fan of the badass nod in cinema – a gesture of mutual understanding between badass motherfuckers. These characters achieve the feel of a badass nod without moving their chins. They don’t have to nod. It’s all in their eyes. They know.

Ethan and Ilsa do most of the running, leaping, dropping, kicking, stabbing, slashing, choking, wrassling, scissoring, chopping, infiltrating, etc., but Ethan especially couldn’t do all of it without the nerd and the cool guy with the hat being in his ear telling him which hall to go around and warning him of shit. They do good work. And they’re so accustomed to the insanity that while they’re guiding Ethan to steal the key from a guy in Abu Dhabi International Airport they get involved in a side quest to find a suspicious piece of luggage and disarm a nuclear bomb via riddles without even telling him about it. He’s busy.

I rewatched Brian DePalma’s MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE for the first time in a while because I knew about the return of Kittridge (Henry Czerny, THE A-TEAM, SCREAM VI). That really wasn’t necessary for understanding anything, but it’s a good movie, so I recommend it. Kittridge was the IMF director back then, basically Ethan’s uptight boss who falls for a frame up and thinks Ethan is the bad guy until the end of the movie. He was the one meeting with Ethan in the restaurant when Ethan blew up the aquarium with explosive chewing gum. Now he’s the head of the CIA and (though who knows what twists lie ahead in Part Two) he seems to have a begrudging respect and trust of Ethan and know he’s the only one he can count on to get these keys.

A standout non-action scene in this chapter is at the beginning when we learn about The Entity in an emergency meeting between the heads of all the intelligence agencies. It’s one of those very stylized scenes where it’s basically a big monologue of exposition but it’s delivered by a series of characters picking up from each other like they share one mind. This is where Kittridge proposes using Ethan, though he doesn’t say his name. And one of the big jokes of the scene is that Director of National Intelligence Denlinger (Cary Elwes, NEVER ON TUESDAY) has never been told about the Impossible Mission Force and is incredulous about this idea that there’s a guy “we leave word for” to do whatever none of the agencies know how to do.

One guy who seems pretty familiar with the capabilities of the guy they leave word for is Jasper Briggs (Shea Whigham, ALL THE REAL GIRLS, BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS), who has the Tommy-Lee-Jones-in-THE-FUGITIVE role of the exasperated blowhard who leads a team chasing down our guys. Whigham is one of those character actors I’m always happy to see pop up in anything, so I was pleasantly surprised what a big role they gave him here. Since he played the gruff boss of Atwell’s title character in season 1 of Agent Carter, this is also a reunion. For both of them I’d say this is the biggest spotlight they’ve gotten in movies so far. Briggs has that Shea Whigham grumpy likability, he makes some good speeches, but he doesn’t seem that far away from his (as of part one) more questioning-of-orders partner Degas (Greg Tarzan Davis, TOP GUN: MAVERICK).

In a bunch of weird ways that mostly have to be coincidental, DEAD RECKONING almost seems like a summary of recent action movies. Specifically, it has a bunch of odd parallels to FAST X. Both are late entries in their series that for the first time are trying a two-parter. Both have a part with a submarine under ice. Both have an actor I like playing a guy from a government agency who chases the heroes and makes big speeches that are meta about the tropes of the series. Both have a big, destructive car chase in Rome, using many of the same landmarks. I think DEAD RECKONING’s car chase is the more thrilling one – it feels much more real and dangerous, more on location, less digitally enhanced, more special. But I don’t say that as a knock on FAST X. That was some good, cartoony shit that also had plenty of real stunts in it. But this one is more masterful.

It also has people in disguise fighting over a valuable object on a train, like INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY did just a couple weeks earlier. And I read that they filmed on the same bridge! As with FAST X, the DEAD RECKONING version seems much more real. I’ve seen people complaining about some digital effects, which is their right but very funny to me because these filmmakers went through the trouble of creating an entire working train to shoot on for real and to dump off a bridge for real, with cameras attached to it, which you watch and think “oh shit, that was definitely real, they attached a fucking camera to a fucking train and dumped it off a fucking bridge – movies are amazing, I love movies!” Or at least that’s what I say, but I have learned from Twitter that others say “too fakey, CGI, computers, Hollywood, etc.”

But again, I also loved Indy’s scene, which was done more practically than people assume, but does have a stylized look to its world that’s almost painterly, and that’s what I like about that one. Two very different things, released in the same month, filmed in the same place. Movies!

The one I noticed that might actually be an intentional reference is when Ethan and Ilsa infiltrate a meeting at a club in Venice and come face to face with Gabriel, Grace, and arms dealer Alanna “The White Queen” Mitsopolis (Vanessa Kirby, JUPITER ASCENDING). As far as I know this is not a location from a JOHN WICK movie, but it seems so much like one – a gigantic dance club lit in purple, blue and red, with techno music, laser show type abstract animation projected on screens, an ultra-rich, ultra-glamorous, ultra-European clientele, all surrounded by historic architecture and what not. There’s a goofy idea that they realize they are “inside” the Entity, it’s watching them, so the screens become sort of the HAL-9000 eye staring at them, creeping them the fuck out, even though they know better than anybody what sort of a surveillance state they’re in no matter where they go. (That’s not a complaint. I like some absurdity.)

If this is a deliberate nod to JOHN WICK then maybe the point is that in this scene The Entity decides to have Gabriel kill one of the people important to Ethan in order to get a certain reaction out of him. So he realizes, especially after a big talk about it from Luther, that it’s essential to not get revenge against Gabriel for what he did; it seems The Entity is trying to get him to kill the only person who knows what the keys do. Even still, when Ethan gets Gabriel at knife point he considers killing him. (Unless he was up to something more tricky, like testing if Briggs would stop him.)

So in that sense DEAD RECKONING becomes the opposite of JOHN WICK’s initial revenge plot. But I like to think people who make movies this good are capable of seeing that there’s more to JOHN WICK than simple revenge fantasy, so I won’t take it as a swipe.

There’s also a big nod to He-Man toys, because the two keys connect together sort of like how He-Man’s sword and Skeletor’s sword connect together. Not in the cartoon, but in the toys. All boys know about the connecting swords, even McQuarrie and Cruise. This will probly be more important in Part Two.

Speaking of swords, I’ve yet to mention another Wickian touch and great new character, Gabriel’s top henchwoman Paris. She’s played by Pom Klementieff (INGRID GOES WEST), last seen as Mantis, my favorite part of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3. Since I mainly know her with bug eyes I would never have known it was her except by her occasional yelps of wicked joy during fights. I’ve read that some consider “silent killer” to be an Asian stereotype, and it’s not my place to determine whether Paris qualifies, but I will say this is a fucking topnotch performance and character and that in general the idea that good performances and characters require lots of dialogue is just an incorrect assessment of how art works, especially in action movies, where the more words you speak the less likely you are cool (John McClane being a rare exception). I love Paris’ cocky style, strolling into this club wearing a marching band jacket that Turbo could’ve worn in BREAKIN’ 2, and some kind of mime makeup, and carrying a god damn sword in public, like she’s Blade. I also enjoy what a great time she’s clearly having driving a truck over various parked vehicles and other unfortunate objects.

She’s just an absolute delight. I love her. I hope she will be my friend. Just an idea for Part Two, there could be a part where she mentions that we’re friends. No pressure, we’re just brainstorming here, there are no bad ideas.

An appreciation of Christopher McQuarrie: he came onto most of our radar winning an Oscar for his second movie, THE USUAL SUSPECTS. For a while I thought complicated twists were his thing. I thought they muddied up his very impressive directorial debut WAY OF THE GUN. He spent a decade as Bryan Singer’s guy (script doctor on X-MEN) but in the middle of that was VALKYRIE, which switched him over to being Tom Cruise’s guy (script doctor on GHOST PROTOCOL). Yeah, I know – problematic in a different way. But they turned into a really good team for making very high quality mainstream spectacle. McQ did a fine job as writer/director of JACK REACHER before graduating to permanent MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE helmer. He also had a hand in the screenplays of EDGE OF TOMORROW, THE MUMMY (sorry, I enjoyed it) and TOP GUN: MAVERICK. He’s a type of filmmaker I really appreciate: not highfalutin, but smart, and absolutely striving for excellence. Never condescending toward the art of mainstream popcorn movies, but always trying to take it to the next level. A writer and director with an ever-growing appreciation and understanding for the craft of filmmaking through economy of storytelling and characterization. Dedicated to upping the ante every time out, but also converted by his experience on MAVERICK to a big old softy who wants even the train-falling-off-a-bridge movie to be deeply rooted in emotions.

