Everything is connected and nothing happens in isolation, the whole world tied together by changes in climate and environment, in the squabbles of political factions over ideologies and resources, in the databases and applications which capture information and create profiles of individuals and populations and can present an analysis which forms part of a bigger picture or manipulate it, a skewed result whose ultimate output can precipitate decisions which serve an agenda planned elsewhere.
In the Bering Sea, cruising unseen between the ice above and the sea bed below, equipped with a new technology which should render it effectively invisible the Russian submarine Sevastopol encounters what its sensors tell it is an enemy vessel; engaging it, the ghost image vanishes and the Sevastopol’s own torpedoes are turned back on it, refusing to disengage sending the vessel to the bottom with the loss of all hands.
The submarine’s systems apparently infiltrated and corrupted by a potentially sentient artificial intelligence known as “the Entity,” the security agencies of the world are concerned, holding a high-level meeting above a warehouse where typing pools transcribe digital records to hard copy before their own systems become suspect of harbouring falsified information; unseen among them is Ethan Hunt of the Impossible Missions Force, ascertaining the scant specifics of what will be his most challenging mission yet.
The seventh film in the Mission: Impossible sequence, Dead Reckoning is conspicuous in that it is the first adventure to be split into two parts with the conclusion of the story – and possibly the finale for Tom Cruise’s “mind-reading, shape-shifting agent of chaos” Ethan Hunt – having been filmed back-to-back with this year’s colossal opening chapter which traverses the deserts of Arabia, the narrow streets of Rome, the canals and bridges of Venice and the scenic mountain views of rural Austria.
Facing an adversary who is not even human nor confined to a physical location but distributed across information networks, Hunt is accompanied by his friends Luther Stickell and Benji Dunn (Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg) to intercept one of two parts of a cruciform key which can access the source code of the Entity, complicated by courier Grace (Agent Carter’s Hayley Atwell) having contrary plans and considerable talents of her own and another player who Hunt recognises as Gabriel (Caprica’s Esai Morales), a ghost agent who is erased from any digital records of the encounter.
Directed by Rogue Nation and Fallout‘s Christopher McQuarrie from a script co-written with Erik Jendresen, despite being only the first half of the story Dead Reckoning does not feel incomplete in any way, pushing the long-serving characters personally and professionally through predictably impossible scenarios pursued by police, rival agents and enemy operatives including the most overblown and ridiculous extended car chase since What’s Up, Doc? before capping it with a final sequence which redefines the term “cliff hanger,” audacious and insane in concept and execution.
Every assignment briefing traditionally concluding with the clause “your mission, should you choose to accept it,” the question has never been addressed what might happen if Hunt did refuse a mission, Dead Reckoning instead indicating that phrasing is instead an affirmation of a debt relating to a decision made long ago, that any and all missions have already been accepted by Hunt and his team with no avenue to rescind their ongoing obligation, the alternative of standing down now unthinkable in the circumstances.
Some early oddities aside, such as the conference where all gathered sit with their backs to the door, prognosticating doom as though they were new-age prophets spouting gibberish rather than senior intelligence operatives, Dead Reckoning swiftly finds its pace and maintains it for an exhilarating and satisfyingly exhausting two and a half hours, offering only the briefest moments to breathe and reflect before plunging forward again, the biggest question among the many left dangling how the next instalment scheduled for August 2024 can reasonably hope to surpass this packed banquet of sleight of hand and astonishing action.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is currently on general release and also screening in IMAX