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Hold on to your hat, it’s Tom Cruise’s sensational stunt marathon! BRIAN VINER reviews Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One
With Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny still in cinemas, Tom Cruise might want to send a note of thanks to his fellow superstar Harrison Ford, who makes 61 look young for an action hero.
Even without the help of a superannuated Indiana Jones, Cruise still cuts it as impossible missions operative Ethan Hunt. We’re told that Tom continues to perform most, if not all, of his own stunts — in which case he can run, jump, abseil, skydive, thump and kick as formidably as he always could.
That said, there are also suggestions that he has begun to protect his boyish looks by cosmetic means, his own form of Cruise control. I have no idea whether that’s so, though it did occur to me that the least mobile thing about him in this film is his face.
But never mind if he finds it trickier to run through a range of facial expressions than he does to land on the Orient Express while still wearing a parachute after leaping off the top of an Austrian Alp. That’s his business, not ours. And it is an incredible stunt, in a thunderously entertaining film.
We’re told that Tom continues to perform most, if not all, of his own stunts — in which case he can run, jump, abseil, skydive, thump and kick as formidably as he always could
Besides, it’s not as if the train is stationary. If it were not a moving target — the 17.34 from London Paddington to Worcester Shrub Hill, let’s say — then quite a few over‑60s could have a bash at walking along the top of it.
But this one is zooming towards a booby-trapped bridge, with the driver dead and a cruciform key on board that could destroy the world as we know it. Only Tom, or rather Ethan, his alter ego since 1996, has both the nous and muscle to deal with such a diabolical situation.
It is years since Hunt left James Bond floundering in his wake, on the stunt front. Dead Reckoning Part One is the seventh Mission: Impossible movie and they keep setting soaring new standards.
There are some real corkers in this film, at the Spanish Steps in Rome and the Doge’s Palace in Venice (not for the first time, the locations appear to have been inspired by tea towels), but above all when things kick off on the Orient Express. Agatha Christie will be looking over her celestial pince-nez in approval, or maybe even envy. Murder on the grand old train was never so spectacular.
So heaven knows what Part Two, due to follow next summer, has in store for us.
Also invested in the search are Hunt’s familiar cronies from the Impossible Missions Force: Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg). But there is a new character in town, a resourceful English thief, Grace, splendidly played by Hayley Atwell (left)
Both instalments are directed by Christopher McQuarrie, Cruise’s regular collaborator, who has helmed two previous Mission: Impossible films and whose writing credits include last year’s hit Top Gun: Maverick as well as the 2014 sci-fi triumph Edge Of Tomorrow. Theirs is a creative marriage made in action-hero heaven.
As for the plot, it is the usual engagingly preposterous confection, crafted purely so that one exhilarating fight or chase sequence might explain the next.
But it does tap into current preoccupations with a few ominous references to Artificial Intelligence. A mysterious AI force known only as the Entity — ‘godless, stateless, amoral’ — is threatening to render useless all the world’s major computer systems, among them those keeping the U.S. Federal Reserve afloat, not to mention NASA, the American power grid, every central bank and for all we know, Tesco and the Co-op.
The key to unlocking this dastardly scheme is literally a key, which unhelpfully is in two halves. Coincidentally, elsewhere in the same multiplex, Indiana Jones is also looking for a Holy Grail — in this case an ancient artefact with telekinetic powers created by Archimedes — split into two.
‘We must find the other half!’ is this summer’s action-movie rallying call. But in Dead Reckoning it facilitates a much, much better film.
Simon Pegg, from left, Ving Rhames, Tom Cruise and Rebecca Ferguson in “Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning – Part One
Among those seeking the key, for various reasons ranging from entirely benign to decidedly wicked, are Hunt, his former accomplice Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a dangerous old adversary called Gabriel (Esai Morales) and a classic femme fatale, the sexy arms dealer known as the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby, reprising her role from the last film, 2018’s Mission: Impossible — Fallout, to which this is very notionally a sequel).
Also invested in the search are Hunt’s familiar cronies from the Impossible Missions Force: Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg). But there is a new character in town, a resourceful English thief, Grace, splendidly played by Hayley Atwell.
She gets to don one of the ingenious disguises that have been such a feature of the series from the start. And the early signs are that her chemistry with Hunt will serve the story extremely well, going forward.
There might even be a whiff of romance in the air, although there is no sign yet that Tom/Ethan wants to put the sex in sexagenarian. Even if he does, don’t expect him to look happy about it.
Anyway, this film doesn’t just look to the future. It also offers respectful nods to the cinematic past, not only to former Mission: Impossible features but to other great action pictures and even, going back almost a century, to Buster Keaton’s 1926 classic The General.
It is tremendously enjoyable, a summer blockbuster worthy of the name.
The cover stories behind rock’s greatest records
Squaring The Circle: The Story Of Hipgnosis
The Dutch director Anton Corbijn was a well-respected photographer before he turned to film-making; among his subjects were Bob Dylan, David Bowie and Miles Davis. He also made music videos for U2 and Depeche Mode, and parlayed that work into his first feature film, Control (2007), a biopic of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis.
So if his documentary Squaring The Circle: The Story Of Hipgnosis feels like both a labour of love and an expression of respect, it’s because it is. Hipgnosis (combining ‘hip’ with a Greek word meaning wisdom) was a pioneering design company responsible for many iconic album covers.
Hipgnosis (combining ‘hip’ with a Greek word meaning wisdom) was a pioneering design company responsible for many iconic album covers
It was founded in 1968 by Aubrey Powell, known in the business as ‘Po’, and Storm Thorgerson. The latter died ten years ago but Powell is still around to tell fabulous stories for anyone interested in the music scene back when, as Noel Gallagher puts it, people believed ‘music was art and could change the world’. Now, Gallagher adds cynically, music is merely ‘a commodity which changes the share price of whatever company it is attached to’.
Paul McCartney and Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, as well as David Gilmour and Roger Waters from Pink Floyd, also pop up with their tales of how Hipgnosis conceived their album sleeves (including Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother, pictured, featuring a photogenic cow). For anyone of a certain age, or anyone of any age into graphic design, it’s compelling stuff.
Squaring The Circle is in select cinemas now.
Classic film on TV
Sweet Charity (1969)
If the Wimbledon men’s singles final doesn’t appeal, then try this Bob Fosse musical. It’s thoroughly dated, but that’s part of its enduring charm — as is Shirley MacLaine!
Sunday, BBC2, 1.35pm
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