DEAD RECKONING PART ONE excels at the same things McQuarrie’s previous MISSION: IMPOSSIBLEs do: thrilling and well put together action setpieces built around insane stunts actually performed by Cruise; a great tone mixing serious threats with light-hearted dialogue between cool IMF friends; tons of clever spy tricks that are absurd and far-fetched but well thought out enough that we can buy them; scorching hot actors looking cool but also giving legit acting performances, etc. Each time McQuarrie deliberately reinvents his filmmaking style (he doesn’t believe in repeating himself), and I have seen complaints about the cinematography, none of which I registered or had a problem with at all – I thought it looked great.

Of course the choice that changes this most from the formula of the rest of the series is this Part One business. They did two-parters and even a three-parter on the show, but it’s new to the movies, where we’re gonna have to wait years for the next episode, not a week. This is not exactly a cliffhanger (they have an objective, which they achieve), but for the first time we’re left to find out how they get from having the key to saving the world to actually saving the world.

What that really changes is that ambiguities about what anybody’s up to are not yet resolved. Gabriel could actually want control of The Entity, Kittridge might not be up front about what’s going on, etc. The one that left me most curious was where Paris is at, but that might be a matter of misinterpretation. (SPOILERS of course…) There’s a scene where Gabriel stabs Paris and tells her she’s going to betray him and tell Ethan what the keys are for, since Ethan spared her life in an alley fight earlier. I took this as Gabriel/The Entity’s instructions for her. I thought she was devastated by the abandonment, that no matter what happens she’s not going to be with Gabriel anymore. She does as described: saves Ethan’s life, tells him about the key as she bleeds out. But then she survives and, I’m guessing, joins the team. So I thought the conflict was that she followed her orders, but seems like she could actually be sincere, could’ve genuinely switched sides.

But the way Wikipedia puts it, Gabriel “attempts to kill Paris, who the Entity has determined will betray them, because Ethan had spared her life in Venice.” That’s much simpler. Gabriel doesn’t tell her to do it, just that his computer master predicted it would happen. He fails to stop her, and the computer was right about what she’d do. Is that correct? I like mine better. More dramatic. But theirs has her as unambiguous cool-bad-guy-turned-good-guy. And you know I love a cool-bad-guy-turned-good-guy. So I’ll accept it if that’s what it is.

I have exactly one complaint about the movie, which is a big enough spoiler I’m gonna keep it to a postscript. But the bottom line is, this is a thrilling action/spycraft blockbuster on a level that doesn’t come around too often. If you appreciate that sort of thing, I definitely recommend seeing it in a theater while you can.


SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER. My one spoiled fan complaint is that I personally was totally fine with the stakes as they were and did not require them to be raised by killing best character in the series. Yes, there’s a legitimate story purpose – the theme of Ethan protecting the people he cares about is central, and the concept that Gabriel killing the person who means most to him would push him to want to kill Gabriel, which would serve the Entity’s purposes, makes sense. But this is a series that’s fun because it has this great team who have learned to get out of these things. I don’t think weakening that aspect by taking away the MVP is a worthy trade off for the drama achieved by killing her. (Of course it’s also a series where it’s not out of the question that they faked her death as part of the plan, and there are a few reasons to believe that could be the case, but I’m trying not to get my hopes up.)

P.P.S. I should probly mention that the motorcycle stunt is great, and technically a one-upping of the part in UNDER SIEGE 2: DARK TERRITORY where Ryback has to get back onto the train.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 26th, 2023 at 1:28 pm and is filed under Reviews, Action. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

47 Responses to “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One”

  1. Can I just say I thought it was a bit odd the way Ving Rhames just kinda checked out before the big finale. I wonder if they’ll explain that in part 2?

  2. I love this series so much that I’m continually surprised at the relatively common event of finding that a friend or coworker or whatever has never seen any of them and doesn’t plan to. What??? Some of it might be just that some people have, understandably, different levels of tolerance for Tom Cruise. I used to hate the dude in the late 80s-early 90s, his screen persona gave me “smug creep” vibes and I was a burgeoning indy film snob, but then starting with Minority Report I got onboard.

    I liked M:I:7:DR:1 a lot, didn’t love all of it – the first and last 45 minutes felt like perfect Mission: Impossibility biz and just exactly what I am looking for in these movies. The cat-and-mouse stuff in the airport, the car chase in the little Fiat, everything on the train… awesome. And all the new characters are great, for all the reasons described in the review – the gleeful and super competent henchperson who now might be on the team, the cool and crafty thief who now might be on the team, the dogged antagonist hunting our hero who maybe at the end of this is at least somewhat on the team (I’m detecting a pattern here)… all great.

    Not great? Well, the middle hour or so bookended by those initial 45 minute chunks didn’t grab me. In fact I had no idea what anybody was talking about in the looong scene at the party in Venice. And the big event called out by Vern in the SPOILER section was, agreed, super unnecessary unless it’s all a big fakeout and that character is going to come roaring back in the next one. Whatever the case, I had no idea what kind of rules and goals Gabriel/The Entity were laying out so when the fight on the bridge rolled around, I didn’t even have a clear sense of why the various characters were fighting. Hadn’t they decided that killing Gabriel was a bad move at that point?

    Anyway… I loved the callbacks to stuff from the earlier movies, like the sleight of hand biz and the return of Henry Czerny. I’m not sure how I feel about the retconning of the IMF as this super-underground paramilitary brotherhood – like, I saw the 3rd one, Benjy starts out as just some dude from the office! And they have an office! And I don’t need Ethan to be like Bruce Wayne and need a “this time it’s super personal” history with the bad guy – in fact I don’t need him to have a history at all by this point, come on – but if they’re going to go there, why not mention his mom and uncle from the first movie?? Weird.

    But those last few points were minor quibbles and I’m ready to go for the next one. When does Part 2 come out, later this summer I hope?

  3. Cool look at the film. I enjoyed the hell out of this one. It was fun in the character interactions and in action, it had a variety of distinctive action beats within sequences, had good stakes evolving over time, and kept the pace up for almost three hours. It had big stunts but never felt desperate in its action or wowing the audience. As with John Wick 4, this film felt confident and secure in itself and made me leave the cinema thinking I want to see that again soon.

  4. I don’t know, man. Maybe my standards are too high. This one’s got a lot going for it, a lot of big entertainment for the big screen, but it’s also got a lot of problems. The decision to personally attack CJ and make this a two-parter made the story meandering, needlessly elongated, and yet vague, leaving all kinds of shit on the table to maybe be sorted out next time. The villain is weak and unformed, and they didn’t get half as much mileage out of The Entity as just about any other rogue AI movie. Pretty sure the forgotten Shia LaBeouef vehicle EAGLE EYE from the director of XXX: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE did more with the concept than this three-hour, billion-dollar epic by an Oscar-winning screenwriter. That would be an easily surmountable obstacle if the spectacle was up to established standards, but unfortunately the action is also clearly three or four steps down from the last couple. We have become accustomed to Cruise upping the ante every time out, and I don’t feel that he accomplished that this time. Maybe all the good set-pieces are in Part 2.


    Mostly, though, the film never recovers from the most blatant (and blatantly telegraphed) fridging in the history of cinema. The screenplay hanging a lampshade on it does little to mitigate the bad taste this distasteful manipulation leaves in the mouth for the rest of the film. Ilsa deserved better amd the last third of the movie is lesser for her absence.

    On a metatextual level, though, there’s something equally as distasteful going on. I know we action fans have made a blood pact not to dwell too long on the whole Tom Cruiseness of the thing, but you can’t help thinking about how this is a guy with three ex-wives who he pointedly does not talk about and who do not talk about him when this movie’s visual language goes out of its way to make its female characters so utterly interchangable. It almost feels like a LOST HIGHWAY situation here, the way everything Ilsa is meant to represent is instantly transfered to Grace, as if neither of them were ever people, but merely vessels for Ethan’s savior complex. In sheer defiance of the excellent work both actresses put in, the screenplay and direction do not treat them like distinct characters: They are both merely different variants of the same MacGuffin (previously embodied by Michelle Monaghan, Thandiwe Newton, and others, with the uber version apparently glimpsed in the flashbacks) to be protected and then replaced in the sequel with a sleeker, shinier model. Cruise so rarely gives you anything of himself in his films or personal appearances so this feels like a total Fruedian slip, or like that monster movie made by that director Kim Jong-il kidnapped that was clearly a metaphor for North Korean totalitarianism. Maybe McQuarrie is sending smoke signals out over the wall surrounding Cruiseworld.

