****/**** Image A Sound A+ Extras B
starring Tom Cruise, Hayley Atwell, Ving Rhames, Henry Czerny
written by Christopher McQuarrie & Erik Jendresen
directed by Christopher McQuarrie
by Walter Chaw I've liked every film in this series to some extent, the last few very much. Yet, pressed, I couldn't tell you what any of them are about. If you ask me to recount the plot of this latest entry, Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One (hereafter Dead Reckoning), I would have a tough time only a few minutes out of the screening. This isn't an inherently bad thing. If you were to ask most people who've seen North by Northwest, they wouldn't know it's about microfilm being smuggled in South American figurines, just as they will not question whether a crop duster is the best way to kill someone waiting for a bus in the middle of nowhere. They wouldn't remember that Notorious is about radioactive ore hidden in wine bottles, or that Psycho is about a petty embezzlement scheme. That's because it doesn't matter. You'd probably even get pushback about how that's not really what those films are about anyway, which is correct. Hitchcock called those things that matter a lot to everyone in the film--and almost nothing to anyone watching it--the "MacGuffin." The Mission: Impossible films are the quintessential modern example of an old concept: if you do everything well enough, if you understand how to keep things snappy and populate the story with characters who feel like real, live people (thus imbuing all the noise with stakes), well, it doesn't matter what the picture's about, because what it's actually about is so instantly relatable. Will they survive? Will they fall in love? Archetype and craft. There's nothing simpler and nothing more complex.