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Making it Possible 

Mission continues its decades-long legacy

What I couldn't have articulated then, and perhaps cannot now, was director Brian De Palma's critical role as both arbiter and synthesist of cinema cool, even as his career was approaching an inevitable cooling-off point and he his 60th birthday.

De Palma wouldn't become a touchstone for me until years later, incapable as I was of understanding his particular brand of fashionable and finely controlled lechery. At the time, Mission: Impossible seemed like a decidedly mainstream distraction in the midst of a tough-talking movie renaissance. At the same time, though, it maintained an intense near-intellectualism, a feeling of having been constructed by smart people, that elevated it above the delightful action pabulum upon which we used to feast. It was a movie that was, in its cleverness and steadfast grandiosity, as much a product of the past as it was a signal of things to come. It also contained setpieces that thrilled as much for their impossibility as for their brazen execution.

I could not, would not, have foreseen a multi-decade legacy for the franchise, much less that it would become the perhaps-unbreakable tether suspending star and producer Tom Cruise in the rarefied air of cultural relevance and very real danger. And there have been times, I must believe, when even the faithful questioned the trajectory of Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and the rest of the Impossible Mission Force, much as we have all had occasion to question the health and fate of the business of American movies.

But Cruise, as duly delegated representative of the They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To party, has made a career not only of keeping the faith but of maintaining a connection to the revivalist, big-tent ideals that are the embodiment of the small, uncynical, audience-facing part of his industry. He wants to make big, impressive, intelligently executed movies for people to see in theaters. And he's probably willing to sacrifice his life in service of that eminently possible mission. 

Witness Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One, wherein Cruise, with steadfast collaborator Christopher McQuarrie (writer/director/producer) maintains the gold standard not only for on-set COVID protocols (look it up) but for superhuman stunt choreography within a drum-tight spy thriller presciently set inside humanity's potential last stand against, well, anti-humanity, I suppose. 

As with Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018), McQuarrie (with co-writer Erik Jendresen) brings us inside the potentially impenetrable world of super-spy cinema extravaganza with the deftness of an editor. While we may be on a ride that will visit half the world's continents (who's counting?!), the globetrotting is in service of a story that remains coherent, cogent and, maybe most importantly, emotionally resonant. 

Rehashing the plot of a movie like this is silly, both because it ruins some of the fun and because probably nobody wants to hear it anyway, so we'll not do that. Suffice it to say the IMF (or at least our little beloved corner of it) is up against a potentially unbeatable foe, that being humanity's enmity toward itself as represented by an electronic eye and an impeccably groomed Esai Morales. 

The clever thing, though, is how the movie challenges itself to reference and deploy "outmoded" technologies, styles and methods. From a metatextual perspective, Dead Reckoning is referencing the choking of old-school moviecraft, both by mindless technology and the insatiable greed of those who would harness it. From a more literal point of view, Tom Cruise really jumped off a mountain on a dirt bike and it's awesome. 

Dead Reckoning graciously suggests more than a little of De Palma's style, simultaneously casting an eye toward a future that, hopefully, will not be quite as futuristic as we've feared. It's a pretty brilliant, obviously self-referential comment on the business of entertaining people, which, at its best, gets its own joke but also hints at the precipitousness of the global moment. PG13. 163M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK, MINOR.

John J. Bennett (he/him) is a movie nerd who loves a good car chase


ASTEROID CITY. Wes Anderson's star-studded, hyper stylistic Sci-Fi rom-com takes us to a 1950s desert town on lockdown. With aliens. PG13. 105M. BROADWAY, MINOR.

BARBIE. Barbie and Ken live in a colorful, seemingly idyllic world but want to leave it behind for the real one. Where can I sign up for this version of Freaky Friday? With Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling and Will Ferrell. PG13. 114M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK, MINOR

ELEMENTAL. Animated adventure about a city of fire, water, earth and air elements. Voiced by Leah Lewis, Mamoudou Athie and Catherine O'Hara. PG. 93M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY. In 'Art Imitating Life' news, Nazis are back. But so's our favorite Nazi puncher. An aging Indy comes to the rescue in 1969 as the Nazis try to rise again – proving they'll never hold a torch to him. PG13. 142M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

INSIDIOUS 3. In this prequel to the Insidious movies, we see how medium Elise develops her demon-fighting chops. While more emotionally complex than Insidious 1 and 2, it still packs plenty of jumps. Hold onto your popcorn. PG13. 97M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

JOY RIDE. Well-crafted, heartfelt comedy about four friends on a road trip in China that explores questions of identity and belonging. Starring Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Sabrina Wu and Stephanie Hsu. R. 95M. BROADWAY.

NO HARD FEELINGS. Jennifer Lawrence stars in this smartly written sex comedy about a down-on-her-luck party girl who answers a Craigslist ad from a wealthy couple looking for someone to date their college-bound, introverted son. R. 92M. BROADWAY.

OPPENHEIMER. Christopher Nolan's biopic about theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, the 'father of the atomic bomb.' Starring Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon and Robert Downey, Jr. R. 180M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK, MINOR.

SOUND OF FREEDOM. Anti-child trafficking, thinly veiled Q-Anon propaganda film. Starring Jim Caviezel. PG13. 135M BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE. Animated sequel to the Miles Morales adventure. PG. 140M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

TRANSFORMERS: RISE OF THE BEASTS. The robot cars team up with robot animals. Starring Michelle Yeoh, Pete Davidson and, hell, everybody, I guess. PG13. 127M BROADWAY.

Updated Broadway and Mill Creek listings were not available at press time due to the holiday. Fortuna Theatre is temporarily closed due to earthquake damage. For showtimes call: Broadway Cinema (707) 443-3456; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre (707) 822-3456.

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