    Also that mask-making machine must do breast reductions too because COME ON.

    *Apologies to Dan Prestwich for repurposing most of this comment from one I left on his review.

  5. I really love this series and was looking forward to this one a lot. I liked it a lot, but maybe didn’t love it. Well, there was a lot I loved. I think my biggest issue is the Part One of it all. It was fun, had great action set pieces, and it did have somewhat of a conclusion, but not having a final triumph over the bad guys left me unsatisfied on the whole.

    I agree with Vern that the car chase in Italy was great. It was very intense. There was a lot of funny stuff in that scene, like Grace driving in a tight circle as she freaks out and then a bigger circle, making Ethan grab the wheel to make her come out of it. Also loved when they rolled the car and ended up back in the wrong seats again. But even with the hijinks, it felt so real. When Ethan was flinching, lifting his leg and clenching his fist at her terrible driving it was hard not to emulate him. I also love the train car action piece at the end where every new car sliding to the edge was a unique adventure.

    I don’t know about the whole AI bad guy, though. That seems lightyears away from the simplicity of having to retrieve the NOC list. I usually prefer a simple plot surrounded by crazy adventure, but I can roll with complex ones as well, but this is a little out there compared to the rest of the series. I honestly think it’s not going to end up being an Evil Computer. I think they’re going to get there and find a man behind the curtain. But I could be wrong. I do like that this super genius AI that has access to all of the world’s intelligence and military data analyzed everything and went, “oh, shit, I need to kill this Ethan guy.” Or do you think he’s got other henchmen out hunting other people? I really liked when Grace asked why Ethan would do so much for her because he doesn’t even know her and he replied with, “Why would that matter?” It’s the perfect little insight into the core of Ethan – that’s just who he is. I agree with Ben that I really didn’t need Gabriel to be a ghost from Ethan’s past. He would’ve had exactly the same motivation just from the actions that took place in this movie. Maybe they needed to give Gabriel a reason to want to go after Ethan so hard.

    I like Grace. I thought she was just the right amount of deceptive thief trying to look out for herself without tipping over to being annoyingly selfish and causing mayhem with her selfishness. The only thing she did that I thought was stupid or wrong was when she took the key and ran after finding out everything she did in the scary John Wick meeting. Maybe she thought she was in the shit now so she needed something to give her an advantage. Still, I would’ve pegged Ethan in the forehead by throwing it at him before running in the opposite direction of them all. I couldn’t help but compare her to Wombat from the latest Indy, who I didn’t think towed that line well at all. I agree with Majestyk that the series doesn’t treat its women the best, but hopefully they do right by her.

    That takes us into ****SPOILER TERRITORY*** I agree with Vern and Majestyk that it really sucks that they killed Ilsa. She really was one of the best characters. But it seemed like she was so awesome by accident. She was in the first movie and Ferguson did such a great job and everyone was all, “oh, shit, she actually has chemistry with Cruise”, who can be a huge chemistry suck. He has charisma on his own, but it often doesn’t work with another person. So then they were like, guess we need to bring her back but couldn’t figure out where to go from there. Which was super annoying and frustrating. You’re absolutely right Vern – they were more than just besties. At least they had a good reason for getting rid of her, like Vern said, with the AI needing to enrage Ethan enough to kill Gabriel, since he could lead him back to his source code. And I like that Ethan respected Ilsa enough to let her go and take care of herself while he went after the civilian. I also like that it was Ilsa’s choice to come save Grace. Still sucks, though.

  6. I like the fact that this series continues to exist and will probably keep going even if this one doesn’t do that well, I like Christopher McQuarrie all the way back to THE USUAL SUSPECTS because I just have some great memories around seeing (and being blown away) by that movie even if it’s hugely problematic now, and I’ve never really cared about Tom Cruise’s particular brand of batshittery because I find it really easy to ignore. But I dunno, while I considered seeing this right away I was so damn exhausted by FALLOUT that I think I’m gonna wait awhile. I don’t think I’ve been that worn out by a movie since the uncut RETURN OF THE KING. It just seemed to go on…and on…and on…and at just 2.5 hours it wasn’t even really that long.

  7. Full Disclosure: I’ve yet to see Dead Reckoning, but found it absolutely (mission) impossible to avoid “OMG! I can’t believe they killed off *fan favorite character* like that!! What are they thinking??? I’m so pisssed!!!!!!!!!!!” from the opening weekend crowd.

    Uhhhh, it’s a movie series currently in it’s SEVENTH installment (not to mention, television show) and a director who both have always been “hahaha you actually fell for that? u so stoopid” since the very beginning.

    I could understand if the movie actually had a story that–y’know–ended. But, seeing that “PART ONE” is in the title, doesn’t that all but guarantee the outrage is probably a little premature??

  8. Maybe, but imagine how bummed everybody will be if they assume that for the next 2-3 years, then watch Part Two and it turns out to not be what they were up to. I don’t want to have that experience.

  9. “Also that mask-making machine must do breast reductions too because COME ON.”

    Hahahahahaha…that’s almost EXACTLY what my wife told me when we watched this:-)

    [Although 25 years ago, FACE/OFF basically strung the line onto which all these suspensions of disbelief can be safely pegged on. I mean, I’m sure Sean Archer got a liposuction but…they then injected all of that fat into Castor Troy???]

    Interesting take although I can’t quite get on board with the women being interchangeable.

    Ilsa is truly Hunt’s equal, a highly trained and resourceful operative but Grace, while a competent thief and possessing admirable street smarts and survival instincts, isn’t operating at a Hunt/Ilsa level which is why it was cool that in the bridge fight, they didn’t have Atwell suddenly go all Agent Carter on Gabriel and she gets her ass kicked.

    [ side note: KayKay’s Pet Peeve #1: A character not established in any way to possess Viking/Ninja/Warrior skills at hand to hand combat suddenly possessing Viking/Ninja/Warrior skills at hand to hand combat during a Boss Fight. Closely followed by KayKay’s Pet Peeve #2: A character who has clearly demonstrated Viking/Ninja/Warrior skills at hand to hand combat for almost half the run time suddenly loses said skills and gets owned like a bitch during the Final Boss Fight)

    But it is clear that Hunt has a Savior Complex, especially when it comes to flawed women.

    But having said that


    They definitely did Ilsa dirty, although the explanation may be far more straightforward i.e Ferguson may have wanted out or like the Bond series this franchise is frequently compared to, the idea is not to give Hunt a steady partner.

    But I hope MI8 does not emulate the by-now annoying habit of another long running franchise and bring her back. It’ll cheapen the character.

    Ilsa went out like a Bad Ass. Let’s keep it that way.

  10. Another thing I liked about MI7:

    They stuck the landing for a Part One. There are unresolved threads which will go into Part 2, but within this movie, it completed it’s own story arc. Hunt takes possession of the key, Gabriel is thwarted (Ethaaaaaaaaan!!!!) and Grace is recruited by Kittridge.

    So, for those who don’t want to pay twice for the same movie and decide they aren’t going to check out Part 2, it’s cool, am sure Hunt and Co will find and destroy the Entity.

    As opposed to some “Oh my God! They’re stranded at the dam! There’s a bomb incoming. Will they survive? Or is this TRULY the end of Dom and Junior Dom??? Stay Tuned!”-type of Soap Opera Finale shit, especially since with the writer’s strike and Diesel’s constant fuckery, I have no idea when we’re getting a Fast 11.

  11. While there is some merit to the opinion that the MI series doesn’t treat it’s female characters all that well, I submit the following, that in spite of Cruise’s no doubt HUGE A-List Ego:

    – In ROGUE NATION, it’s Ilsa who gets the final Boss Fight

    – In FALLOUT, it’s Ilsa who rescues Benji and kicks Solomon’s ass

    – In DEAD RECKONING, it’s Ilsa who saves Grace
    Also: Without the help of Mantis, Hunt would have joined the train at the bottom of the ravine.

