Photo courtesy Paramount Pictures

Tom Cruise will happily risk his life to entertain us. The “Mission: Impossible” series has seen Cruise do stunts that had him hanging off of cliff walls, building ledges and the side of an airplane as it was taking off.

The latest installment, “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” (a strong contender for most unnecessarily long movie title of all time), involved Cruise driving a motorcycle off of a mountain in five times (!) in order to get the shot.

In an era of computer graphics, the dedication to practical movie making in “M:IDRPO” is as thrilling as it is inspiring.

Case in point: the recent movie “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” (which I liked) featured a fight on top of a moving train that was so clearly rendered with computers that I doubt an actual train or stuntmen ever actually existed.

But “M:IDRPO” also features a fight on top of a train and regardless to whatever degree the sequence was enhanced by computers, it’s clear from the cinematography that at some point there were dudes on top of a speeding train in the Alps.

It may not seem like much of a difference on the surface, but when you are sitting in a dark theater it’s the difference between watching someone play a video game and watching a high-wire acrobat perform at the circus where you know they will probably not fall to their death, but the tiny knot in your stomach reminds you that there is a chance that they might.

Very much like “John Wick: Chapter 4” from earlier this year (another movie that featured real humans doing real stunts on screen) the plot doesn’t really matter as it’s all just an exercise in moving from one thrilling action sequence in an exotic locale to the next.

Cruise is still playing Ethan Hunt, a government agent only barely operating through official channels and there is still some international threat that could bring about the end of the world if Ethan doesn’t fling himself from city to city in an attempt to stop it.

He still has the help of trusted allies like Luther (Ving Rhames, who is the only person other than Cruise to be in all of these movies and has reached the point in his career where he only agrees to keep coming back as long as he never has to get out of a chair), Benji (Simon Pegg) and Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson),

Cruise finds himself sharing the screen the most with Hayley Atwell who plays Grace, a master thief who proves to be an asset as much as an adversary as they both pursue the same MacGuffin.

“M:IDRPO” is directed by Christopher McQuarrie who has directed the last three “Mission: Impossible” movies, effectively stealing the crown and ending the series’ early formula of jumping from one accomplished action filmmaker to the next.

McQuarrie is at his best here as he dials back the twisty-turny plot (although the threat he introduces in timely and effective) and pushes the action front and center.

This is summer-blockbuster moviemaking at its best. It’s a thrill ride that, at its best, will make you marvel at the effects and stunt work that’s been committed to film. This is a mission you should most certainly accept. This movie review will self-destruct in five seconds…

“Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some language and suggestive material.

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