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MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING, PART ONE

The latest installment in this blockbuster espionage series shares some of the same assets and liabilities as Indiana Jones: The Dial of Destiny, but this one scores higher in my tally because it’s better paced, funnier, and genuinely exciting. Tom Cruise is still Tom Cruise, and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially when he breaks into a run. No other movie star, past or present, can run the way he does, with every fiber of his being. What’s more, you know he’s really doing it, which is more than I can say for some stunt scenes where you can actually tell you’re being hoodwinked.

As much as the film centers on Cruise, it’s the implacable IMF team (first introduced in the 1960s TV series, along with Lalo Schifrin’s theme music) that sets it apart from other action yarns. Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, and Rebecca Ferguson are welcome sights and anchor the picture along with Cruise. Writer-turned writer-director Christopher McQuarrie and his new collaborator Erik Jendersen have fashioned a serviceable McGuffin—a super-secret weapon that mustn’t fall into the wrong hands—and a series of breathtaking set-pieces to maintain momentum from one sequence to the next. There are hair-raising chases and moments of great suspense. Their script utilizes everything from cutting-edge AI technology (like video facial recognition) to the tried-and-true use of a railroad train.

But MI:DR:1 is infected with the disease that plagues so many post-Covid movies: they don’t know when to quit. That this film should clock in at 2 hours and 43 minutes is absurd. I daresay no one would feel shortchanged if it only ran two hours. I would even consider paying a bonus for a ticket to any epic-scale film that ran less than 120 minutes. Not that running-time is any way to judge a movie, but an audience that has been entertained, and not exhausted, might be happier overall; I know I would.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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