Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is no match for its hype. The seventh film in the Impossible franchise has a mission to capitalize on the success of Top Gun: Maverick and Mission Impossible – Fallout — arguably two of the best sequels made in Tom Cruise’s career.
The 7th entry is a step-down, but not in terms of quality. Dead Reckoning Part One sees director Christopher McQuarrie scale back the breathtaking action to amplify the espionage dynamics. A sequel that has more in common with the first film than any other in the franchise.
The franchise returns to its roots and delivers a tech-paranoia thriller with a few insane stunts to heighten the atmosphere. And even though the film has been in the works for years, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One could be interpreted as a condemnation of A.I.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One begins like a Tom Clancy story. A situational error takes place with a submarine. The reasons behind the event involve a program everyone calls “The Entity.” This mysterious subject is a super artificial intelligence computer that appears to be sentient. Additionally, the superintelligence utilizes a terrorist known as Gabriel (Esai Morales), a slick mysterious threat who has a history with Ethan.
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) must find a key with two individual pieces that might be able to stop the superintelligence, but the reasons are not specific about how the key will take down The Entity.
Kittridge (Henry Czerny) makes a dynamic return to the franchise and intensely delivers the stakes out for the story. And just like in the first film, his motives regarding Ethan’s mission are unclear. Czeny has always been great at portraying a shifty character with questionable motives. And his presence only enhances the story because Czeny has a skill with unmatched dialogue delivery (See: Mission: Impossible’s restaurant scene).
Setting up a grand finale
The team assembles to find the key, bringing back Ethan’s crew, including Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames). Rebecca Ferguson, as Issa, also returns. But the film does not know what to do with her character in this outing.
As they embark on finding the two individual keys, Ethan is robbed stealthily by a new character named Grace (Hayley Atwell). The Captain America actress plays a clever thief who unwittingly finds herself wrapped up in the dangerous plot involving The Entity.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One acts as if it’s setting up a grand finale for the franchise by giving us a dose of the familiar. The film possesses fun action beats and insane stunts, but audiences should be aware Dead Reckoning serves as a reflection of the 1996 film. Various story beats and action stakes are similar to events from the first movie as if The Entity is trying to use Ethan’s past trauma against him.
Kittridge is both an antagonist and a supporter to Ethan, his team members are more at risk (mirroring moments from the opening act of the first film), not to mention the big action sequence coincidentally involves a train. It’s a sequel attempting to bookend the franchise with Brian De Palma’s influences.
The film moves briskly, keeping the stakes high at all times. Christopher McQuarrie’s action sensibilities remain on display, creating sequence after sequence of inventive stunts. One of the car chases is reminiscent of Jackie Chan, placing Tom Cruise in a humorous scenario while trying to drive. Similar to John Wick: Chapter 4, the film is almost 3 hours, and the action makes the time fly.
The finale has a train sequence that is endlessly gripping from beginning to end. How it’s constructed demonstrates that the right person could adapt Uncharted into a worthwhile film if a filmmaker understood what made the video games so compelling. The execution has the survival aspects of a Nathan Drake adventure.
The aggravation experienced watching this film stems from the marketing. Paramount promoted a bicycle stunt for months before the film’s release. And while the stunt is spectacular, the studio gave away its biggest pop in exchange for attendance. The decision arguably worked, but the enjoyment would be explosive with blind knowledge of the extraordinary stunt.
Beyond the clever action, Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One impressively predicted the artificial intelligence boom. The screenplay, written many years ago, has scathing commentary about the misuse of A.I. by high-level organizations. And while the film focuses on the government’s mishandling of artificial intelligence, this could be paralleled to film studios such as Disney and Warner Brothers. Almost as if Christopher McQuarrie had concerns before the industry went on strike.
The strangest aspect of the new sequel is the awkward romantic relationships with Ethan Hunt. The film wants us to believe there is a subtle romance between Ethan and Rebecca Ferguson’s character Issa—a sentiment the sequels have been building for several movies. Then from nowhere, it’s vaguely hinted Ethan might have a thing for Haley Atwell’s character Grace.
None of it feels earned and comes off awkwardly, considering a plot decision at the film’s midpoint. It’s okay for the Mission Impossible franchise to allow Ethan Hunt to be friends with the opposite sex and nothing more. Similar to his endearing relationship with Paula Patton’s character from Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol. Does Ethan Hunt deserve to have love? Absolutely. But it doesn’t have to be with every character he saves.
A high-speed tech thriller with spectacle
Mission: Impossible: Dead Reckoning-Part One might possess some vaguely strange romantic subplots, but the film remains another great sequel to the franchise. It lacks the groundbreaking action from Top Gun: Maverick and Mission: Impossible- Fallout. Even so, the action on display is still some of the most skillfully produced action sequences in the industry right now.
It’s not just another great sequel but a high-speed tech paranoia thriller that serves as a diss to artificial intelligence. McQuarrie and Cruise are industry veterans fighting to save the theatrical market, and they continue to do so with style.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One hits theaters n July 12.