“This is not Mission Difficult, this is Mission Impossible. Difficult should be a walk in the park for you”

Somehow and against all odds, since the unique but flawed M:I:2 where Anthony Hopkins uttered those words to Ethan Hunt, Tom Cruise has succeeded in the difficult-to-impossible challenge of not only maintaining, but actually improving upon, this action-packed franchise.

After the first four instalments saw a different director at the helm every time, the safe and secure footing of Christopher McQuarrie has allowed the series to bed into a tried and tested formula: A core team of agents on an impossible mission travel through exotic locations delivering an entertaining blend of espionage and action. Normally capped off with a death-defying stunt by Cruise.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Their mission this time round, if they choose to accept it (but let’s face it, they never turn it down) is to track down a terrifying new weapon that threatens all of humanity before it falls into the wrong hands. With control of the future and the fate of the world at stake, and dark forces from Ethan’s past closing in, a deadly race around the globe begins. Confronted by a mysterious, all-powerful enemy, Ethan is forced to consider that nothing can matter more than his mission – not even the lives of those he cares about most.

The trailers promised the biggest mission yet. One so big it has had to be split over two movies. Not only that but success will come at a cost as a returning Kitteridge (Henry Czerny) tells Hunt “Our lives are the sum of our choices. And we cannot escape the past. Ethan, this mission of yours is going to cost you… dearly.”

For the audience to truly invest in the adventure, they must believe that there is a chance, however slim, that they might not be able to achieve their objective. That there is a price to pay for your success, and we are not just talking about Tom Cruise’s broken ankle while filming Fallout. The franchise has achieved this, not only through the physicality of its action and stunt work, but from proving time and time again that members of the IMF are expendable and that no one, besides Hunt perhaps, is safe.

The ever-fluctuating core team means that they are constantly on the lookout for new recruits and this episode sees the introduction of two strong new characters played by Hayley Atwell and Pom Klementieff.

Atwell is particular is a perfect addition to the cast. In her introductory scene with Cruise she proves the perfect foil to Hunt. She makes a similar impression that Rebecca Ferguson did in Rogue Nation. What is refreshing about her character is that she is not a super spy, but a thief and pickpocket. A very good one, certainly, but that is where her skills initially end. She can’t fight or drive well but learns on her feet and grows as the action intensifies.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

And there is a LOT of action. Despite it having a near three hour runtime, McQuarrie keeps the momentum going, effortlessly moving from thrilling set piece to thrilling set piece. Culminating in multiple fights and murder upon the Orient Express. Between this and Fast X, the Spanish Steps in Rome have had a pretty torrid Summer.

In the film, it sets up Ethan Hunt versus rogue AI “The Entity”. In reality, one could argue that the real battle is Tom Cruise versus the modern movie making process. For him, if it can be achieved in camera, it should be shot in camera. Only using effects to what cannot safely, or physically impossible, to achieve… which is not much when it comes to Cruise.

Movies are becoming too reliant on CGI and digital effects, to the point where it is potentially damaging the product. Cruise is still fighting for the old ways. Take Indiana Jones and the Dial Of Destiny for example. A film which begins with a huge action set piece where the central character is a digitally de-aged Harrison Ford and it immediately sends audiences into the uncanny valley.

Compare it to John Wick: Chapter 4 or this film where the audience can see that it is Keanu or Tom performing the majority of the stunts. It allows for a greater connection to the actor and character. Ultimately it doesn’t quite match the dizzying heights of Fallout, in part to it being part of a bigger story. However, following Top Gun: Maverick, it is another huge win in Cruise’s seemingly one man crusade to save cinema.

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is in cinemas now.