    In fact, the number of times Cruise gets saved by women in this latest installment is quite amazing



    SPOILERS even if you’re this far into the comments

    You know, usually killing off a character for dramatic “stakes” feels lazy to me but it didn’t really bother me in this one. Even if it’s really for good she had a good run of 2.5 awesome movies. I sorta sensed she was ok with it and ready to move on. I mean these movies are hard and she’s got other shit to do being awesome in Doctor Sleep and Dune and her Apple TV series Silo.

    Still I’m totally on board for her to be Han’ed but like Vern sorta making peace with the way Part One executed it, no pun intended.

  13. Surprised no one brought up the fact that, after six movies, NOW they reveal that the IMF is a Suicide Squad deal and everyone in it is a reformed supercriminal. Wait, were these all stealth Color of Money sequels all along? It’s fine, they’ve never been particularly consistent with the mythos–I’m just giggly at the thought that Cruise finally watched Skyfall and said “You know what? I need a cool angsty backstory too.”

    And what’s really crazy is that the villain used to be Nicholas Hoult, who is way too young to have been Tom Cruise’s first nemesis, so I assume that after scheduling difficulties and the recast they decided to… half-improv the “this time it’s personal” stakes. Which maybe adds to the feeling of THAT SPOILER being unnecessary, since Hunt already has a personal stake in killing Gabriel to death.

    Anyway–I know Chris McQ has his own way of writing these things by the seat of his pants, and the results speak for themselves, but it’s like he wanted to leave himself room to maneuver, so a lot of this movie feels a bit vague. Briggs implies he has some sort of history with Ethan, but we never get it. Ethan and Gabriel have a history together, but we never get it. I’m sure McQ will come up with some good payoffs to this stuff when the strike’s over and the sequel rolls around, but you hate to see this kind of mystery box, “we’ll figure it out in post” writing infiltrate a series that’s so much better than that.

    If they go “somehow, Jim Phelps returned,” I am OUT.

  14. I guess this is where I come in and talk a little bit about the Norwegian connections in DEAD RECKONING. They filmed the motorcycle jump and the train sequence in Helsetkopen and Åndalsnes here in Norway, with daily reports on TV about what they were up to. And as I see it, busting the myth that Cruise did the stunts himself, but that’s another discussion. They did borrow the train they used for the fight from the government funded railway company, and then built a copy they could crash in England. But the most fun trivia part is that from all the destroyed motorcycles that they tried to ship out, the Mayor of Hellesylt managed to “steal” one that he’s planning on displaying at the town square.

    And my thoughts go out to all the gentlemen who looked at Hayley Atwell wishing she was built less distracting.

  15. Really loved the whole M:I serie and Tom Cruise’s commitment to deliver something special every time… I actually feel bad for him and the whole M:I 7 crew that they got hit by the “Barbie/Oppenheimer” bulldozer… I still thing Fallout is the best of the serie, but I do rate all of them (even M:I 2) very highly… This is a franchise that has kept a high level of quality over 7 episodes so far. I think this one is very good – but like many of you, I was maybe disappointed by what happened to Ilsa and it took me a while to recover from it (waiting for the “ta-daaa!” moment where it would be shown that she is still alive and well)… Just hope they keep doing these films with the same commitment and passion for practical stunts… very few directors/actors are committed to go all in like that. And while I really enjoy Fast X and the silliness of it all, I still prefer the practical (dare I say “realistic”?) way to get us involved in these incredible action sequences.
    And McQ does not get enough credit for that too… Just read an interview in a movie magazine where he was asked about his style, and I thought he had a clever answer saying that he actually does not want to have such an obvious style where you would recognize his film after 5 min… he really wants the story to be the main vehicle to make the movie go forward and it is a nice change (don’t get me wrong – I also love directors who have their signature style… but it is rare to read a director admitting that he does not want the style to become a distraction).

  16. Despite a negative theater experience (no A/C, fire alarm 30 minutes in that stopped the movie for ten minutes, houselights never went back down til the credit rolled), I enjoyed this. I have never loved a Mission Impossible movie, but I always have a good enough time and admire/enjoy the big stunts. Usually, I glaze over the plot while watching or forget it immediately afterwards, but this time I actually found most of the Entity stuff interesting (especially as it parallels Hollywod performers’ [and pretty much everyone else’s] fear of AI, it literally steals Benji’s voice to fuck with Ethan through misinformation!). I totally giggled at the “we’re IN the machine!” bit, but it felt knowingly ridiculous. I actually wasn’t as impressed by the motorcycle jump in the movie as I was watching it in the pre-release behind the scenes video. With all the takes they did and angles they captured I felt like they could have milked it a bit more. But I absolutely loved that instead of a smooth landing, Ethan just Kool Aid mans through the side of the train car at just the right time (the car chase had some great physical comedy too).

    I do think it could have trimmed a few scenes of speechifying and grave concern here or there, or maybe had another smaller-scale action sequence between the two major set pieces. My wife vocalized her boredom a few times because she likes more action-packed movies (your Raids and John Wicks), and I have to admit this felt a lot longer than John Wick 4 despite being six minutes shorter (and I even thought JW4 could have trimmed a few minutes!). Initially she said it would not have even been worth watching if not for being able to stare at the gorgeousity of Hayley Atwell. But in further conversation, even she had to admit the train sequence was pretty fuckin’ awesome (she wasn’t quite as impressed by the car chase), that Pom was great as Paris, and that the movie had a surprising number of laughs. Shea Wigham had what could have mostly been a thankless role that was livened up by his incredulous performance and some funny meta-commentary on the franchise. I have pretty much word-for-word said Wigham’s “He ALWAYS goes rogue!” speech after each sequel’s trailer mentions it like it’s a new plot development. And Wigham grabbing people’s faces and fish-hooking their mouths to pull off their “masks” made me laugh every time.

    Sexy lady sidebar: Pom as Mantis became probably my favorite character by the end of the Guardians series, and it was cool to see her in another genre role with a different vibe. Her glee at smashing through all those cars were infectious, her wailing on Ethan with a pipe was awesome, and every outfit she had was amazing (I would have liked to seen more of the green plaid skirt/stockings/leather jacker combo for… reasons). I have been in love with Hayley Atwell since the first Cap movie, and I am still bummed out Agent Carter got cancelled. In this flick she was probably one of the least sexualized action heroines ever (even compared to this series and Ilsa’s sexy sniper dress), and yet Hayley Atwell in a completely covering and tailored-but-not-tight pantsuit still had me swooning.

    *SPOILERS* (just started posting here, don’t know if there is a spoiler hiding tag) I was initially bummed that Ilsa died (both times!), but if Paris joins the team next time and Grace sticks around, I can’t be too mad at it. And I think Ilsa really IS dead, because they already faked her death once at the beginning of the movie. Even for this series, two fake outs in the same movie would be a bit much. And thematically its important because usually Ethan DOES save everyone despite the odds, so it gives the second part (and possibly final movie?) a bit more weight if Ethan actually has to accomplish the mission even though he couldn’t save/avenge someone.* END SPOILERS*

  17. Gotta admit, pretty let down by this one after loving the last two. I think while so much of the action is great and I fucking LOVED seeing Kittridge again (Henry Czerny is next level here), I found the pacing to be a nightmare, the AI villain plot to just be too silly (and will age like milk once people realize we are not in fact on the brink of a Terminator apocalypse) and the “only one brunette at a time” shit really grated on me. I will forgive the absence of our queen Angela Bassett as long as she shows up in the next one (that’s the job). I didn’t hate this by any stretch but the most uneven outing since Part II for me.

