Opening in theaters on July 12th is the latest installment of the ‘Mission: Impossible’ franchise entitled ‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One,’ which was co-written and directed by Academy Award-winner Christopher McQuarrie (‘The Usual Suspects,’ ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’).
What is the plot of ‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One’?
In ‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One,’ Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF team embark on their most dangerous mission yet: To track down a terrifying new weapon that threatens all of humanity before it falls into the wrong hands. With control of the future and the fate of the world at stake, and dark forces from Ethan’s past closing in, a deadly race around the globe begins. Confronted by a mysterious, all-powerful enemy, Ethan is forced to consider that nothing can matter more than his mission – not even the lives of those he cares about most.
Who is in the cast of ‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One’?
Tom Cruise (‘Top Gun‘) as Ethan Hunt, Hayley Atwell (‘Captain America: The First Avenger‘) as Grace, Esai Morales (‘Master Gardener‘) as Gabriel, Ving Rhames (‘Pulp Fiction‘) as Luther Stickell, Simon Pegg (‘Hot Fuzz‘) as Benji Dunn, Rebecca Ferguson (‘Dune‘) as Ilsa Faust, Vanessa Kirby (‘Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw‘) as Alanna Mitsopolis, Pom Klementieff (‘Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3’) as Paris, Henry Czerny (‘Scream VI‘) as Eugene Kittridge, Shea Whigham (‘Joker‘) as Jasper Briggs, and Greg Tarzan Davis (‘Top Gun: Maverick‘) as Degas.
‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One’ delivers exactly what we’ve come to expect from director Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise’s ‘Mission: Impossible’ movies. The film is fun, exciting, action-packed, and features some of the craziest stunts you’ve ever seen on the big screen. Cruise is commanding once again as Ethan Hunt, and Hayley Atwell is a fantastic addition to the franchise.
Story and Direction
Unlike the last few ‘Mission’ movies, ‘Dead Reckoning Part One’ does not begin with a one-off scene of Tom Cruise hanging off a mountain or the wing of a moving plane, instead focusing on a Russian submarine malfunction that sets off the plot of the movie. We soon discover that a new self-aware AI is threatening to throw the world into chaos, and it’s up to Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his IMF team to track down a key (the film’s McGuffin) that can control the AI. But first, they’ll need to discover what the key actually unlocks, and who is working with the AI, also known as the Entity.
Things get more complicated for Hunt when he is labeled a terrorist by his old boss, Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny) after refusing to give half of the key to the US government, as Hunt believes it is too dangerous to exist and must be destroyed. Hunt secured his half of the key from his alley Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), and goes to meet a buyer who has the other half of the key, planning to follow them to the Entity.
However, when a pickpocket named Grace (Hayley Atwell) steals both halves of the key, Ethan has no choice but to recruit her for his team and train her to help him. Meanwhile, Hunt discovers that a man from his past before joining the IMF, Gabriel (Esai Morales), is working with the entity and has a personal vendetta against him.
In my opinion, the ‘Mission’ franchise was on shaky ground until director Christopher McQuarrie joined the series. Brian De Palma’s ‘Mission: Impossible’ was a decent adaption of the classic TV series, but was not without its issues. John Woo’s ‘Mission: Impossible II’ was a huge disappointment, and the worst film in the series. Director J.J. Abrams feature film debut, ‘Mission: Impossible III’ is criminally underrated and one of the better films in the series, but failed to have the box office numbers of its predecessors.
Brad Bird’s ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’ put the franchise back on track, but the series didn’t really gel and become what it has until McQuarrie was brought on board with ‘Mission: Impossible – Rouge Nation,” which is why ‘Dead Reckoning Part One’ feels more like a continuation of what McQuarrie and Cruise created with that movie and ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout.’
While the film runs well over 2 and a half hours, McQuarrie does an excellent job of pacing the movie and keeping the “Mission” tone intact. This film, and in turn next year’s ‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part Two’ are a much bigger story than we’ve seen in past installments, which is why it will take two movies to tell the entire story. But with that said, McQuarrie still manages to craft a satisfying ending to ‘Part One,’ even if it is not the conclusion of this particular story.
Tom Cruise’s Performance and his Amazing Stunts
By now, half of the fun of a ‘Mission: Impossible’ movie is seeing what absolutely bonkers stunts McQuarrie, Cruise and their stunt team come up with, and ‘Dead Reckoning’ does not disappoint. Cruise released a video last year that demonstrated one of the stunts that he would be performing in the new film, which saw him driving a motorcycle off a mountain and then parachuting to the ground. Many fans thought that it would be the signature stunt of the film, and while it is certainly impressive, the movie has even more incredible stunts than that. There is a fantastic chase scene in Rome, but the real attraction is an unbelievable train sequence that is the centerpiece of the ending and one of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen. It will truly keep you on the edge of your seat.
Cruise has been playing Ethan Hunt for over twenty-five years, and while some might say Maverick from ‘Top Gun’ is his signature character, at this point its’ got to be Hunt, who Cruise has portrayed more than any other character. The evolution of the character, and Cruise as an actor, can be witnessed over these seven movies. In the first ‘Mission: Impossible,’ Ethan Hunt was a fresh-faced IMF member betrayed by his boss, Jim Phelps (Jon Voight). He would later become IMF’s greatest team leader, creating deep friendships with Luther, Benji, and Elsa. Watching those relationships grow and seeing how they’ve changed Ethan from who he was when we first met him, is one of the joys of ‘Dead Reckoning.’
