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  • Writer's picturePaul Gainey

Mission Impossible

Mission Impossible goes AI in the seventh outing for the TV-series-turned-action-cinema-franchise- Dead Reckoning - a genuinely breathtaking romp that tops the previous Christopher McQuarrie-directed episodes (2015’s Rogue Nation, 2018’s Fallout) for sheer nailbiting spectacle and pulse-racing tension.

The zeitgeisty plot may have holes through which you could drive the Orient Express, but for pure adrenaline rush entertainment this will leave you exhilarated and eager for more.

Three decades ago, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) sold his soul to the Impossible Mission Force, a covert organisation whose oath demands that its members “live and die in the shadows for those we hold close and those we never meet”. Since then, Hunt has saved the world more than once (his last mission involved neutralising nuclear bombs).

But now he’s up against everyone’s favourite enemy de nos jours – a fiendish artificial intelligence known as “the Entity”, a name that will sound sillier every time it is spoken out loud.

Somehow, this very modern threat has a very old-fashioned key – a weird, crucifix-shaped dongle that (like Archimedes’s Antikythera in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny) has been split into two pieces that must be reunited to unlock its secrets. “Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to bring us the key,” declares the familiar self-destructing tape, the IMF having apparently shunned new-fangled voicemail or encrypted WhatsApp messages.

Warring forces wish to own the Entity, to control and weaponise it. Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) apparently holds part of the puzzle – which puts a price on her head, because “the fate of the world depends on finding whatever it unlocks” – thus sending Hunt off in globetrotting pursuit. The pre-credits sequence alone takes us from a submarine in the Bering Strait to a horseback chase through the desert, en route to a sandstorm shootout with brief stopovers in Amsterdam and elsewhere.

There’s plenty of caperish comedy afoot, particularly after Hunt teams up with Hayley Atwell’s light-fingered Grace. A handcuffed car-chase featuring a Fiat 500 careening down Rome’s Spanish Steps recalls the Mini-fuelled fun of The Italian Job (with a cheeky nod towards Battleship Potemkin), while the wisecracking interaction between Cruise and Atwell has a nice, old-school screwball flavour.

Elsewhere, the join-the-dots plot includes a James Bond-style mission to a lavish party where a scene-stealingly cracked Vanessa Kirby warns that “truth is vanishing – war is coming”, a prologue to a Don’t Look Now-style chase through the alleyways of Venice. Esai Morales, who proved so chilling in Ozark, nails another villainous role as Gabriel, a “dark messiah” who is “the Entity’s chosen messenger”. As for Cruise, he may still have the physical fitness of a less-than-40-year-old, but he’s also developed a Richard Gere-style blinky squint of late, which adds a touch of melancholy maturity to his otherwise boyish charm.

The action is impressively gender neutral, with men and women killing and dying with equal relish. It all builds to a frankly jaw-dropping train-bound finale in which the heavily trailered sight of the real Tom Cruise really driving a real motorbike off a real mountaintop is only an appetiser for what is to come – one of the most audaciously extended action set pieces I have ever seen, which left my nails not so much bitten as gnawed to the bone. The fact that this is “only the beginning” is cause for celebration. Roll on Dead Reckoning Part Two.

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