  18. I liked this movie a lot. Had a great time. You would have to have an enormous bug up your ass to not have a good time with this movie.
    Of the current, modern stretch of MI movies (MI4-MI7), this one has the most gobblediegook plot by a mile, and that is saying something. I saw this in an opening preview and posted on Facebook that the plot is a mess, only to get a bunch of “yeah, that’s why we see MI movies, for the plot. You dumbass” comments. I get that.
    But for a series that seemed to always know, deep down, that no one would ever remember what the plot was after viewing one of these films, MI7 spends a lot of time on it. A LOT of time. There are a lot of pee break moments in this one. I kept wanting to scream in the theater “BLAH BLAH BLAH, shoot someone already! Lets see a chase!”
    And I seem to be in the minority, but I thought this one had a big villain problem. I didn’t care much for Esai Morales in this one, and I still have no idea what his motivation is. Did these people get hypnotized by staring at The Entity’s screen too long? It just didn’t work for me at all. I watched MI: Fallout again after seeing this, and Henry Cavil is the reason that film is the best of the series. MI3 has problems, but PSHoffman takes that film to another level. The big bad in this movie is a computer program. It just isn’t good thinking.
    But at the end of the day, there are some next level action scenes in this one (bad beat for Indiana Jones getting one-upped, more like five-upped, with a lights-out train sequence just weeks after its release). And I defy you to find a greater foursome of female performers than we get here (pornhub don’t count). Can’t wait to see this again, but I will have a heavy fast-forward trigger finger when I do.
    Cannot wait for the next one. Dopey move not to budge off of the weekend before Barbenheimer. This was only in my local IMAX for 6 days.

  19. Am I the only one who thinks it’s weird that NONE of this film was shot in IMAX, not even the big action set pieces? Meanwhile, Florence Pugh is reading Sanskrit naked in 70mm IMAX (which I’m not complaining about) over in Oppenheimer. I mean, what are we doing guys?

  20. Chuck – In case you haven’t read this, Bassett was originally supposed to be in the meeting of intelligence heads at the beginning (instead of Kittridge I guess, since she was head of the CIA?) but couldn’t travel where she needed to because of COVID restrictions. McQuarrie said in an interview that he still wants to bring her character back.

  21. I loved this movie.

    My only disappointment with it is the thing Vern expressed in his postscript. That was a development I didn’t want but strongly suspected from the trailers (*spoiler comment below).

    Jasper Briggs’ How-Badass-is-Ethan? speech on the utility plane was a classic addition to the genre, but still doesn’t catch R. Lee Emmy’s seminal entry in ON DEADLY GROUND.

    Spoiler comment down there

    *A lot of times you can tell from a trailer that an actor isn’t in the whole movie, and in this case in particular, trailer shots placed Haley Atwell on marks that seemed like they would have belonged to Rebecca Ferguson if she were around.

  22. Jules, I sensed that too so I guess I was mentally prepared.

  23. Vern, that’s a relief to hear and glad to know they’re looking to bring her back next time. It seemed like Carey Elwes took her slot in this one and no offense to the man, but that’s not an even trade.

  24. This was great fun. I had formulated the gist of my thoughts before reading the comments, and Adam Cureton is closest to my wavelength. Hayley Atwell is the sexiest working actress by a wide margin. More generally, this film belongs to the ladies, as all four of the main women are super-cool badasses, each one sexy, tough, cunning, and generally awesome in her own way. Each of them is completely delightful. Paris might be my favorite character, and honestly, Elsa is cool but probably for me the least compelling of the four (which is to say, extremely compelling).

    I was initially a little depressed about how little they give Ving to do, and when he first started reading in Grace, I thought, oh man, this is going to be kind of a cringe obligatory “Ving needs a little moment” type of … little moment, but then Ving elevates it to an actually compelling moment, so, I’m glad for that.

    Loved the weirdo they cast for the Cary Elwes-Kitteridge agency heads meeting — Willem Dafoe and Neal McDonough and Christoph Waltz had a creepy-ass love child. Good stuff!!

    Esai Morales — I like to see him getting a role like this. It’s like if they decided to cast Malik Yoba as the bad guy or something. I like it!

    The AI plot is cartoonishly silly and veers into camp, and. And. I am here for it, 100%. This is like McQuarrie was getting frequent notes and suggestions from both Brian DePalma and the ghost of Joel Schumacher.

    Probably my favorite scene is that grotto showdown battle with Paris and Ethan. Very nicely shot and surprisingly powerful.

    10 thumbs. Tom Cruise, helping save movies one ridiculous stunt at a time. Let this be a lesson to you: Scientology is true.

    Okay, not that, but still, good job, Tom.

  25. I enjoyed it. It manages to be engaging and not feel like its length, and has a good new villain in Gabriel, and supporting character/possible new regular, even lead(?) in Grace. My main issues though:


    -Punting the actual details of Ethan’s past off to the next film it seems kinda robs the animosity with Gabriel of stakes a bit, and you knew the latter wasn’t going to die until that stuff has been explained
    -Ilsa felt really underserved in this one, and not just because of her death. Her being a woman without a country again just begs the question of what happened after Fallout. You’d think she’d just be offered the Choice to be an IMF agent too, but there’s not a of context to the place she was at.
    -I feel like I’ve been hearing variations of the “You’re an analogue player in a digital world. The Game Has Changed. It’s not about people these days, it’s about computers and you can’t keep up with the future!” speech in these sort of movies for the last twenty years at this point.
    -Similarly, supposed spy movies and TV shows these days seem less to be about Spycraft and more about how the protagonist gets set up or realises their superior has been compromised and they have to go rogue to sort shit out, leading to sequences where they have to outsmart tactical teams hunting them rather than actually do spy shit like steal secrets or gather intel. It’s wild to think that M:I 2 is the only movie in this series where Ethan Hunt isn’t Disavowed.

  26. Also, I cannot arrive at a place remotely approaching emotional attachment to any of these characters, hence, that main death did not register with me as anything more than a plot point. These films are so ridiculous and exist in such a heightened reality, the characters are either ultra-arch or extremely thinly drawn (or a bit of both), and literally everyone but Ethan is expendable or disposable — even Ving got bounced for most of GHOST PROTOCOL b/c I think they didn’t offer him enough of a role or money or whatever it was and then I think he flinched. No one has a remotely developed life story or robust inner life — these are cool action figure characters. Ethan Hunt himself is and always has been a total nothingburger cypher of a character who has no identifiable inner life or lasting development as a person — He’s like Tom Cruise’s public persona (and possibly his actual personality) as a character. He is like Captain America but without the backstory or the ENDGAME resolution. Of course, the exception is that little family man swerve they tried to pull off in MII that never stuck and always felt more like well-executed emotional manipulation sleight of hand than anything series, which is how all tears or emotion in this film feel — the acting equivalent of special effects, never having any lasting gravity, because all these people do is kick, punch, jump, take off masks, and clickety clack at keyboards or bombs. Getting you momentarily attached to Felicity in part III is a great example of this — it’s pure emotional manipulation to make the villain more compelling, but it lacks any kind of real lasting weight. Brant, Emilio Estevez, Paula Patton, Jean Reno, Maggie Q, Fishburne, Pegg (not in the first two), Thandie Newton, Baldwin.

    And the films are no worse for it. They could kill Benji and Luther and that would stick for about 5 solemn minutes, but then depending on who else they brought into the mix, it’d still be fine as far as I’m concerned. I enjoy them, but these are not character-driven stories, and these are barely even characters.

    No judgment if one really is emotionally invested in any of these characters. Help me understand. I’m not even remotely invested in Ethan, it’s just that he is the through line of these films, because these films are nothing but Tom Cruise being good at doing Tom Cruise things.

  27. (Possible spoilers) When I saw the trailer for M:I:DR last year in which Rebecca Ferguson only appeared in very brief flashes while Hayley Atwell was riding in the car with Cruise, I already suspected as much that her character was going to be written off. So as much as I hated the idea that such a badass character (not to mention the only boba fife female lead in the series) would be killed off, I had been bracing myself for it’s inevitability. In fact, I thought they were going to short change her right at the beginning to make way for the new girl. It’s almost like the longest foreshadowing.

    What bothered me the most was not the decision either way, but the way it is purposely vague. Part of me (and my principle as a film lover) tells me just to enjoy what it is. It’s the filmmakers’ story and my participation is simply to pay the admission and go along with the ride. If they feel this serves the story the best and the almost unavoidable toxic fandom backslash be damned, so be it. But I felt I was even given that.

    (1) If Ilsa is really gone for good, she didn’t not get the send-off that she truly deserves for such a quintessential character. It needs to feel like a guy punch, if not a decisive below-the-belt punch that makes me want to gouge Gabriel’s eyes out while shrieking from the pain – the kind of dread I got from the cabin scene near the end of Fallout. Instead, it was brushed off so quickly. One may argue that is the life of IMF, you never have too much time to mourn for your fallen teamsters. But given the fact that the franchise has allowed ample, if all too brief, tender moments of Ethan and Ilsa, and the fact Ethan had gone through all that trouble to fake her death in act I, it felt oddly unbalanced.