Cruise gives another powerhouse performance and is absolutely commanding as Hunt. It’s hard sometimes to tell the difference between Tom Cruise and Ethan Hunt, but the character is so charming, it doesn’t really matter if you are rooting for him or the actor playing him. We’ve grown up with Ethan Hunt, and Tom Cruise for that matter, and part of his power as an actor is that he is just so likable. ‘Top Gun’ aside, ‘Mission: Impossible’ is Cruise’s best franchise overall and Ethan Hunt is definitely the character he will be best remembered for most. Cruise has great chemistry with Rhames, Pegg, and especially Ferguson, but is also great aside new co-star Hayley Atwell. As for the action sequences, no one does it like Tom Cruise, and the actor has pushed the boundaries for our entertainment one more time.
Ving Rhames has been a part of the franchise since the beginning, just like Cruise, and it just wouldn’t be a ‘Mission’ movie without him. The actor has some very nice emotional scenes with Cruise and Atwell, and as always a funny rapport with Simon Pegg. For his part, Benji has also become a vital element of the ‘Mission’ formula, joining the series in the third installment, and Pegg has grown into the role well bringing his own charm and humor to the franchise. A more recent but equally important addition to the series is Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust. The movie explores her deep connection to Hunt, and her scenes with Cruise are some of the most emotionally packed of the film.
Vanessa Kirby also returns as the “White Widow,” daughter of “Max” (Vanessa Redgrave) from the first movie. She has a funny exchange with Cruise, but is mostly used in the third act. I won’t spoil her role, but as an actor she has a challenging scene to play and really made it work. But the most surprising returning face belongs to actor Henry Czerny, who plays former director of the IMF, Eugene Kittridge, last seen in the very first ‘Mission: Impossible.’ Kittridge was always a foil for Hunt, and their respectful yet antagonistic attitude towards each other is fun to watch on screen. Czerny is great in the role and it nice to see him back in the franchise.
Hayley Atwell plays Ethan Hunt’s latest recruit, a thief named Grace, and is absolutely mesmerizing in the role. If it’s possible to steal a scene from Tom Cruise, then Atwell succeeds with her charming and street-smart yet sophisticated character. Best known for playing Captain America’s girlfriend Peggy Carter in several different MCU projects, it’s nice to see the actress finally get a chance to show off her talents. Atwell totally holds her own against Cruise, and the two have a very nice chemistry together. Grace is a complex character, you never really know who’s side she’s on, and Atwell navigates that with confidence.
Also new to the franchise is ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3’s Pom Klementieff who plays Paris, one of Gabriel’s assassins. The actress is obviously having a blast in the role and its super fun watching her smash cars and shoot machine guns while smiling and laughing in-character. Klementieff is great in the action sequences and creates an interesting and appealing character, one that I hope we see more of from the franchise in the future.
Esai Morales plays the main villain, Gabriel and while it’s great to see the veteran actor get such a large role in a big franchise, his character doesn’t quite work. We’re told he’s from Ethan’s past and responsible for some tragedy, but except for a few quick flashbacks, this is not really explored or resolved in this movie. It will probably be addressed in ‘Part Two,’ but more clarification in this film who have helped the audience to better understand Gabriel’s motivations. Morales is fine for the most part, and very impressive in his action sequences, but overall, the character wasn’t believable as Ethan’s archrival.
The other villain related disappointment comes from the fact that the Entity is really the big bad of the movie. That’s right … a computer! I really hope that an actual human being is revealed as the true villain in the next movie, because as realistic as it might be n 2023, I just can’t buy artificial intelligence as the ultimate villain of the movie. Sorry, but I don’t want to see ‘Ethan Hunt v. Skynet.’ I know that there are inherently sci-fi elements baked into ‘Mission: Impossible’ going all the way back to the original series, but for me this is a spy series first, like an American version of James Bond (which arguably also had sci-fi elements) and should stick to its lane because it does spy thrillers really well.
Too Much Joking Around
The ‘Mission: Impossible’ series has always been fun and had a certain amount of humor to it. But for some reason, about half way through ‘Dead Reckoning,’ there are several bad jokes injected into the action. For example, in Rome, Hunt and Grace steal a Fiat while being chased. When Hunt tries to start the car, it won’t start, and he begins apologizing to Grace saying, “I don’t know what happened. This never happens to me.” First of all, Ethan Hunt should never apologize for anything … he’s Ethan Hunt! Secondly, it seemed like an awkward attempt at some kind of weird sexual innuendo and it’s just out of place for the franchise and off brand for Tom Cruise.
Only Half of the Story
I’ll give ‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One’ credit for at least explaining in the title that this movie will be continued. I know a lot of people that went to see both ‘Fast X’ and ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ and were disappointed to find that those movies didn’t really end, and they’ll have to wait to see the conclusion of those stories. While I’m sure the ‘Part One’ in the title will help with audience’s expectations of the ending, the truth is that this movie only tells half of a story. Again, McQuarrie did a great job with the ending, it feels satisfying and doesn’t end on a huge cliffhanger, even if we will have to wait till next year’s ‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part Two’ to see the actual conclusion of the story.
But I do wonder if this story couldn’t have been told in one movie, as a lot of the action sequences go on longer than needed. If you cut some of the action, you could fit in more of the story, but with a franchise like this where the action is so important, I guess it’s better to tell a story over two films so you can afford the luxury of more action without sacrificing the character development and plot.
In the end, ‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One’ is a solid entry to the franchise and on par with Christopher McQuarrie’s previous contributions to the series. Tom Cruise is at the height of his power, returning to his signature character and a series of groundbreaking and death-defying stunts, while Hayley Atwell is delightful as the newest addition to the franchise.
‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One’ receives 8.5 out of 10 stars.
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‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One’ is produced by Paramount, Skydance Media, New Republic Pictures, and TC Productions. The movie is scheduled to release in theaters on July 12th, 2023.