REVIEW: Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (2023, dir. Christopher McQuarrie)

Certificate: 12A

Running Time: 163 mins

UK Distributor: Paramount Pictures

WHO’S IN MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING PART ONE?

Tom Cruise, Hayley Atwell, Esai Morales, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, Henry Czerny, Shea Whigham, Greg Tarzan Davis, Frederick Schmidt, Pom Klementieff, Charles Parnell, Rob Delaney, Indira Varma, Mark Gatiss, Mariela Garriga, Cary Elwes

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

Christopher McQuarrie (director, writer, producer), Erik Jendresen (writer), Tom Cruise and Leifur B. Dagfinnsson (producers), Lorne Balfe (composer), Fraser Taggart (cinematographer), Eddie Hamilton (editor)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his team face their most dangerous mission yet…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING PART ONE?

To say that Tom Cruise is truly dedicated to the cinema experience is the understatement of the century, for he has blown audiences’ minds over and over again by performing some of the most dangerous on-camera stunts imaginable, all while championing the theatrical industry like no other performer in Hollywood. That said, the production on Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One – the seventh entry in Cruise’s long-running action series – might just have been his most challenging to date: filming spanned more than a year, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic putting a stop to everything right after cameras started rolling, which also scuppered the original plan to shoot both parts back-to-back, and also ignited controversy over the alleged plans to destroy a 100-year-old railway bridge in Poland for a stunt in the movie.

Cruise being Cruise, however, he clearly didn’t let any of that get in the way of ensuring that this new Mission: Impossible would live up to the hype and anticipation, especially after receiving some of the best critical and financial results of his career with Top Gun: Maverick. The enthusiasm shows in every frame of Dead Reckoning Part One, which is another solid addition to the franchise that, while perhaps not as consistently enthralling as previous entries, proves that Cruise really is one of our great modern entertainers.

Here, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt discovers the existence of an artificially intelligent weapon known as “the Entity”, which has begun utilising its technological power to wage war and destruction among the human race. The Entity can apparently only be subdued by a special key, which has been split into two with one half being in the possession of Hunt’s ally Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), so Hunt and his regular teammates Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg) must race across the world from Abu Dhabi to Rome to retrieve both parts. However, there are multiple forces standing in their way; in addition to government enforcers Jasper (Shea Whigham) and Degas (Greg Tarzan Davis) tracking them down, as authorised by former IMF director Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny, reprising his role from the first film), the team must deal with career thief Grace (Hayley Atwell) who also has her eyes on the key, but the bigger threat is a powerful adversary known as Gabriel (Esai Morales), a figure from Ethan’s past who is now serving as the Entity’s deadly prophet.

Compared to the previous entry Fallout, there’s a lot more going on in the plot this time round – in fact, one could argue, there’s too much plot. The film constantly zips through one thing after another, introducing new faces like Atwell’s Grace or Pom Klementieff as the Harley Quinn to Morales’ Joker, or re-introducing new/old characters such as Czerny’s Kittridge and Vanessa Kirby as the arms-dealing White Widow from Fallout, dropping new vital bits of exposition regarding the power that the Entity could potentially wield, and recycling stuff from other Mission: Impossible movies (it seems that in almost every one of these movies, Hunt and his team are fugitives from government forces in some way, and there is at least one point where their handy face-mask making machine seems to malfunction, forcing them to improvise instead of go the easier route).

However, it never reaches the point where you’re left exhausted or even confused by what’s going on, because returning director Christopher McQuarrie (who also co-wrote the script with Erik Jendresen) sets an enthralling pace that, from beginning to end, keeps things from ever getting boring. McQuarrie knows exactly what to give audiences at just the right time, even going so far as to subvert certain expectations within the very scene that particular threats are being established, which maintains a strong level of suspense that doesn’t allow for room to predict what’s about to happen next. Importantly, though, you do actually care about what’s happening and who it’s happening to, because while these aren’t the most three-dimensional characters in existence, they are still endearing and fun to watch because they’re both written and performed so well that you’re alongside them no matter what. Further credit must also go to editor Eddie Hamilton for ensuring that the pace rarely falters, allowing the viewer to stay on top of everything while still being allowed to breathe every now and then, and to composer Lorne Balfe for jolting the action with an energetic musical score that constantly remixes the classic Mission: Impossible theme into a truly exciting orchestral soundtrack.

Then, of course, there’s the stunt-fuelled action, always a highlight of this series – least of all because it’s Cruise himself doing the majority of it – and is no less impressive here. There are great sequences where Cruise’s Hunt drives a tiny Fiat through the streets of Rome (all while being handcuffed to Atwell’s Grace), takes numerous beatings from several henchmen, and most jaw-droppingly driving a motorcycle off a cliff and free-falling into a parachute, all of which are enthralling to watch and, of course, impeccably performed by the ever-daring Cruise. Occasionally, there will be times when excessive CGI will take over from the more impressive practical effects – remember that railway bridge I mentioned earlier? The alternative they used isn’t exactly seamless in its execution – but again the majority of it is well-executed enough to where you’re still heavily engaged with the plot and how it’s unfolding, eventually leaving you at a suitable place where you’re eager for Dead Reckoning Part Two almost right away.

Until then, Dead Reckoning Part One is a hugely entertaining ride, not without its flaws but certainly above many of the other big-budgeted action movies that have come out so far this summer. It is also fundamental proof that in an age where excessive CG-ridden set-pieces seem to be the norm in modern blockbuster filmmaking, Tom Cruise is out to remind everyone that there’s just as much joy, if not more so, in doing things the old-fashioned way. Between this and Top Gun: Maverick, he’s cementing his place as one of the few true movie stars remaining in our culture, and it’ll be a sad day for all of us when he finally decides to give himself a much-needed rest.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is another hugely entertaining entry in the series which, as ever, boasts incredible action from Tom Cruise and consistent suspense from director/co-writer Christopher McQuarrie, which is enough to overlook the stuffed plot and occasionally excessive use of CGI which contrasts against the more impressive practical stunt work.

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is showing in cinemas from Monday 10th July 2023

Click here to find showtimes near you!

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