Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning proves why action movies need theaters

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Tom Cruise soars above a falling motorcycle in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One.
Paramount Pictures

The Mission: Impossible franchise has and always will push the limits of action filmmaking, and the franchise’s newest installment, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part Oneis no different. The film is a triumph of epic scale and excitement, a marvel that emphatically proves that action movies work hand in hand with the movie theater experience.

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the world a few years ago, countless businesses and entire industries had to evolve to succeed a new world in which physical touch is frowned upon. More than most, the movie industry was greatly impacted by the pandemic. Theaters have been struggling for years due to the rise of streaming, and the pandemic made matters significantly worse. However, it seems that theaters might be making a comeback. Some movies continue to prove why the theater experience is valuable, and box office numbers are slowly climbing back to sustainable levels.

Tom Cruise, the savior of movies?

One of the greatest advocates for theaters comes in the form of one of the great action stars of the century: Tom Cruise. He’s one of the biggest stars in the industry who has proven that his name signifies a certain quality of action film. After numerous delays due to the pandemic, Top Gun: Maverick was one of the best movies of 2023. It went supersonic at the box office, pulling in rave reviews from critics and audiences alike.

Tom Cruise flys a plane in Top Gun: Maverick.

Throughout the pandemic, cinephiles were waiting for a film that would truly signify that “movies are back.” Top Gun: Maverick may have been that movie. The film, directed by Joseph Kosinski, is a master class of action filmmaking. Cruise is in top form, bringing an emotional core and action intensity to the movie. Maverick was made for theaters; the cast and crew said it themselves in a thank you message before the movie.

Why Dead Reckoning needs to be seen in the theater

When the jets are racing and the blood is pumping, it becomes clearly evident why a movie like Maverick shouldbe seen in a theater. The sheer scale and intensity of the filmmaking isn’t something that can be fully replicated on a computer screen or a home television. Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One is that same kind of movie.

The film — which also welcomes its viewers with a thank you message from Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie — is unbeatable in a theater. So many of the movie’s biggest set pieces and stunts are enhanced dramatically by the massive screen, the loud surround sound, and the rush you feel from other viewers in the theater. It’s a communal experience defined by adrenaline and spectacle.

Hayley Atwell and Tom Cruise hang precariously in a train car in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One.
Paramount Pictures

The largest stunt in Dead Reckoning Part One has already been touted and displayed in clips for months. Most viewers going into the movie have likely heard — or seen — that Tom Cruise drives a motorcycle off of a cliff. It’s an awe-inducing moment that is almost impossible to believe. However, there’s a stark difference between watching this clip on a phone on YouTube and seeing it on the big screen. The sheer scale of the thing is unbelievable. Thanks to the theater, it turns an absolutely absurd stunt into a tactile moment.

All of this goes to show that, while I believe that all movies would be better off in a theater, action movies are a different beast. When going into big-budget blockbusters like Mission Impossible or Top Gun, viewers want their socks blown off. They want to have their jaw open for the entire runtime, and they want to see something they’ve never experienced before. There’s no greater way to do that than utilizing the technological capabilities of a theater.

From bombarding audiences with the deafening sounds of a sandstorm and the hilarious images of an intense car chase, every set piece in Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One is felt by the moviegoer. It’s immersive. It’s the way that action should be.

Why movie theaters will always be better than streaming

Esai Morales and Tom Cruise fight on top of a train in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One.
Paramount Pictures

Of course, there is a benefit to streaming and watching things at home. Many modern television setups are so great that they can come a tiny bit close to replicating that movie theater experience. But there really is nothing like seeing Tom Cruise beating up a guy on top of a runaway train in a packed theater.

It’s also important to note the capabilities of an action movie to capture the zeitgeist by emphasizing the theater experience. Movie theaters are a communal experience with a group of random strangers; there’s an energy in the room that can’t be captured by a laptop screen on the couch. Thanks to this sense of a communal experience, movies like Top Gun: Maverick or Mission: Impossible become the talk of the town. Look at Extraction 2, for example. The Chris Hemsworth film dropped on Netflix in early June and, while it’s an entirely effective and thrilling action movie, it hasn’t stirred up the level of conversation and excitement that is felt with something like Dead Reckoning.

Movie theaters might in fact be back, and action movies are benefitting from it. They utilize the big screen in unfathomable ways that almost defy description. The upcoming release Oppenheimer, while not an action movie in the slightest, has staked its claim on being a movie for movie theaters. Alongside the same-day release of Barbie, there is a palpable excitement out there for the movie theater experience.

All in all, Tom Cruise is a madman, but he’s mad about the movies, and we’re all better off for it.

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