Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (2023)

Thank you Tom Cruise. Thank you for being you. Thank you for believing in the movie going experience. Thank you for almost singlehandedly being the outspoken resource for keeping the industry alive, by fighting tooth and nail for films to be seen the way they were intended to be seen, and not just dumped on a streaming service to cut loses. First starting with Top Gun: Maverick and continuing with Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One. And thank you for your unrivaled commitment to the craftsmanship of filmmaking that ultimately gives the fans the one-of-a-kind experience that only you can deliver.

Once again, Tom Cruise delivers on his promise to give fans and moviegoers 200% to his work – every little bit of effort shines through on screen in the final product. With the Mission: Impossible franchise, every installment has become an event level film that raises the bar from the previous high standard set and Part One gives off that very sentiment. Part One of two (set to be released next year) cements the series as the gold standard for the spy thriller genre surpassing the competition without breaking a sweat. After all, the IMF is the agency everyone goes to when a mission can’t get done. Just say the word.

For 30 plus years Tom Cruise has given his blood, sweat and tears to Mission: Impossible. Bones have been broken and his body has been put on the line time and time again. And for 30 years Tom Cruise hasn’t missed a step or shown his age once – he continues to push the boundaries for the authenticity in every action sequence, hand to hand combat, car chases, halo jumps, building climbs and casual bike rides off the side of a cliff. The latter is the single most ambition stunt in the franchise and seeing it within the context of the narrative is truly breathtaking.

At 163 minutes, I had to subconsciously remind myself to breath because the level of adrenaline that pumps through your veins never slows down. Dead Reckoning is one of those examples where the runtime feels like a fraction of its daunting undertaking. Before you know it, the film comes to a full conclusion, even though its part one of two, and you could have sworn you just sat down. Pacing is no issue – Dead Reckoning starts fast and never takes its foot off the gas. There are quieter moments to recharge, and co-writer and director Christopher McQuarrie uses them to the films advantage.

Setting off the events Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) receives a mission to rendezvous with ally Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) in which Ilsa possess one half of a key that can control an experimental AI device known as the “Entity”. Initially designed to infiltrate and gather intelligence, the program outgrows its own source code becoming a threat to the globe unless the full key is acquired. Whoever holds the key instantly becomes the most powerful person on the planet and countries will create enemies out of their own agents just to get their hands on the device.

That is where IMF agent and ghost Ethan and his team come in and once again go rogue. I would argue that the term “team” or “ally” is incorrect – both Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) along with Ilsa are family and closest advisors. Their lives will always mean more to Ethan than his own. He will not accept anything else beyond that point. Both Luther and Benji reciprocate that understanding, when called upon, the two IMF agents are there, loyalty unwavering, ready to do whatever the mission calls for.

Co-written by Erik Jendresen and McQuarrie, Dead Reckoning Part One sets a darker than usual tone the franchise has seen. Around every corner there’s an added twist that can’t be forecasted, keeping in-line with the unpredictable nature that a sentient AI presents itself with. Both McQuarrie and Jendresen stick to possibility of this unnatural technology becoming uncontrollable and the result of the destruction and mayhem it can cause. There are several moments when one side makes total sense on why they should have control and vise versa. Dead Reckoning Part One consistently keeps you on the edge of your seat – as thrilling as it is captivating, McQuarrie’s direction keeps you fully engaged in both the set pieces and the story driving the series to a stunning conclusion.

Cinematographer Fraser Taggart puts us right into the heat of the action and suspense throughout the runtime. Whether it’s a long tracking shot of Ethan running at full speed or close quarter hand to hand combat in a claustrophobic alleyway or the spectacle of driving off the side of a cliff – the camera is placed in the right spot to fully engross the viewer. Since the sequences are more practical than computer generated, the action cranks up that euphoric pulse pounding sensation. I felt like I was the third passenger with Ethan and Grace (Haley Atwell) in that small Fiat 500 as the two escape the clutches of Paris (Pom Klementieff) through the streets of Rome.

At least the Spanish Steps are somewhat intact.

The Mission: Impossible franchise has thrived on its ensemble cast. Since the first installment only Cruise and Rhames have been in every single film and their chemistry highlights that. Same with Simon Pegg and Rebecca Ferguson – the core returning group are all in tune with one another as if they can anticipate the others next move. For M:I the sum has always been greater than the individual parts – Dead Reckoning Part One for all of its moving parts and complexities keeps things rather simple. And regarding the ensemble it’s the new characters that fully round out the best overall cast this franchise has put on screen.

When it comes to on screen chemistry Tom radiates comfortable with whomever he shares the screen with. Maybe it’s because they performed many of their stunts together or maybe it’s just natural, but Haley Atwell is one of the best additions to this franchise. Not discounting Pom Klementieff whatsoever with her minimal screentime – she gets the most out of all her scenes. Atwell and Cruise fit together like puzzle pieces with Atwell showcasing her talent and ability during these excruciating and elongated stunt sequences.

With its scale and sheer spectacle, Dead Reckoning Part One manages to stay grounded and intimate with its characters. The stakes to save the world from itself has never been higher and the “Entity” and human vessel Gabriel (Esai Morales) are truly terrifying and formidable adversaries. It will take every fiber of Ethan, Luther and Benji’s being to save the world. All it takes is one person to question their orders and consider that Ethan is the only one capable of putting an end to the danger.

Like all Mission: Impossible entries, the score booms through the speakers. As much as whats playing out on screen is a roller coaster ride, the score matches the thrilling aspects beat for beat. Lorne Balfe returns from Fallout to deliver one of the best scores the franchise has seen, bringing the original theme composed by Lalo Schifrin a darker more searing tone.

All in all, It’s hard to argue against the cultural impact Mission: Impossible has had on the spy genre – this franchise no longer demands our respect, it commands it. McQuarrie and Cruise together are an unstoppable force of nature, and we can only speculate what kind of stunt will be featured in Dead Reckoning Part Two. Since Part One ends the way it does, McQuarrie tells a complete story within the runtime only making the anticipation for the final chapter that much more palpable.

Screenplay By: Erik Jendresen & Christopher McQuarrie

Directed By: Christopher McQuarrie

Music By: Lorne Balfe

Cinematography: Fraser Taggart

Starring: Tom Cruise, Haley Atwell, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, Esai Morales, Henry Czerny, Pom Klementieff, Cary Elwes, Shea Whingham

Edited By: Eddie Hamilton

Release Date: July 12, 2023

Running Time: 2 Hours 43 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%

Based On: Mission: Impossible by Bruce Geller

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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