For nearly 30 years, the “Mission: Impossible” franchise has set a high bar for heart-pumping action. Featuring the star power of Tom Cruise, the spy series is one of the most consistently entertaining franchises on the big screen, putting its leading man through death-defying stunts time and time again.
The franchise has included a variety of directors, all of whom have contributed to its legacy. Brian De Palma’s sleek, stylish vision for the 1996 original set the tone for the franchise. 2000’s so-so “Mission: Impossible II” highlighted John Woo’s kinetic direction. J.J. Abrams brought his mystery-box style of storytelling to “Mission: Impossible III” (2006). Then 2011’s exceptional “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” catapulted the series to another level under Brad Bird, giving us the franchise’s best action sequence when Cruise scales the Burj Khalifa.
The series hit its stride when director Christopher McQuarrie came on board. 2015’s thrilling “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” and 2018’s stunning “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” showed the dynamic McQuarrie and the game Cruise were a match made in heaven. With its elaborate action set pieces and excellent ensemble, “Fallout” emerged as the series’ best film yet, showing the franchise has plenty in the tank.
Five years later, “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One” continues the franchise’s mission of delivering top-notch action and epic spectacle. With returning and new faces, the adrenaline-fueled thrill ride meets the high standards set by the blockbuster franchise. Cruise and McQuarrie go all in on making the seventh “Mission: Impossible” film another must-see entry in the series.
“Dead Reckoning” catches up with Cruise’s IMF (Impossible Missions Force) agent Ethan Hunt and his team as they take on a new mission. This time, the threat isn’t coming from a person — it’s artificial intelligence. Known as the Entity, the all-knowing AI seeks to gain control of the one thing that can stop it: a powerful key. But if the key falls into the wrong hands, the fate of the world could be at stake.
Ethan and his IMF associates — hacker Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), tech whiz Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and former MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) — are determined to find the key. What they don’t count on is sly thief Grace (Hayley Atwell), who’s also searching for the in-demand item. However, they share a common enemy: Gabriel (Esai Morales), a terrorist who’s working for the Entity. As Gabriel and the Entity close in, Ethan and his associates, old and new, put their lives on the line to complete their mission.
The latest “Mission: Impossible” film knows you came for the action, and the globe-trotting adventure is ready to oblige. Though it may not reach the dizzying heights of the Burj Khalifa or the heart-stopping helicopter set piece from “Fallout,” the intense action in “Dead Reckoning” stuns the senses. The creative stunts push the franchise’s boundaries. During the film’s well-paced two-hour and 43-minute runtime, McQuarrie allows the crisp and clear sequences to breathe. The camera focuses on the actors doing their own stunts, adding to the awe surrounding the action.
A daring car chase teams up Cruise and Atwell, and the pair are handcuffed together, injecting humor. The versatile Cruise also embarks on a breathtaking motorcycle jump. The only problem with these sequences is that the film released “making of” segments before the movie’s release, which takes away some of the surprise. The film’s best set piece arrives during the climax: A pulse-pounding train disaster that features train cars — and our main characters — hanging over a cliff. The unnerving sequence had me sitting on the edge of my seat. But as suspenseful as the train scene is, the film drags it out, milking it for just a little too long.
A bona fide movie star, Cruise is as important to the “Mission: Impossible” franchise as the phenomenal action. As Ethan, Cruise taps into the agent’s strengths and vulnerabilities. This allows audiences to sympathize with him during his life-or-death heroics. Ethan cares as much about the well-being of his friends and associates as he is about getting the job done, if not moreso. That’s why he repeatedly risks his life. But it’s his heroics that keep audiences coming back. At 61 years old, Cruise commands the physical prowess to keep doing his own stunts, whether it’s running, fighting hand-to-hand combat or parachuting off a cliff. The actor is committed to making the film look as real and exciting as possible, and it shows.
The extraordinary Atwell makes a great new addition to the franchise. The actress shares a fantastic chemistry with Cruise, and the pair make a good team. Their relationship evolves from one at odds to finding a shared purpose. Known for her vigor as another agent, the no-nonsense Peggy Carter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Atwell brings her action experience to the role. But the actress also conveys Grace’s inexperience in such situations. During the car chase, the cunning thief is believably out of her depth as she struggles to drive the car. Atwell also zeroes in on Grace’s search for a better life, helping moviegoers understand her motivations.
Part of the “Mission: Impossible” franchise’s strengths is having a fantastic core cast. The key cast members of “Rogue Nation” and “Fallout” return for “Dead Reckoning,” cementing the strong relationships between its characters. The reliable Rhames thrives as the voice of reason, and the amusing Pegg adds welcome humor. As the brave and intuitive Ilsa, Ferguson makes a perfect counterpart to Cruise. “Fallout” standout Vanessa Kirby also reprises her role as the beguiling White Widow. Kirby shines in one of my favorite scenes, where the actress must channel the mannerisms of another character.
The latest installment also aces the villain side. The big bad in “Dead Reckoning” is AI, which is especially timely as technology executives and lawmakers warn about its potential dangers. On the human side, Morales makes a fearsome enemy, even if the character is underdeveloped. The incredible Pom Klementieff, another new face in the cast, steals every scene she’s in as menacing mercenary Paris. The Mantis actress from the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films shows off her physicality during an alley fight, in which she holds her own against Cruise. Klementieff deserves more opportunities to display her might.
Despite being billed as part one, “Dead Reckoning” succeeds as a complete film. The story ends on a satisfying note, with the promise of more to come. The entry effectively concludes this adventure while setting up the next one. As of right now, “Part Two” is set to come out next June.
