Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One Review
Let’s talk about Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One.
Tom Cruise is the biggest star in the world again. I’m serious! The man decided to bring Top Gun back after several decades, resisted the urge to release it during the pandemic, and then made that sequel the biggest movie of the year. Considering how many nostalgia bait sequels have been outright rejected by the audiences, to see Top Gun: Maverick command the public’s attention, and money, was impressive to see. And it was all down to the willpower and star factor of Tom Cruise who despite being a bit of an oddball, does have an allure that makes people sit in seats. And in a year where it feels like pretty every film has flopped, it is great to see him back with another film in the Mission: Impossible franchise.
An AI construct called the Entity which can change data on any system in the world and literally change the truth is infecting government computers around the world. There are two keys which could control it and allow a government to be the most powerful in the world, but Ethan Hunt is worried about that power and plans to destroy it. However not only must he fight every government agency in the world, but someone from his past who sent him down this road to begin with.
This is probably the most emotional and plot heavy Mission: Impossible film there has been, which is certainly interesting as this series hasn’t really cared about the plot that much before. It’s been freely admitted for that much of the series, they came up with the action scenes first and then wrote a plot that would link all of those stunts together. The plot was a means to an end as everyone bought their ticket to see how Tom Cruise would nearly kill himself this time. Of course, that’s the main selling point but because we all know that Cruise is insane, the people behind the movies know the only real way they can amp it up is by making the plot actually matter. In this film, they do it in the same way they tried to do it in Fast X. They go and change something in Ethan Hunt’s past and make the villainous person from the past come back. Other than being burned on this by Fast X, it’s not a bad way of doing it and the plot does feel heavier and more important than in previous instalments. Of course, it’s not amazingly stunning, but it’s good enough to add another dimension to the series.
But we’re here for the action and it’s as good as ever. When Christopher McQuarrie took over as the series director back in Rogue Nation, it was a bit bland to begin with. He was always a steady hand director taking over a series where distinctive directors like Bryan De Palma, John Woo and JJ Abrams had put their visual flair on the series. But now he’s a few movies in, you can feel his confidence in the camera work, taking advantage of all the things you can do with cameras that you couldn’t back when the first film was released. There’s lots of swooping drone shots and boy do I love a swooping drone shot. This helps with selling the great action scenes. The biggest stunts now come in the climax which helps with the pacing, no longer will the best thing in the movie be at the start, and tense scenes in the Abu Dhabi airport and a Fiat 500 chase in Rome are great. I think it’s a lower standard than Fallout, but that film was on another level so I’m not angry about that.
And I’ve realised what really appeals about Ethan Hunt as an action star. Note Hunt, not Cruise. So think of Hunt’s British counterpart James Bond, films Mission: Impossible are compared to a lot. Everything Bond does is effortless, everything from schmoozing to killing enemy agents could be done while he mixes one of his famous martinis. The opposite is the case for Hunt. Everything he does is tough, he is having to stretch to his limit in every action scene. That’s what makes him brilliant. This is definitely more of an everyman character that we can relate more than Bond’s male fantasy, and seeing him strain for every single stunt makes us not only root for him more but make every scene more tense. Yes, we know they aren’t going to get rid of Hunt, but the film always make a good case that this is going to be the one he dies in. It makes for great action scenes, which is the whole reason we’re here!
I do have some issues though. The script struggles at times, especially after the start when the exposition is being told. The way the AI is sold to us as a sentient being feels a bit silly, and that would have been handwaved in previous movies because this has been a bit of a silly franchise. But in the really serious one, it’s a shaky foot to start on. Also, notice it says Part One in the title and a warning because we’re getting into some spoiler territory about the direction of the movie. This is an ongoing trend, and typically they all end with a big cliffhanger. This one doesn’t, you don’t have anything like you got in Infinity War, Fast X or Across the Spiderverse. So does it have a conclusive ending? Well not that either, the plot is definitely not finished yet. It just kind of ends. So while you’re happy in the cinema because you’ve watched a really good movie, it feels a bit deflating because the full experience is yet to be had. It’s as if you are having a really good meal but then well before you’re finished, the waiter takes it away and tells you that you’ll get it a bit later on. It just leaves you a bit disappointed.
Despite falling into the Part One trap quite a few films are doing, Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One is exactly what you want from a film like this. It does successfully up the stakes without said story getting in the way of the reason you’re here, the big action scenes. And those action scenes remain as brilliant as ever and yes, the moment where Cruise drives off a mountain on a bike is absolutley brilliant. Unlike some of the other two parter movies, this film doesn’t end with a cliffhanger but also doesn’t end conclusively, which gives it a bit of uncertainity which lets down the rest of the film. But this is still a brilliant action movie and is one to go see as soon as you can.