By Michael Foust, Crosswalk.com
Ethan is a fearless field agent with a heart for adventure and a remarkable ability to escape danger.
One has to wonder, though, if he’s met his match.
It seems a powerful artificial intelligence program has gained self-awareness and is on the verge of taking over the world’s computers and nuclear weapons.
Ethan’s mission: find the two halves of a mysterious key that control the computer before the bad guys get to it. If he succeeds, the world can return to peace. But if he fails – and the key falls into the wrong hands – the world could plunge into another world war.
The new action film Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (PG-13) follows the well-known story of Ethan Hunt, who is given a mission by his bosses at the IMF (the Impossible Missions Force) that will determine the future of humankind. Tom Cruise stars in the lead role.
Here are four things parents should know:
1. It’s No. 1 … and No. 7
As the title implies, Dead Reckoning Part One is similar to other multi-movie franchises (Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, among them) that give you the first half of a plot with the expectation that you’ll return for the second installment. Dead Reckoning Part Two is scheduled to be released during the summer of 2024.
Dead Reckoning Part One is the seventh film in the MI franchise, following Mission: Impossible (1996), Mission: Impossible 2 (2000), Mission: Impossible III (2006), Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011), Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015) and Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018).
All have starred Cruise in the lead role.
2. It's an Exhilarating Ride of Intrigue
If you’re wanting a summer film filled with edge-of-your-seat action and jaw-dropping surprises, this is your film. It opens with Cruise riding horseback through the Arabian desert, dodging bullets amidst a blinding sandstorm. Moments later, he’s helping to dismantle a nuclear bomb. Moments after that, he’s speeding backward in a miniature year car down alleyways and outdoor steps. Seconds later, he’s frantically attempting to unlock his handcuffs (don’t ask) from his steering wheel before a train flattens them both. If that’s not enough, he also escapes a locomotive before it falls off a bridge.
High-tech gadgets fill the plot. Among them: Life-like facial masks that allow Hunt to mimic others and penetrate enemy lines.
Of course, the highlight of every Mission: Impossible film is the stunts, which Cruise famously does himself. In Dead Reckoning Part One, we watch Cruise drive a dirt bike off a cliff before he parachutes to safety. Yes, he did the stunt himself in real life (although a CGI landscape was added for scenic beauty). If you suffer from acrophobia (the fear of heights), this film will bring plenty of thrills.
3. It's a Timely Plot about Artificial Intelligence
In the real world, we’re debating the boundaries and ethics of ChatGPT and artificial intelligence. In Dead Reckoning Part One, artificial intelligence has gained self-awareness and is on the verge of world dominance. AI is – we are told – a “self-aware, self-learning, truth-eating digital parasite.”
Known as the “Entity,” this AI has a goal of taking over America’s nuclear arsenal and, in turn, the world. It penetrates and controls any computer system it finds. Because of this, the U.S. and other countries are racing against time to make physical hard copies of every key intelligence document (using typewriters, of course).
The only thing that can stop the Entity is the key. Ethan Hunt is on a search to find the two halves in order to destroy the Entity. Others, though, are hunting for it to obtain its god-like powers.
The Entity’s partner in the physical world is a bearded man named Gabriel, who has been dubbed the “dark messiah” and whose past is a mystery. Perhaps he is a human … or maybe he’s a computerized clone. No one knows.
4. It's Quite Violent
Dead Reckoning gets its PG-13 rating primarily for its violence (which the rating board rightly calls “intense”). The film has the typical shootouts, explosions and chases seen in other action movies, but its hand-to-hand fight scenes are beyond what is included in – for example – most superhero flics. Hunt fights a woman named Paris in an alley and eventually slams her head against a wall. (It’s one of three man-vs.-woman fights in the film.) We see two women stabbed in the chest. We see a man hanging by a rope on a train. We also see men die from poison gas, a man stabbed in the hand, two men tazed and sailors die in a submarine explosion.
The film includes brief strong language (see below) and minimal sensuality (dancers in a nightclub appear nude in silhouette; it is implied that a man patting down a woman for the key went too far).
The intricacies of Dead Reckoning Part One can be tough to follow at times. But the plot is so simple – everyone is trying to get the key – that it doesn’t really matter.
The film includes lessons about power. It includes a debate about right and wrong.
Dead Reckoning Part One is thrilling – and one of the year’s best action films.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some language and suggestive material. OMG (4), GD (4), h-ll (2), d--n (4).
Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Family-friendly rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Photo courtesy: ©Paramount, used with permission.
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
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