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Review: Tom Cruise’s Performance Reaches New Heights in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

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Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

After nearly 30 years and seven films, the Mission: Impossible series has defied expectations and aged gracefully, much like a fine wine. Each installment has surpassed its predecessor, with Brian DePalma’s enticing and seductive opener giving way to John Woo’s explosive and thrilling M:I-2. J.J. Abrams’ Mission: Impossible 3 introduced the franchise’s most formidable villain and set the stage for an emotionally-driven Ethan Hunt story that weaves through the Christopher McQuarrie era, which commenced after Brad Bird’s Ghost Protocol. McQuarrie, who later directed one of the greatest action movies ever made, has ensured that Ethan Hunt outlasts two James Bonds, three Batmen, and even the entire DCEU. Now, this incredible journey culminates in an event of epic proportions. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, the first installment of a two-part story that concludes in 2024, has finally arrived, overcoming numerous obstacles such as COVID-related shutdowns, release date delays, and an infamous leaked on-set rant.

In Ethan Hunt’s seventh adventure, viewers are treated to everything they desire in a Mission: Impossible film: breathtaking action sequences that rival the franchise’s best, moments of absurdity that will leave you in stitches, and a villain who possesses an uncanny foresight and deep connections to the past. Dead Reckoning Part One may not be flawless, as there is one major stumble that will surely divide opinions, but it comes pretty close. As the first half of a two-part story, Dead Reckoning Part One sets the stage for a larger narrative that will likely reach its climax in the next film. However, it also presents an intriguing and self-contained story: the quest for a rogue AI program known as “The Entity,” a name bestowed upon it by Ethan (Tom Cruise) and his team. The Entity looms ominously over the proceedings as various factions vie for control of this program, which holds the power to dictate the truth and determine what is right and wrong, as ominously stated by Henry Czerny’s Eugene Kittridge in his grand return to the franchise. The obligatory setup unfolds with the franchise’s characteristic flair: Ethan, entrusted with locating the key to The Entity for the US government, decides to go rogue in an effort to destroy it and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. From there, chaos ensues.

grace-ethan-hunt-mission-impossible-dead-reckoning-part-1 Hayley Atwell and Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part 1.

New Characters in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Are Bound to Divide Audiences

In Dead Reckoning Part One, a multitude of fresh faces emerge, with many set to return in Part Two. Essai Morales portrays Gabriel, a devoted follower of The Entity and its vocal representative. Gabriel also shares a connection to Ethan’s past, an understandable retcon that adds complexity to their adversarial dynamic. Pom Klementieff takes on the role of Paris, Gabriel’s determined henchwoman. Unfortunately, Paris falls victim to the “Silent Asian” trope, reminiscent of recent shows like The Umbrella Academy and The Boys. It’s regrettable, considering her standout fight with Cruise during a particularly poignant sequence that elevates Dead Reckoning Part One to a remarkable conclusion.

However, the film’s most remarkable addition is Hayley Atwell as the enigmatic Grace. While paired with Ethan for a significant portion of the story, Grace remains somewhat of a mystery. Perhaps the franchise intends to delve deeper into her character in Part Two, as she comes across as one-dimensional in this installment, especially when compared to the memorable Ilsa, portrayed by Rebecca Ferguson, who stands out among Mission: Impossible’s roster of captivating characters. Thankfully, this proves to be less problematic in the grand scheme of things, thanks to the invigorating chemistry between Atwell and Cruise. Their escapades result in some of the franchise’s most humorous and entertaining sequences in recent years. Nevertheless, as Dead Reckoning approaches its lengthy 163-minute runtime, Grace’s actions can become tiresome.

Impossible Dead - Reckoning Part 1

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 Excels, but Stumbles with a Major Misstep

Despite its extensive runtime, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 showcases breathtaking set pieces that leave viewers in awe. The film’s opening and closing sequences, set in the desert and the Alps respectively, rank among the franchise’s most exhilarating moments. These scenes evoke the immersive thrill of video games, surpassing the attempts made by recent films like Uncharted and Mortal Kombat. Additionally, a meticulously choreographed car chase through Rome showcases Cruise’s comedic prowess, providing some of his most amusing physical comedy in years. However, amidst all this excellence, one significant development emerges, posing a threat to the established momentum.

Revealing the specific details would venture into spoiler territory, which will be avoided in this review. Nevertheless, this pivotal moment serves as an emotional linchpin for the film, propelling Ethan, Grace, and the team towards the climactic finale. It successfully intertwines with the film’s overarching themes: the clash between an antiquated world and a formidable new superpower, the collision of truth and fiction, and the disruption of everything that has previously favored Ethan Hunt. The execution is superb, delivering a remarkable sequence that stands among the franchise’s finest conclusions. However, the aforementioned misstep casts a shadow over the rest of the film, leaving viewers puzzled and questioning “Why?” This flaw may ultimately be remembered as one of the few low points of an otherwise outstanding movie.

Comparing Dead Reckoning to Other Mission: Impossible Films

Dead - Reckoning Part 1

While Dead Reckoning delivers a solid experience overall, there are a few notable weaknesses. The script occasionally suffers from clumsy dialogue, with Ving Rhames’ Luther repetitively explaining the MacGuffin and the high stakes as if speaking directly to the audience. This tendency to overstate crucial elements undermines the film’s trust in its viewers. Additionally, the runtime feels excessive as the story reaches its climax. In comparison to the tightly paced Fallout, Dead Reckoning Part One’s pacing works against it, although these issues are relatively minor.

Once again, the film showcases why Cruise is credited for rejuvenating the franchise, following the success of Top Gun: Maverick last summer. This Mission: Impossible installment highlights some of Cruise’s most daring and intense performances as Ethan Hunt, from cliff-jumping on a motorbike to flipping cars while handcuffed to a runaway woman, and engaging in close-quarter combat in a narrow alleyway. Despite some set pieces being teased prior to the film’s release, the excitement and thrill they deliver remain unmatched. It is worth noting that the franchise has demonstrated a willingness to spoil major plot points, as seen in the opening credits montage of Fallout set to the iconic Mission: Impossible theme. However, each moment in Dead Reckoning is more exhilarating than the last, and it concludes with a satisfying ending that, while leaving room for future developments in the second part, avoids the frustration often associated with halfway points in two-part films.

Is Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 a Good Film?

Hayley Atwell and Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part 1.

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is poised to become the standout summer blockbuster. Amidst a crowded lineup of high-profile films, this action-packed epic rises above the rest. Its release in the same month as other notable movies, like Barbie and Oppenheimer, in the 2023 Box Office Battle Royale, speaks to Cruise and Paramount’s unwavering confidence in this picture. And rightfully so.

Director McQuarrie skillfully wields the camera, capturing moments that oscillate between intense anxiety and breathtaking elegance. The returning cast members, including Ferguson, Rhames, Simon Pegg, and Vanessa Kirby, all play integral roles in the story, contributing to the overall sense of impending conclusion that will come full circle in the next installment. In a summer overflowing with countless film options (as evidenced by lackluster box office returns for some movies), there is already a clear frontrunner, and we should express our gratitude to Ethan Hunt for leading the charge ahead of the pack.

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