MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING Part One review by Mark Walters – Tom Cruise continues to impress

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING Part One review by Mark Walters – Tom Cruise continues to impress

When the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movie franchise started in 1996, most wouldm’t have imagined it would still be going 27 years later, and with Tom Cruise still in the lead. The seventh entry hits this week, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING Part One, which as the title would indicate is the first half of a two-part story. There’s also a lot of eyes on this entry since it comes a year after TOP GUN: MAVERICK dominated box office sales, and helped reinvigorate moviegoing audiences post-covid.

The new story follows Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his team members who are now completely rogue agents and no longer sanctioned by the United States government. We learn there’s a two-part key that is used to control an Artificial Intelligence program, and certain parties are trying to get their hands on both halves of the key, which in theory could give them unprecedented control… but to add a wrinkle into things, the AI program has apparently become self-aware and is even manipulating those looking for it. At one point Ethan loses the key to a rather skilled pickpocket named Grace (Hayley Atwell), but catches up with her and finds himself teaming up with her to keep the key away from others. And as if things aren’t complicated enough, Ethan realizes one of the main points of opposition in this matter is Gabriel (Esai Morales), a man who once killed someone Ethan cared about before he joined the IMF. So now this mission is personal, and no one is safe. Even the “good guys” are being deceived by the very program they’re trying to find.

This outing, at two hours and 43 minutes, is the longest of the MISSION movies, but don’t let that scare you. It’s never once boring or self-indulgent, every minute of the run time is carefully crafted and beautifully performed. Even the incredible action sequences are masterfully executed. At this point these movies are kind of like the James Bond films, in that they’ve found a rhythm and know how to deliver what audiences want and expect, and it allows the performers and stunts to shine, while giving us the kind of movie we pretty much can predict the bones of. That said, DEAD RECKONING Part One is easily one of the best of the franchise, really firing on all cylinders and feeling like the stakes are truly high. And the concept of an AI program going out of control and manipulating those trying to control it is eerily topical and relevant to real world events. The danger level is more intense as a result, and not everyone we know and like in the cast is safe.

Tom Cruise really is an incredible presence in these movies, commanding the screen with confidence and charm, and pulling off incredible stunts that most men his age wouldn’t even consider. There’s something really amazing watching him do some of these things and knowing it’s not only NOT a stuntman, but also not reliant on excessive CGI to sell the concept. Hayley Atwell is a welcome addition to the cast, and very likable as a likely future member of Ethan’s team. She’s incredibly sexy and smart here, and it’s one of her best roles to date, really reminding me why I like her so much as an actress. Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames are also back and have some great moments as Ethan’s stressed-out buddies, and it’s wonderful to see Henry Czerny back as Kittridge, a thorn in Ethan’s side that we haven’t seen since the first MISSION movie. Pom Klementieff does a great job playing an assassin who clearly poses a legitimate threat to our heroes, and Esai Morales plays a really strong villain that holds his own against Cruise in some pretty intense action sequences. I also like the addition of Shea Whigham as a government agent chasing down Ethan Hunt, but never quite getting close enough. Rebecca Ferguson also returns, but in a more limited role this time, and Cary Elwes has a brief role as the new top man in charge over Ethan’s former division.

But let’s face it, with these movies it’s about the action and big set pieces, and DEAD RECKONING offers plenty. Director and co-writer Christopher McQuarrie really has found a confident groove working with Cruise and doing these films, and the way he handles the shots here, even simple moments, is pure cinematic excellence. There are great fight scenes and foot chases in Venice, an exhilarating game of cat and mouse in an airport, and an absolutely thrilling finale on board the Orient Express. The final moments are some of the best movie action I’ve ever witnessed, and it definitely makes me excited to see Part Two next year. This is a BIG movie in so many ways, and it’s risky making such a big movie the first half of two parts, but it works and it’s a lot of fun. I’d call it the best of the series since the original, though I’m anxious to see if Part Two can top it… and now, we wait.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING Part One hits theaters on July 12, 2023

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started Bigfanboy.com, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and Bigfanboy.com regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.