    (2) if all this was a big fake-out, then it is all too obvious to the point that I am hating myself for expecting, no, wanting Ilsa’s return in part II. If it does happen, I know I will welcome it, yet at the same time i know I won’t be getting the same kind of goosebumps when (retro spoiler of something else) Sam said “on your left” to Captain America in his earpiece.

    I guess the whole movie is like the motorbike jump – it is a monumental achievement regardless, but it’s been hyped up so much that even its awesomeness seems underwhelming when it happens. I realized that I was so insatiable that I was unreasonably disappointed that it wasn’t a one continuous shot of him diving down and parachuting into the train, simply because I have already seen him flying off the ramp for real on YouTube thousands of times before I saw the movie. Perhaps for the next installment they ought to hold out all the behind-the-scenes promotions until after the initial wave of audience have seen the film, with stunts that are just gobsmackingly out-of-this-world batshit, and have the fans all going “wait, there’s no way he actually did that!!” Only to find out later that yep, that crazy MF is crowdfunding his death wish in some brand new way again.

    “Crowdfunding his death wish” — that is hilarious.

    Granting that others are more attached to Rebecca Ferguson than I am, I can see how this would smart. Curious — is some of that just attraction to her (not pure sexual attraction, but, like, semi-purehearted pining)? Like, I had a major movie crush and irrational protective feeling toward Nicole Kidman in the 2000s (and still somewhat), so, if she was in the Elsa role, I’d have felt some sort of way about it, probably. Likewise, I’ve acknowledged I have a little thing for Hayley Atwell, so, if they keep her in the mix for two more movies and kill her off mostly unceremoniously, I probably will feel some sort of way about that. But that will be because of a weird yearning machine inside of me, not because of any realistic expectation that this film will meaningfully honor or maintain allegiance to literally anyone but Tom Cruise. Like, is there a niche group of people with a primal crush on Jeremy Renner that is too deep for proper words … who boycotted FALLOUT?

    I also concede that this film is a bit sloppier and sillier than the last one and maybe feels a bit too “saying the quiet part out loud” as far as the fact that these movies do not care about anything but Tom Cruise and spectacle (they are Tom Cruise productions with Tom Cruise as lead and Tom Cruise’s hand-picked henchmen writer-directors and where, as I tried to show above, every supporting character has irrefutable franchise history evidence of his/her exependability). I think the dual-use technology that is Tom Cruise is that he’s clearly a perfectionistic, workaholic, overwhelmingly intense control freak who might not be an actual human (like, eye contact with him seems like it would be a creepy experience) and clearly has difficulty functioning in relationships where he is not in total control and the complete center of attention. But then he mostly uses those powers to do amazing stunts and pursue theatrical experiences that confer considerable join on tens of millions of people over a 40-year period, so, I don’t know.

  29. Ok…am just gonna throw this one out here on account of all these ‘Ethan Hunt=Nothingburger” comments:

    How much of it is because you project Cruise’s real-life persona onto Hunt?

    I posit that John Wick and Robert McCall are equally blank slates as characters who don’t get this crap. Both grieving widowers, one races cars and the other reads books in their downtime when they’re not doing their part to keep mortuary freezers at full occupancy.

    But one happens to be played by Hollywood’s Nicest Guy, the other a Serious, Take No Shit ACT-TOR, neither of whom jump on couches, are part of an organization tagged as a Cult or have 3 ex-wives with a Gag Order.

    And therefore escape this weird standard of Layered Complexity that Ethan Hunt is supposed to meet?

    Any of you watched the old MI TV show? How much “depth” do you think Peter Graves’ Jim Phelps had?

  30. I don’t think Hunt needs to meet any standard of layered complexity — he just doesn’t therefore I care about what he does being cool but not about him. Who said that he needs to meet such a standard or that the MI films are in some sense inferior to the EQUALIZER films? Not me that I know of.

  31. I was merely reacting to this comment

    “Ethan Hunt himself is and always has been a total nothingburger cypher of a character who has no identifiable inner life or lasting development as a person”

    And the point I was making (just taking 2 other franchise heroes as example) was that this could apply to a lot of action heroes.

    Someone else (forget who and am too lazy to scroll up) used words like “cypher” to describe the character of Hunt and was curious as to why he’s singled out for this and if it had anything to do with the actor playing him.

  32. Okay, stipulating that I don’t necessarily consider the EQUALIZER films better (certainly not more enjoyable) than the MI films, and stipulating that I don’t think being a “total nothingburger” (some hyperbole in that, of course) is necessarily a bad thing, and stipulating that I do not think Robert McCall is some incredibly deeply textured and complex character … I will go ahead and take the bait and elaborate my thinking on Ethan Hunt AND then press the case that McCall nevertheless is a more fully fleshed out and human character.

    I’m setting aside part III for now, so, for shorthand sake, when I say “Ethan Hunt is…” you can take that as shorthand for “Ethan Hunt, at least in MI1, 2, and 4-7, is…”

    Ethan Hunt of parts 1,2, 4-7:
    1. Has no identifiable interests, hobbies, life projects, civic or community ties, or non-work-related relationships that get any appreciable screen time.
    2. Has no identifiable flaws or foibles that would not also qualify as “humble brags.” (viz., perfectionism, cares too much)
    3. Is pretty much always doing official or otherwise super-high-stakes mission stuff or cleaning up the fall-out (no pun) of such stuff.
    4. Is pretty much never just pondering, reflecting, sorting through feelings, and if he is, it lasts about 15 seconds and seems obligatory and perfunctory (insert Ethan ponders seen here; is 7 seconds enough? great).
    5. Spends very little time sitting still period anywhere ever unless he is actively planning his next mission objective or how to get out of a jam (or on a train or plane).
    6. Does not interact with or emotionally invest in children defined as anyone below the age of 18.
    7. Acts from an unspecified sense of mission or duty or code or loyalty whose ultimate philosophical or life history or patriotic underpinnings/motivation seem unclear. His motives seem to exist on the level of insect-like biological hardwiring or Robocop-like programming.
    8. Does not appear to experience doubt, inner conflict, depression, anxiety (other than the situation-based performance anxiety that an athlete experiences), ethical conflict, spiritual growth, curiosity about the human condition, etc.
    9. Does not grow or change his outlook as a person or learn significant new things that change him (largely because he is and always has been shown being good-lucking and holistically awesome). Plot-driven and ultimately arbitrary and disposable loyalty reversals and betrayals don’t count.
    10. The onscreen portrayal of his relationships is simultaneously highly intense and highly shallow — emotional intimacy, self-disclosure, and vulnerability are not a part of his psychological repertoire. Tom Cruise’s unrelenting intensity of facial expressions (and capacity to produce his own brand of angry tears) is easy to mistake for actual inner life or an actual vulnerability or mutuality in a relationship, but he almost never seems actually vulnerable.
    12. Does not engage in small talk or non-task-oriented relationship-building of any kind.
    13. Is almost always in control and at the helm and has the upper hand, unless he is currently escaping peril, saving someone else from peril, or otherwise seeking to re-establish the upper hand.
    14. Relates to almost every woman or man on his team from a position of authority, strength, and savior-dom — almost everyone around him is in some sense either a damsel or a sidekick or an underling or an opponent or a bureaucrat or a protege/junior person. He needs no one that is not replaceable and even those ostensibly closest to him are ultimately disposed of.
    15. Is relentlessly, almost comically committed to the physical to the relative neglect expense relative to the relational, emotional, aesthetic, cognitive, etc.
    16. Is hard to envision in retirement or in a joe job.

    Treat my use of words like “never” as hyperbole –> “almost never” or “so rarely that it is strange or unbalanced when you think about it.” And recall my acknowledgement that MI-III represents some notable departures from this characterization, but some of it still holds or has purchase for that film, and the fact that MI-III exists as a weird aberration or failed experiment in grounding Ethan in my mind underscores rather than refutes the general characterization I am laying out: The attempt to humanize and ground Ethan was quickly and deliberately abandoned and did not reflect a long-term commitment or level of consistency in establishing an inner or non-mission outer life for him.

