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Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One - Mission unconditionally accepted

Unless you're an extra-terrestrial who just landed on Earth, or have been living under a rock, or get your facts only from Fox News or Republic TV (both of which are populated by aliens of the slimy wormy kind masquerading as journalists), there's no way you haven't already seen the literally death-defying, done in real life, no green screen CGI, stunt of the ageless Tom Cruise on a speeding bike leaping off a cliff in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One (hereafter referred to as MI 7 to preserve everyone's sanity). In spite of that, it still takes your breath away watching it on the big screen with Dolby surround sound with every rumble felt in your theater chair, the only way to watch movies as God intended. It's the difference between praying at home versus at Akshardham.

There are a couple more incredible action set pieces, one an adrenaline fueled car chase thru the streets of Rome (don't think the ancient Romans had anywhere close to that excitement watching gladiators in the Colosseum), and the other an insane one in the breathtakingly beautiful Austrian Alps aboard the Orient Express, the super deluxe train that has been the setting of many movies including most famously, Murder on the Orient Express (1974, 2017) and the second James Bond movie From Russia With Love (1963).

The story begins under the ice pack in the Bering Sea with a Russian submarine Sevastopol prowling the waters in apparent stealth mode. The MacGuffin of the story, a cruciform key made of two perfectly interlocking parts, makes its first of multiple appearances, after which it changes hands more times than a marijuana joint at Woodstock or Coachella or Mood Indigo. It is ostensibly the key to The Entity, an AI system that has gone sentient. It has been 27 years since the first Mission: Impossible (1996) with its dun dun dun dun iconic theme music hit the screens, but it hasn't gone long in the tooth precisely because it has kept up with the times and been cutting edge cool simultaneously. There isn't a topic hotter and more current than AI right now, and the implications the mass access, industrialization and inevitable weaponization of it will have on all of us individually and human civilization as a whole. The blurring of fiction and reality, nay the very definition of reality, is up for grabs, as it is molded and filtered thru the lens of news and social media in an infinitely interconnected digital world. The amazing Sting had sung back in 1993 in the haunting song If I Ever Lose My Faith in You, the prescient lines - "I never saw no miracle of science, That didn't go from a blessing to a curse". (It's also an incredible coincidence that the movie has released in the same week that the Hollywood actors union has gone on strike. One of the reasons is the potential future use of AI by the studios who could scan the initial performance of a background actor, and then reuse the image without their consent, indefinitely manipulated and repurposed, without ever paying the actor again).

The chalk and cheese duo of Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg) is once again faithfully with Ethan Hunt (Cruise) as part of the IMF (no not the International Monetary Fund as they point out, but the unintentionally hilariously named Impossible Mission Force). The distaff component of the team from the two previous outings, Rogue Nation (2015) and Fallout (2018) Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) is complemented this time around by Grace (Hayley Atwell), a burglar with several other crimes on her illustrious resume. Also making a reappearance is Alanna Mitsopolis (the enigmatically beautiful Vanessa Kirby) aka The White Widow. And Hunt's boss from the first movie, Kittridge, played to smarmy perfection by Henry Czerny. (He was superb in the fantastic Jack Ryan movie Clear and Present Danger (1994) as Ritter going up against Harrison Ford). The megalomaniacal villain (is there any other kind in these movies?) is Gabriel (Esai Morales). The globetrotting action, as is typical of the franchise, hops from the Bering Sea to Langley, Virginia to the Empty Quarter in the Arabian desert to Abu Dhabi to Rome to Venice to Austria. But the real star is Tom Cruise, who at 61 continues his indefatigable energy and improbable stunt capability. The well maintained good looks don't hurt as well. (Can you imagine the memes if 67 year old Shashi Tharoor could act and do stunts too?) There's a reason that so much behind the scenes footage of his stunts is showcased as part of the publicity of these movies. The "reality" of these stunts compared to the overdose of superhero movies which are all performed on a sound stage in front of a green screen with the actor talking to a tennis ball, is a refreshing breath of old school air. At 2 hr 43 mins, MI 7 is a tad verbose and lengthy, especially since it is only half the story, with Part Two due out in June 2024. But I can hardly wait to accept the next mission.

P.S. This review will self-destruct in 5 seconds...

July 15, 2023

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