With its exciting action, dedicated leading man and terrific cast, “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One” fulfills its mission of delivering another stellar installment in the spy series. Teaming up for their third straight franchise film, McQuarrie and Cruise know how to conjure up movie magic. Their collaboration has streamlined the series for the better.
Though just a beat off from “Fallout” and my favorite, “Ghost Protocol,” “Dead Reckoning” serves up one of the best films in the franchise. Should you choose to accept your mission, “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One” will satisfy your craving for a summer blockbuster.
4.5 out of 5 stars
A little more than a month ago, I asked the question, is “Spider-Man” the greatest film franchise ever? With eight of its 10 films spanning from good to great, Spidey has a good case to warrant that kind of title. However, when it comes to consistency and win/loss record, it’s tough to compete with the “Mission: Impossible” franchise. With another stellar entry in “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One,” the franchise now includes six great movies and one bad film. That bad film was “Mission: Impossible II,” which came out in 2000. That means this franchise has gone five films and 23 years without creating a sub-par movie. While “Mission: Impossible III” is a more character-driven film with the franchise’s best villain, “Mission: Impossible” found its resurgent formula in 2011’s “Ghost Protocol.” That formula is great action, lovable characters, balancing high-intensity sequences with humor and at least one death-defying stunt from its leading man Tom Cruise. “Dead Reckoning” brings some new characters and some familiar faces of the past to create another phenomenal outing.
Cruise (Ethan Hunt) and director of the last three “Mission: Impossible” films Christopher McQuarrie have a joint vision and fuel this franchise. Of course, Cruise was game for another big-time stunt set piece, this time riding a motorcycle off a cliff. Point being, Cruise is all in and the team-up with McQuarrie only pushes the franchise to new heights. Cruise’s willingness to continue to push the boundaries of the franchise frees up McQuarrie to strive for the best shots and he was once again able to ramp up the intensity not just during the action sequences, but also when characters are just talking. He knows how to frame perfectly to show where every character is, whether he or she is in the fore or background. The action is gorgeously shot, including Cruise’s motorcycle base jump. The only knock on that scene is that the film advertisements showed how they shot that scene. It’s a big moment in the movie, and the suspense and wonder of the scene is taken out of it because we’ve seen it before.
That being said, the train sequence at the end of the film proved really impressive with an intense scene where Cruise and Hayley Atwell (Grace) have to climb from train car to train car as the cars are one-by-one falling off a bridge. It was the best sequence of the movie. The film also created a well-shot car chase sequence that generated some effective physical comedy as Cruise and Atwell are handcuffed together and Atwell’s character’s driving skills are subpar. It kept the film’s intensity, but provided some great laughs to break up the tension and balance the film. It is also the second film this summer to utilize the Spanish Steps in its car chase set piece, the first being “Fast X.” Which is funny because that’s how I describe “Mission: Impossible” films — “Fast and Furious” movies with a much, much higher quality.
The fight sequences are also great. “Dead Reckoning” did an excellent job using its surroundings to provide tension and purpose to each fight. One hand-to-hand combat scene happens in a tight alleyway and is shot in an intimate way where the audience can feel the claustrophobia. Every fight feels fresh because the characters are constantly moving. What helps too is it seems like every actor has hand-to-hand combat experience so the action is simple to digest and beautiful to take in.
Cruise is one of the greatest physical actors ever, but he continues to impress with the emotion that he’s able to bring to these action films. He helps bring the audience as close to the group as ever. At this point, Cruise has a natural chemistry with Rebecca Ferguson (Ilsa Faust), which really works for the film, and Ferguson once again brings an awesome presence to the movie. Cruise, Simon Pegg (Benji Dunn) and Ving Rhames (Luther Stickell) also strengthen their bond as the staples of the franchise. The heartfelt scenes among those three really enhance the investment in those characters and the film. It makes them more lovable and it’s believable that any of them would die for the other.
Atwell proves a phenomenal addition to the strong cast. She’s able to go toe-to-toe with Cruise while impressing with the physicality and emotion she brings to the role. She also creates a quick chemistry with Cruise. Pom Klementieff (Paris) also fits in well, knowing when to ham it up as a henchwoman and bring some great combat to the close-quarters sequences. Esai Morales (Gabriel) doesn’t have a ton of development, but he excels at bringing an intimidating presence, the same intimidating presence he brought to “Ozark,” which is what the film needed.
Although it’s a part one, the film gives the audience a pretty complete film. There’s definitely anticipation for part two, which is scheduled to release June 28, 2024, but there’s not a huge cliffhanger, which is nice.
There might be one too many characters and the runtime could probably be cut down a little bit, but this is another fantastic outing from an incredible franchise.
At this point, you know if you like these movies and “Dead Reckoning” gives the audience what it expects from the franchise. It still holds itself to a high standard, so the quality hasn’t dropped off. I don’t think it’s the best film in the franchise (that title probably goes to “Fallout”). It’s not my favorite film in the franchise (that title goes to “Rogue Nation”), but it is on the same level as the three films before it, which are also exceptional. The only thing that could stop it now is that the franchise wears thin and audiences get sick of it. “Dead Reckoning” opened domestically to $80 million (that’s a five-day total because it was released Wednesday). That’s a record for the franchise, but it did underperform expectations. Its budget was also $290 million, according to IMDB. We’ll see in the coming weeks what the box office reveals about this seventh installment (especially as it braces sharing its second weekend with “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer”). However, no one can debate that “Mission: Impossible” is one of the greatest franchises ever that still holds itself to an incredibly high standard.
4.5 out of 5 stars