    Robert McCall
    1. Has outside interests, including literature or poetry and seems to do a fair amount of contemplating.
    2. Is laid-back and can be relaxed — he can sit still and generally is not in a rush unless he needs to be.
    3. Quickly becomes interested in and invested in his neighborhood and especially the youth. He is a natural and winning and authentically altruistic mentor. He also is more interested in building and speaking into others’ lives than in saving them or being needed by them (though he still sometimes saves them and is needed by them).
    4. He exudes and demonstrates wisdom and compassion about the human condition, pain, and he cares about the inner lives of others, including old friends and rivals, etc.
    5. He can needle people in amusing and commanding ways that rely on sheer gravitas vs. intensity (think of his confrontation seen with Pedro in II).
    6. He seeks out community and has a fatherly/avuncular quality.
    7. He is deeply attuned to and interested in the psychology and inner life of those around him and uses that psychology.
    8. He exudes a deep compassion for suffering people and wants to see people grow and does not “need to be needed” or need to be at the center of the action. He takes jobs here and there and sometimes trouble finds him.
    9. He takes smaller-scale, personal jobs, where the individual human element is front and center and has a face and a family, as opposed to the abstract “this computer chip will end the world” type of mission.

    To be clear, I never asserted prior to this thread that McCall is a deeper or better character. But he is.

    Now, are the

  33. …EQUALIZER films superior films or superior entertainment to the MI films, including this MI film? No, I don’t think I’d say that. I enjoy both for what they are, and I don’t need a running-jumping-punching-damsel-saving hero to have emotional and psychological layers to enjoy him. That’s kind of Ethan’s whole schtick. He’s a national treasure of a nothingburger.

  34. Also, I was the one who called him both a “cypher” and “nothingburger,” which are kind of pejorative-sounding, but I endeavored to make clear from context/surrounding comments that I like the films and that this is more just the DNA of the character (and part of what makes him work as all-action-all-motion-all-the-time man). A lot of action hero characters are very thinly conceptualized like Ethan is, and to some extent or in some films, this can be a plus, since there is zero narrative or emotional drag — it’s all forward motion and action with no time for psychological or narrative depth. Not necessarily a bad thing, and for the MI films, it’s “feature, not bug” arguably.

    Now, as far as “was curious as to why he’s singled out for this and if it had anything to do with the actor playing him.” When I said this earlier:

    “Ethan Hunt…has no identifiable inner life or lasting development as a person — He’s like Tom Cruise’s public persona (and possibly his actual personality) as a character.”

    I think that should indicate pretty clearly that I think it absolutely has everything to do with the actor playing him, who also is the producer, who hand-picked the writer, and who clearly exerts a kind of meta-auteurical ultimate creative control and ownership over this franchise (and much of his film career more broadly). Ethan Hunt is Tom Cruise’s Rocky Balboa. And I think the qualities of Ethan Hunt that Tom Cruise has carefully worked to center and develop and elaborate — including the weird blurring of Cruise himself becoming more and more Ethan Hunt-like with his zany stunts over the course of films — tells you a great deal directly and subtextually about what Tom Cruise values, how we views and relates to others, and who he thinks he is or aspires to be — with the line between metaphor and literal in that “who he aspires to be” becoming increasingly blurry over the last 20 years.

  35. Maybe I’m just going off the first movie, which is actually trying to be a real, Le Carre spy movie, but Ethan Hunt always struck me as a study in contradictions. He’s a Captain America boy scout type, yet he lusts after his boss’s wife, works for a shady government organization, and easily hobnobs with treacherous arms dealers. Then in Dead Reckoning, he’s revealed to be a La Femme Nikita (…I don’t know enough French to regender that, sorry). So he’s a shady spy who is really a noble paladin who is really a reformed criminal.

    His characterization is generally expressed through action rather than wordy dialogue, with a few exceptions. I’m in the feature not bug category there. I don’t need Tom Cruise to deliver some Mike Flanagan monologue about his childhood to have an idea of who he is as a person.

  36. Same! I think it would be a drag. Honestly, I enjoy and appreciate the one-off / experiment that was MI-III. With that film, we have the “what if Ethan actually had a life outside of work and cared about things other than work?” thought experiment as part of the shaggy, unwieldy, heightened reality, only loosely interested in any sort of verisimilitude or internal coherence 25+-year odyssey that is these films and this character. I’m here for it, and I’m also here for the fact that we’ve returned to our regular scheduled program of Ethan being nothing but an action figure. I just can’t give a shit about any of the characters for more than 5 minutes, because neither does this series. Clearly! And that’s okay with me, I read the label and know what I’m getting. The films primarily (again, MI-III being the aberration) are about set pieces and Ethan doing ridiculous intense dangerous shit. I don’t want Ethan or James bond to spend 30 minutes reconnecting with his estranged daughter or long-lost father getting all feely and shit — not at this point and not without PSH in the mix. MI4-7 aren’t the WRESTLER, and I don’t need them to be. On the other hand, when a film like INDY 5 or the EQUALIZER series does make room for mortality and angst and feelings and contemplation and what-does-it-all-mean-ism, I’m here for that, too, because it works in those films. But I don’t need every film to do that, and I certainly don’t need MI to do that at this stage — it might fall flat on its face or be a net loss if they tried.

    In conclusion, if I say I like the film, I like the film. If I tear it apart and say hyperbolic-sounding, provocative, pot-stirring idiosyncratic shit about it, you can be sure it’s at least some degree hyperbolic and a rough cut that is open for further debate and refinement but that I think there is some genuine insight in there somewhere. YMMV of course.

  37. I was extremely hyped for this, took the day off work to see it ASAP on the biggest screen, aaaand I thought it was fine. Feels like a bit of a disappointment. But I also felt a little let down by FALLOUT at first, and that one really grew on me, so I’m hoping the same will happen here. I liked a lot of little gags and touches. But a lot of the plot felt like wheel (or plate?) spinning, playing who’s-got-the-key and all that. Every scene just a little shaggier than it needed to be (yet the stunts are glossed over too quickly!) and every line of dialogue just a skosh too clunky. I get that Cruise and McQ film these movies like Hunt and company perform their missions– the plan goes awry, they improvise, it congeals into something great– but the alchemy felt off this time. I love the metafictional aspect of Tom Cruise fighting Al G Rhythm for the future of movies/the world (the living manifestation of destiny vs the omniscient immovable object), but onscreen the bad guys don’t have the energy of Solomon Lane, Henry Cavill, or PSH. I wasn’t happy with the backstory retcons of the team, either. And I really didn’t like that one plot point, you know the one. Also feels like they’re building up to a new M:I team to take over for the old one– Briggs, Paris (coincidentally those two having names of characters from the TV series), Grace, whoever Greg Tarzan Davis was playing. But that didn’t work out with Ghost Protocol, and I don’t know if it will work out here.

    Here’s what I did like: Hayley Atwell is wonderful, a healthy breath of fresh air. Grace is capable in some respects but not others, in over her head but determined, etc., and Atwell does a great job at commanding our attention throughout. Pom Klementieff is also very good with what she has to work with, playing something quite different from her great turn as Mantis in GOTG3. There were also a lot of weird little details I dug, like Shea Wigham pulling on everyone’s face, the gags with the Fiat, etc. I realize it’s only a Part 1, so I’m hoping Part 2 dazzles me and retroactively improves this one, once we can see the chess moves.

  38. Man I loved this one and thought it was the best Mission by a mile. We binge watched the entire franchise and even though I like them all now (sorry but 2 keeps getting better and better with each watch), I’ll have to admit every single one (even the best ones) seem to be missing something or another. They all feel hampered by rewrites or reshoots, or underdeveloped characters, or weak villains. You have to give this series concessions and mulligans in ways that you don’t have to with alot of other big budget franchises. But I feel they finally got the formula right and Part 8 is the total package. Cruise and his supporting cast are at their most likable, the action sequences are at their most spectacular, and I kinda felt this one was paced a lot smoother and dragged alot less than the others (apparently I’m alone since most people including my wife felt this one was the most bloated and most boring).

    SPOILER re: THAT big development. Yes, it’s exactly what I thought it was as soon as I saw the trailer and the cast was revealed. But I’m weirdly ok with it. I seem to be in the minority thinking Ilsa seemed weirdly checked out and distant in Fallout, so I actually liked her alot better here (I mean, nothing’s going to top her debut in Rogue Nation, c’mon). But here some of the warmth and charm was back, and I’m glad she went out like a boss. (Even though yes, Rogue Nation Ilsa would have snapped Gabriel’s neck in about 5 seconds). Ferguson’s career is clearly doing fine (weird to think she made a splash in 2015, the same year as Daisy Ridley, yet she’s in like, 20 more movies than Ridley is). I understand this is a literal textbook definition of fridging, but yeah, it somehow works. I guess I can love the character of Apollo Creed but I can still love Rocky IV at the same time, if that makes any sense.

