Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One Review

Tom Cruise, you are, without a doubt, a man who fears no stunts in this industry.

With some impressive, heart-pounding action sequences and a fun cast (with some great old and new additions), Dead Reckoning Part 1 exemplifies everything a modern-day action blockbuster strives to be. Perhaps it’s director Christopher McQuarrie, who stuck around after the fantastic Rogue Nation and Fallout, decided to up the ante with the audacious stunts. The spy thriller narrative elements become relatively simplified here, opting for a (more) muted direction with this franchise’s nuanced take on experimental artificial intelligence. Fortunately, this part one feels more like a stand-alone cohesive unit than relying on the subsequent part to patch up the dangling story elements (perhaps a template others can utilize?).

The plot follows Ethan (Cruise) and his team trying to secure two keys that bond together to grant access to “The Entity,” this franchise’s version of a sentimental, perspicacious Skynet grants the user full power across the globe. (Didn’t we have this similar quest in Dial of Destiny?)

Photo Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Joke aside, the mission, should Ethan accept it, is to secure the two halves of the key and return them to Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny) so the United States will return to a premium position. Acquiring the key isn’t enough, as the opening prologue shows that the entity is located on a Russian sub at the bottom of an ocean (which will be saved for the sequel). The globe-trotting journey cannot forget his friends, such as Luther (Ving Rhames), Benji (Simon Pegg), and Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby), and her henchman, Zola (Frederick Schmidt). We’re also introduced to some newcomers that include “the Community” leading pestering agent Jasper Briggs (Shea Whigham), expert trickster thief Grace (Hayley Atwell), villainous Gabriel (Esai Morales), and his assassin henchwoman named Paris (Pom Klementieff). It turns out Gabriel has a connection to the entity and shares a bloody memory with Ethan from his per-IMF days.

The entire ensemble is terrific (notably Cruise, Atwell, Morales, and Klementieff) as McQuarrie juggles a myriad of subplots tying together to the central strand. We get the humoring moments sprinkled within the heavy-dosed exposition scenes and incredible stunts, and it never truly feels worn down despite a nearly three-hour runtime. What is engaging is McQuarrie and Cruise start asking pivotal questions about A.I. in this work, where the argument for truth in the real world and our creation is examined. Emotion is integral to the spectacle (much like James Gunn solidified in his trilogy capper with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 earlier this year), and it’s designed to keep up engaged with the characters we’ve spent years with. Try not to get lost in the schemes of artificial intelligence for the sequel, though, Mr. McQuarrie, or this could go south rapidly.

The only gripes one could find with this seventh installment are the pacing can become quite vexing, and the top-heavy exposition doesn’t congeal when the film’s purpose is to remain in that “espionage” mentality. The stunts do a damn fine job covering this up, keeping the adrenaline pulsing when pushing to that last stretch where Cruise decides to showcase “the biggest and most dangerous stunt in cinema history.” Everyone gets a taste of the impulses the production team has in mind, and it’s such a blast to witness. It might not be everyone’s personal favorite M:I feature (yours truly still thinks Rogue Nation and Fallout take the cake), but it’s such an alluring, electrifying ride that is aware of its zeal to shoot our nerves up to a hundred.

As many others will say upon walking out of the multiplex: Bring on Part 2, Mr. Cruise.

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