Okay, let’s just come out with it. It’s now clear: Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie are cinema’s greatest love affair. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor? Pah. Mere fumbling amateurs. These two are going steady for life. It’s a joy to behold.
Cruise was once a promiscuous Mission player, hiring a different director each time, but after working with McQuarrie on 2015’s outstanding Rogue Nation he settled down. Dead Reckoning Part One is further testament to just how much director and star are in tune, travelling the world together in search of bigger thrills, egging each other on with kamikaze nerve. You’ve probably already seen the footage of Cruise’s cliff-defying motorbike jump, McQuarrie gleefully looking on. These two will do anything for each other. And for our entertainment.
Following on from Fallout’s fallout, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt must now pick up the pieces, sizing up what this whole Mission malarkey means, and what it’s worth. With a properly sinister A.I. foe dismantling the world’s infrastructure, and with all sorts of pesky do-gooders and do-badders on Ethan’s tail, so begins a sprawling cat and mouse game, with some ingenious twists on the series’ tropes (an early airport sequence is an absolute box of delights, throwing mischievous digital face-mapping in with the old latex-mask shenanigans). And here, McQuarrie has made the most tactile Mission yet. The big chase in the little Fiat puts you so shudderingly close to the action, you feel like you’re being constantly smashed up. Have you ever had whiplash from watching a film before? Brace yourself.
Mission once again proves that balls-to-the-wall action films don't have to be mindless.
Every set-piece is a joy, even though there’s a slight nagging sense, here and there, of deja-vu. The same could be said of the film’s flesh-and-bones villain, Esai Morales’ Gabriel, the human face of the more abstract A.I. threat, giving Ethan someone to punch on top of trains. Gabriel is a solid but somewhat serviceable character, and certainly not as memorable as Henry Cavill’s fist-reloading bastard in Fallout. But Fallout is the highest of bars. And as Dead Reckoning Part One hurtles into its third act, everything ramps up, the stakes getting deadlier, the tension getting tenser, Mission once again proving that balls-to-the-wall action films don’t have to be mindless, or humourless, or stupid.
27 (!) years and seven films in, this saga — like its star — looks set to run and run, barely stopping for breath. Cruise will keep going until he’s just physically too old to do it anymore. Which by his standards is probably around 110. Good. Keep ‘em coming.