  39. neal2zod: A textbook fridging is a female character whose only reason to exist is to be killed as motivation for the male hero. Ilsa Faust was a full partner and co-protagonist / antagonist in 3 films. A well-developed character with strongly established skills and motivations. She makes a deliberate choice to take on the role of hero to save Grace, even though she knows she might not make it out of that fight alive. Like a true Impossible Mission Force, Ilsa Faust does it anyway.

    The movie itself makes this implicit when Grace says, “she died because of me.” Luther sets her straight: “No, you’re alive because of her.”

    Fantastic storytelling! And to my mind it’s a purposeful—and successful—attempt to avoid making this a fridging.

    Also, I’m in camp “Yes, Ilsa Faust is actually dead.” The movie also makes the effort to assure us of this by pre-emptively doing a fakeout death for her at the start of this very film. Bringing her back would cheapen her character’s sacrifice.

  40. King – Yeah, I guess what I meant was that it’s kinda weird the movie hangs a lampshade on it and specifically says out loud that the villains are killing a female character solely to motivate Ethan. I’m sure it was done as some kind of meta narrative (like the whole human vs AI thing in the first place), but you can’t deny it’s odd they just said the quiet part out loud. (I also don’t like that the Sentient AI is smart enough to calculate events down to the second, but makes two giant mistakes at the end predicting what Paris and Ethan will do, but I’ll reserve judgment till M:I 8 comes out)

    And again, the whole thing would have been disastrous if Grace was an annoying, irritating Scrappy Doo late-addition character, but Atwell and the writers make her charming and likable in a way the Marvel movies/shows never really could. Look, Ilsa is a great, badass character but they’ve kept her so low-key and mysterious I couldn’t actually see her headlining one of these movies. But I can absolutely see Grace growing over the course of these, becoming a better spy and fighter, taking over the reigns from Ethan, and 5 years from now we’ll have endless press junkets and BTS packages for M:I 9 about how Atwell really swam with a shark or bungee jumped off The Golden Gate Bridge or whatever. Maybe they offered the future lead role to Ferguson first and she just wasn’t interested in going that direction with her career, who knows. But I’m definitely excited for the next one and (hopefully) the ones after that.

  41. I would argue that in previous stories Ilsa had a purpose of her own—she had agency, goals, even an arc—but in this one she exists solely to die so that the male hero can be motivated to make a choice. That’s textbook fridging, and the filmmaker’s efforts to weasel out of it by hanging a lantern on it only make it stand out more.

    This might not be such a big deal if the movie were better but three weeks later it’s the only thing that stands out. When I got out of FALLOUT, there were multiple parts I couldn’t wait to see again. This one has none. When I revisit it, it’ll always be The One Where They Kill Ilsa For No Reason.

  42. “Ferguson’s career is clearly doing fine (weird to think she made a splash in 2015, the same year as Daisy Ridley, yet she’s in like, 20 more movies than Ridley is”

    Research has shown this is due to Ferguson possessing oodles of acting talent and bucketloads of charm with charisma and screen presence to boot.

    Daisy Ridley has a mouth full of teeth.

  43. KayKay – Oh don’t get me wrong, there’s no comparison. Ferguson is so good (and yes, beautiful) I’ll watch anything she’s in. Even if that means sitting through Men in Black 4 and The Snowman. Hell, she’s the only reason I kept watching Silo after it started to spin its wheels and bore the hell out of me (before coming back with a great finale, that is).

    I guess I’m just surprised Ridley, ostensibly the lead actress in the biggest movie of all time, hasn’t had much work outside of Murder on the Orient Express and Chaos Walking. You think she’d at least get a Keira Knightley after Pirates 1-style career push, with a mix of blockbusters and Oscar bait period pieces or y’know SOMETHING. Plus it’s not like she WROTE the shitshow that was Episode 9 or anything. The acting by the leads in the Sequel Trilogy was never one of the problems for me.

  44. neal made me curiou so I checked…actually counting each movie that made them big which both happened to be in 2015, they each have exactly 20 released credits. Now Ridley does a lot of voice stuff and Star Wars things, but seems like plenty of other shit and a number of upcomers, a lot of various stuff while Ferguson is all sequels or second season of Silo. Ferguson seems to have done more big stuff but possibly you could compare playing a relatively small supporting role to a video game voice. So I imagine they’re both doing alright. Ferguson does seem like the more varied actor but I do like Ridley too.

  45. Oh yeah…Ferguson is gorgeous, and coupled with genuine acting talent makes her an absolute joy to watch.

    I find Ridley to be phenomenally charmless and it doesn’t help that whenever she smiles, I’m reminded of the Mouth Of Sauron, with slightly better dental work. Kinda like Keira Knightly but Knightly possesses more acting range

    She definitely can’t be faulted for the atrocious writing of the atrocious sequel trilogy, but I wager that an actress with more charm and screen presence would have made it all go down easier.

    Like, TASM2 is not even a movie I like all that much, but Emma Stone is sooooo flat out adorable I nearly bawled when Gwen Stacy died.

    And it’s been proven that actors starring in huge franchises don’t necessarily move on to mega stardom. Remember Orlando Bloom? Dude had the pirates AND the Rings Trilogy at one point, not to mention high profile epics like TROY and KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. The Harry Potter leads haven’t really hit it big, although Radcliffe, like Chris Evans seems to have made a conscious choice to go down a more indie route.

    CHAOS WALKING may have put a bump on Ridley’s road to stardom. I haven’t seen it yet but it needs to go on some “Things To Avoid” syllabus for aspiring film-makers and actors. How did an action fantasy starring 2 Leads fresh off the 2 hottest franchises on the planet and helmed by the director of THE BOURNE IDENTITY, MR & MRS SMITH & THE EDGE OF TOMORROW bomb so hard? At least Holland had the Billion Dollar Grossing NO WAY HOME and the decently successful UNCHARTERED to bounce back from, but it could be years before we get the next promised STAR WARS movie.

  46. Yeah, Bloom could do franchises but never became huge really…but in a way that makes sense, he’s the nominal lead in Pirates but next to Johnny Depp anyone is going to be wallpaper, and he’s supporting in Rings. I think the Harry Potter kids ended up about where they ought to…like you said, Radcliffe is going out of his way to make weird shit that will have a limited audience so he never quite got tested, and Emma Watson has like 75 MILLION Insta followers…shes huge, but is super picky and doesn’t barely do movies. If she wanted to I’m sure she could, but she says herself she doen’t feel like acting much, and probably helped Little Women do so well…of course along with the quality of it. But that movie made a ton of cash witrhout even any lasers or superheroes. And whatshisname Weasley was never going to be a star either way, but he seems to be doing well enough.

    What’s kind of weird is Alden Enerwhatever, star of SOlo and then…pfffht. But Disney seems more interested in doing shows to get people to buy Disney Plus, and I’m sure they lean on Star Wars because Mandalorian was their first huge hit, plus you don’t really need huge stars for them, Star Wars is the star. Marvel’s kind of the same way but really the shows are mostly B or C listers, until they finally got Sam Jackson to star in one. But no way would they have gotten Robert Downey Jr. to do one. So their shows feel a bit smaller to me.

    Hard to think who even IS a star nowadays. I feel like Jenna Ortega is a genuine huge new star with actual name value.

  47. I don’t think we actually have to compare actors who never even shared the screen together, but it is pretty interesting how certain careers develope. If you think about it, from the original STAR WARSes only Harrison Ford became a huge star and that probably only because he also did INDIANA JONES. Both Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher had maybe less than five noticable roles until the sequel trilogy gave them a huge career resurgence and they were suddenly more popular than ever.

    It’s also interesting how two of Doug Liman’s biggest bombs starred STAR WARS actors (The other being Hayden Christensen in JUMPER), so maybe he won’t cast any of those in his movies anymore.

    I’m glad that the HARRY POTTER kids do so well though. None of them even had to play themself as wacky out-of-touch-with-reality caricatures who constantly make Potter puns in a sitcom yet.

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