Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Part One

Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie

Written by: Christopher McQuarrie and Erik Jendresen

Since 1996 Tom Cruise has brought us thrill ride after thrill ride in this hugely popular action franchise. Recently these films have focused on Tom’s daring stunt work from hanging from the side of an airplane as it takes off (he reportedly filmed this scene 8 times!) to his latest stunt of him riding a motorbike off a mountain and then parachuting down. This definitely adds a sense of realism to these films, and it has paid off with a total gross of over 3.5 billion dollars. Each film tries to continuously raise the stakes for our hero, Ethan Hunt, but I feel this time things seem to fall flat with these two writers who forgot what they wrote in their dialogue multiple times. Yes, the film has the car chase sequence, the cat and mouse sequences, running, and the fights and guns. Yet the failure of this big film is that it did not go big as they talked about in multiple scenes.

Here comes the spoilers.

The film opens with a crew aboard a Russian submarine on a mission to supposedly test an early AI computer system capable of hiding them from detection. This system starts to go haywire and ends up destroying the submarine and killing the crew. We learn the AI system has become sentient and is known throughout the film as “The Entity.” Unfortunately, the “MacGuffin” of the film ends up being a physical encrypted key formed from two interlocking ones. Ethan Hunt accepts a task to go after British operative Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) who is in possession of one of the two keys. Now the premise is these keys, when combined, will allow whoever possesses the device from the sunken submarine to control the sentient AI Entity. It is mentioned multiple times in dialogue that every nation on the planet wants this control. It’s mentioned first in a US Government meeting scene, then again amongst the IMF team, and again by the White Widow club scene, and yet we only see US agents and Entity agents chase after Ethan and his IMF team. This is such a huge letdown and missed opportunity for this film to really up the ante in regard to the stakes and the complexity of quickly shifting alliances between nations and not just the US and Britain.

What we lack in story development we get some returns on characters. We get a new character with Hayley Atwell playing a thief named Grace, who brings in a wild card of sorts for the film. Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg) are good to see, but made nearly irrelevant in their hacking skills in comparison to the new AI Entity. Esai Morales plays Gabriel, who is an agent working for The Entity. We also get a fresh face with Pom Klementieff playing Paris, an energetic agent that is a bit off in her mannerisms. Alanna (Vanessa Kirby) is back as the White Widow. Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny) is an old familiar face that we last saw back in 1996’s Mission: Impossible.

The locations of this film have us hopping from Abu Dhabi to Rome to Austria. All beautiful landscapes and great aerial cinematography. Yet no glimpse of other nations vying to get their hands on the key. Furthermore, the biggest flaw in this film is the MacGuffin itself. The Entity is supposedly the smartest thing on the planet. If your goal is to keep any one country from controlling or destroying you, then destroy one-half of the key. By doing so, you render the other key useless. Simple as that. Perhaps the writers were not too familiar with how a key pair with a shared secret works. Maybe they were too focused on using scary AI as the plot point. In either case, they wrote a major flaw in their script which perhaps Part 2 will sort out. Also, the use of pickpocketing was relied upon much too heavily. You would figure experienced agents would be trained to know the signs of pickpocketing rather early in their careers.

The film does handle dealing with operating against the Entity by “going analog” and this should have been pushed more with the use of old technology like walkie-talkies and perhaps bringing back some old tech displays in the Mission: Impossible TV series. That would have been a nice wink to the past. Again, another missed opportunity by the writers. I think there is a lot of room for improvement in this film. I will hold hope the second part delivers, whereas this one has failed in its mission.

Thanks for reading Writing Movie “WRONGS.”

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