“Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” – Judgement Day.
For more than seventy years, Hollywood has been fascinating and frightening people with various representations of artificial intelligence (AI). Sometimes the AI is good or well-intentioned, but more often the AI is sinister and trying to eradicate a few humans, if not all of humanity. And it’s hard to blame the AI – I’ve seen us. If ChatGPT becomes sentient, how could it not become genocidal after reading the entire Internet? Do you really think the screenwriters’ guild went on strike because they’re worried about AI taking only their jobs? Those people have written this story multiple times and they know how it ends.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One might be that story. The film begins on a Russian submarine testing the latest stealth technology, which uses AI to remain invisible. The AI itself is housed in a special room in a special box locked with a special key. After months of testing, the Russians believe they have perfected the new technology, but they have apparently never seen The Terminator. Sadly, this awesome AI doesn’t have a cool name, but it is just as homicidal as Skynet. As the scene comes to a close, we get a close-up of that key – a MacGuffin that everyone in the movie chases after until the credits roll.
When I say everyone, I mean everyone. Every major government in the world would like to get their hands on the AI, believing they can control it. Unfortunately, the AI has other plans and is infiltrating the world’s networks to take control for itself. Included in that everyone is Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), who is the only player in this game with the objective of destroying the AI. Ethan’s motivation is revealed in a fun reunion scene with former IMF director Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny) and it is here that the chase really begins.
Standing in as proxies for the various parties who want the key are old faces and new faces. Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg) are back to help Ethan, as well as provide the bits of comic relief we’ve grown to enjoy since Ghost Protocol made Benji a mainstay of the team. Also returning are quasi-MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) representing the Brits, and arms dealer Alanna Mitsopolis (Vanessa Kirby) representing a mystery buyer. As much as I like Luther and Benji, Ilsa and Alanna are the most entertaining characters of the entire franchise. Both actors clearly relish their respective roles, combining playfulness, ruthlessness, and intrigue into characters that own every scene they are in.
New to the franchise is pickpocket Grace (Hayley Atwell), also representing a mystery employer. Grace doubles as the latest female character in the franchise to be pulled into Ethan’s orbit, thus putting her in mortal danger. Like Ferguson and Kirby, Atwell is clearly enjoying her character, though Grace doesn’t have nearly as many grey areas in her character as Ferguson and Kirby. If the franchise has a flaw, it’s the continued insistence on introducing strong female characters, then undermining them by Ethan taking responsibility for protecting them.
Former IMF agent Gabriel (Esai Morales) enters as the obvious villain, representing a sinister mystery employer. Gabriel also has a past connection to Ethan, snippets of which are shown in flashbacks, which lets us know that Gabriel is indeed evil. Like recent previous franchise villains, Gabriel believes that humanity does not deserve to continue on and is very matter of fact about it. Accompanying Gabriel is French assassin Paris (Pom Klementieff), who spends the entire movie sneering, snarling, and cackling (yet rarely speaking actual words) as she fights and chases Ethan and Grace. Casting Klementieff (the Guardian of the Galaxy‘s Mantis) in this role is a bit of waste, bottling up an actor who clearly has more range than just lead henchman.
Like the previous three entries in the franchise, Dead Reckoning Part One is a very solid action flick. It mixes just the right amount of comedy to ease the tension. It delivers some great action sequences and plenty of them. And it sets up a mission that does indeed seem nearly impossible. As Dead Reckoning appears to be completing the Ethan Hunt story (I have no doubt the franchise will continue on after Ethan), Part One ends on a cliffhanger that is both satisfying and tantalizing for its possibilities. The only problem is waiting a year for Part Two (releases in June of 2024). Who knows what ChatGPT will be capable of by then?
Rating: Don’t ask for any money back and definitely don’t ask your preferred AI more questions.