REVIEW: “Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning” – 2023’s first good summer blockbuster

Jake Ramsey

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) stands in front of Grace (Hayley Atwell) in this scene from “Mission Impossible.” (Paramount Pictures via AP)

The seventh installment of the “Mission Impossible” franchise released July 12, proving for the second year in a row that Tom Cruise has a special talent for starring in the summer’s best blockbuster.

With the release of  “Top Gun: Maverick,” the sequel to the 1986 film “Top Gun,” last summer, my anticipation for the newest “Mission Impossible” entry was through the roof. As a long time fan of the series’ main protagonist, Ethan Hunt, played by Tom Cruise, as well as the director tied to the last two entries of the film, Christopher McQuarrie, my expectations were set, and the movie certainly delivered. From action packed scenes that kept your heart racing, to character driven moments where the film brings the audience in, there’s no dull-moment in the latest escapade of the I.M.F agents.

While “Dead Reckoning” is a very good movie, it also sets a precedent as to what a summer blockbuster should be. After the lackluster month for film that was May, and the disappointing month that was June, which was solely propped up by the release of “Across the Spider-Verse,” “Dead Reckoning” proves to be a breath of fresh-air in this year’s film catalog.

I think a large reason why I love this movie so much beyond the film’s own merits is due to some of the outside forces that clearly inspired this movie. Explaining these feelings includes analyzing the film’s antagonist, not Gabriel, who is played by Esai Morales, but the A.I. known as The Entity. The Entity is an all-knowing, all-powerful A.I. that feeds information to the physical threats of the movie, as well as adding to the mental fears of our protagonists. Now, while this movie was written and filmed a few years ago, I believe that it reflects a better picture of our world today. With the introduction of A.I. in our daily lives, many have been left to wonder about what it can do to our society, a big question being will it help us or hurt us. While film, and media in general, is no stranger to the concept of an A.I. over-ruler or a post-apocalyptic society, the way “Dead Reckoning” presents this threat is almost entirely too real.

The film doesn’t show a hyper-imaginative version of what the misuse of A.I. can look like, it instead gives us a very real depiction of our world. From multiple individuals who are only looking out for themselves, to those who claim they want the A.I. for the greater good, it’s a realistic approach that I believe made the movie better.

Another real-world event that I believe made the movie better was last year’s release of “Top Gun: Maverick,” the film that got most people back to the theaters and showed a spike in ticket purchases for that summer. During the marketing campaign for that film it was very clear how deeply Tom Cruise, as well as the hundreds of other people that worked on the movie, cared about movies.

Now fast-forward to this year, where we have the advancements in A.I., and are currently in the midst of a writer’s strike. Due to these two events, many people argue that A.I. is a viable alternative to making movies. With even people like Joe Russo, the director of “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame,” claiming that he believes we’ll begin seeing A.I. led movies in the next few years. This is why a film like “Dead Reckoning,” as well as actors like Tom Cruise and directors like Christopher McQuarrie are so important. They have a love for the craft that seems to be fading with every CGI superhero battle.

The love put into this film is so powerful that it shines in every scene. Moments like Ethan Hunt riding a motorcycle off of a cliff and opening a parachute are made infinitely more impactful by knowing that it was actually Tom Cruise riding the motorcycle off the cliff. These things are needed in film. We need real emotions, characters we care about, stunts that feel real, and most importantly we need to care. That’s what this movie does best, it makes us care.

“Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning” is not just a love letter to the film world, nor is it just a love letter to creatives, but it’s also a love letter to humanity. Because of that, I am beyond excited for “Dead Reckoning, Part 2.”

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