Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

When Mission: Impossible – Fallout was released in 2018, many immediately heralded it as a new apex for the long-running action spy franchise and one that would be difficult to supersede. 5 years and 1 global pandemic later, we have half of a sequel that is already 163 minutes on its own, with a concluding chapter coming next summer. That Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One doesn’t top its predecessor could be seen as a disappointment, but given that it’s a stronger action outing than just about anything else in the genre that’s been released in theaters this year, there’s still plenty to celebrate. Even more than usual, Tom Cruise seems to have put everything he has into this particular entry and his mind-boggling work ethic comes through every second he’s in frame.

This time around, superspy Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is on the hunt for two halves of an interlocking key that seems to be crucial for controlling The Entity, an all-powerful AI that has outgrown its intended use and is headed towards sentience. After retrieving the first portion of the key from returning Mission agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), Hunt bumps into professional pickpocket Grace (Hayley Atwell) while attempting to recover the other half-key. She forms an uneasy alliance with Hunt, along with IMF cohorts Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg), when he promises her protection from Gabriel (Esai Morales), a menacing mastermind who has a history with Hunt and appears to be working on behalf of The Entity.

After beginning with a tensionless and series-worst cold open, Dead Reckoning Part One finds its footing once Cruise steps out from the shadows and even more so when he pairs back up with Rebecca Ferguson, with whom he has effortless chemistry on-screen. Since appearing first in 2015’s Rogue Nation, she’s done other franchise films like Dune and series like Apple TV+’s Silo but she’s always a most welcome presence in these movies as a fearless foil for Cruise’s Hunt. Along with Atwell and Morales (both quite good in their respective roles), other newcomers include Pom Klementieff, playing against type as a ruthless assassin, and Shea Whigham, playing to his strengths as a gruff enforcer on Hunt’s tail. Henry Czerny returns from a long series hiatus, having last appeared in the first Mission: Impossible film, and he does what he can to rekindle the seething intensity he brought all those years ago.

Like Ferguson, director and co-writer Christopher McQuarrie is also returning to this franchise for the third time but he still hasn’t been able to top the high water mark that is Rogue Nation. Dead Reckoning Part One has the well-designed car chases and death-defying stunts that you’d hope for but they don’t flow together as organically as they did in McQuarrie’s previous two efforts. More importantly, the story just isn’t there this time around; I’m more dubious of Fallout‘s convoluted plotline than most but at least the narrative itself is engaging on a fundamental level. Hunt vs. artificial intelligence may seem like a relevant pitch, given how prevalent generative AI seems to be in our current cultural conversation, but its permutation here feels underdeveloped and, at times, a bit silly.

Along with other recent blockbusters like Fast X and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Dead Reckoning Part One continues the recent trend of big summer movies concluding with substantial cliffhangers, though at least the Mission: Impossible series has the courtesy of denoting that with “part one” in the title. While this chapter certainly moves along more briskly than its hefty runtime would suggest, I find it hard to believe that McQuarrie and his co-writer Erik Jendresen couldn’t have written a more concise story upon which to hang these action sequences and cast of characters. In addition to what I would expect would be even more thrilling scenes of gravity defiance, Part Two should also shed more light on the shared past between Hunt and Gabriel, along with more clues about how The Entity came to be. If McQuarrie can tap back into the elegant storytelling he’s demonstrated before, it could make for a strong stopping point for this superlative series.

Score – 3.5/5

New movies coming this weekend:
Playing in theaters is Barbie, a fantasy comedy starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling following a pair of less-than-perfect dolls as they are expelled from the utopian Barbie Land and go on a journey of self-discovery to the real world.
Also coming only to theaters is Oppenheimer, an epic biopic starring Cillian Murphy and Emily Blunt telling the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist who helped develop the first nuclear weapons on the Manhattan Project.
Streaming on Netflix is They Cloned Tyrone, a sci-fi comedy starring John Boyega and Jamie Foxx about a series of eerie events that thrusts an unlikely trio onto the trail of a nefarious government conspiracy.

Reprinted by permission of Whatzup