Mission Impossible- Dead Reckoning, Part One


‘…while Dead Reckoning isn’t a huge departure from a successful formula, it’s also not the best example to date of what’s become a superior house style for Cruise and co…’

Despite their generic titles, Rogue Nation and Fallout marked the Mission Impossible franchise in full bloom, finally getting every possible component part to click into place as a means for generating thrills. While always box office, only the first and third entries played quite as well, but 5 and 6 refined the MI formula to a highly impressive peak. Unlike Fast X, at least part 7 of the Tom Cruise-driven franchise admits from the get-go that it’s headed for a unsatisfying cliff-hanger ending, but the sense of franchise bloat finally catches up with Chris McQuarrie’s sequence of films in a greatest hits package that we’ve largely seen done before, specifically in this franchise.

This time, the big-bad villain is hard to pin down; it’s AI, in the form of ‘The Entity’, which is able to ghost all forms of technology and create fake news pretty much as it happens. Having ascended to power through manipulation of social media, the Entity is aiming for world domination, with a set of two interlocking keys as the McGuffin device through which The Entity will be defeated or succumbed to. Various parties are in pursuit the keys, namely Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his IMF team; for once, dialogue clarifies that we’re not talking about the International Monetary Fund. With old pals Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) returning, Hunt teams up with Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) and Grace (Hayley Atwell) for espionage antics in Rome, Venice and on the Orient Express heading for Innsbruck, where various factions wrestle for control of the keys in a wild  train-smashing showstopper for the ages…

Dead Reckoning has clearly being set up as a swan song for Hunt, and it feels like this would probably have been better positioned as one knockout movie; our sense of involvement isn’t deep enough to be interested in too many recurring characters and a plethora of interchangeable femme fatales. Cruise does his big movie star thing and its still works, but this isn’t the absolute entertainment machine that last year’s Top Gun: Maverick was. A huge deal is made of Hunt finding it hard to board the Orient Express while in motion; it feels like a big chunk of the film unspools while he’s trying to do this. But unless I’m missing something, we just saw an enemy agent easily board the same train via the roof while in transit, so what’s the problem? The story seems contrived to shoehorn in the stunts, so it feels extraneous for Hunt to have to motorcycle to the top of a mountain and jump off with a parachute bringing him into position to drop into the train; maybe the excess is the point. Hunt also looks un-characteristically aghast at the idea that performing this particular stunt would be so difficult, but even the most novice sack-of-potatoes static line jumper at 2000 ft usually conquers ground-rush and lands close to an X on their first jump.

Such minor carping betrays a lack of the anticipated involvement; we start to pick apart the plot holes when the central narrative is too familiar, with too much exposition and plotting, and a critical issue is that the fresh AI McGuffin doesn’t add any specific favour to the action. The goofy car chase down Rome’s Spanish Steps in a dinky Fiat  isn’t particularly inspired, considering the high bar set by the franchise for action set-pieces. Even the lesser entries in the MI universe have been proper event cinema, and Dead Reckoning Part One is always lavish and grandiose to watch due to the trademark Cruise committment. But without JJ Abrams involved, the humour doesn’t seem as well positioned, and the glamour feels forced; maybe Part Two will redeem this entry, but while Dead Reckoning isn’t a huge departure from a successful formula, it’s also not the best example to date of what’s become a superior house style for Cruise and co. Still, franchise fans shouldn’t worry too much; even in the first part of the final installment, the Mission Impossible franchise still rocks well enough to justify a trip to the flicks for fans and casual viewers alike.

Mission Impossible- Dead Reckoning, Part One hits UK screens on July 12 2023. Thanks to Paramount for providing big screen access to this film.



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  1. After my vacation and early summer mini-hiatus, I’ve got so much to catch up on!

    There’s nothing that would stop me from seeing this film – watching Tom Cruise do his Ethan Hunt thing is one of my great pleasures. Though I think Ghost Protocol is the best of the MI films.

    But I am wary in hearing that it’s a cliff hanger on the setup for a 2 part film. Old Tommy is finally starting to show his age, and if we’re coming to the end of the good times, it was a good run.

    There are few franchies that have 5+ films that stay as good as long as Mission Impossible.

    I choose to accept my mission to watch!

    • Exactly right on all counts. What other franchise gets five stars for entries 5 and 6? That’s…impossible! This is more of the same, and while it feels like an odd thing to say, it’s a step down even at four stars! But lower expectations and you’ll have a blast!

  2. You lost me at The Entity. That’s been used before in a Barbara Hershey picture way back. Or is this something new? Was way too complicated for the slim plot which is the usual plot – bad bad guy, governments not to be trusted, world in peril, James Bond, sorry Tom Cruise, to the rescue. And can these rival studios not check out each other’s movies? I though I had seen enough train rooftop action in Indy Calling Destiny never mind getting pretty much more of the same here. And Fast X had a better Rome car chase. And JW4 a far superior car chase to either. And who are all these women? I’d need to be setting with imdb open on my phone to check out who was who from previous films. Didn’t think much of the big stunt either. And it’s dumb to sell a picture on the basis that a star can do as well as a stunt man. Though, wait a minute, wasn’t John Wick directed by a stunt man? This won’t be anything like as big as Maverick and I just hope it does really well because otherwise that’s the summer over – unless Oppenheimer, Barbie and (natch) Meg 2 can rescue it.

    • That’s three more promising summer movies than we’ve often had in mid July. The crash sequence was a typically big scale effort, and there wasn’t much wrong with it. It just wasn’t inspired the way the the last two were. They nailed their formula, then went too free form. All the Entity stuff made zero difference to the usual McGuffin with a super elaborate backstory. And I couldn’t remember who all the other characters were. Not quite the mission I’d hoped for.

      • I would have liked the joke of car given Cruise to drive was the tiny yellow thing had I not already laughed at a similar joke in Fast X. As ever, blame the MacGuffin. If this sinks, think of the terror in exec land next summer when Part Two kicks in.

    • Look, it’s still a Cruise/McQuarrie Mission, so I’m in. But balancing up so many female assassins is becoming an issue in these films, particular when they feel like padding that a 165 minute film doesn’t require. Wouldn’t put you off, though…

  3. I’m sure I’ll watch it because I watched all the others, but this really does sound like more of the same. Which is how I feel about all these action franchises. I’m assuming it’s a top-notch production and I like the sound of this Entity thing taking over, but as you say it’s all just an excuse to spend money on lavish stunts.

    • I noted that the director of Elemental complained that his film was being judged by the high quality of previous Pixar films, and I get it. The Mission Impossible series delivered two cracking entires in 5 and 6, and it’s just a shame that they had to tamper with the formula for the finale. Wouldn’t want to put anyone off a great sequence of films, but this wasn’t quite as sure footed as the previous ones, and I’m getting worn down by part ones…

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