Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (Theatrical)

Ethan Hunt and his IMF team must track down a dangerous weapon before it falls into the wrong hands.

July 11, 2023 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning part One was one of my most anticipated films this summer. I should probably say this year as I couldn’t wait to see what crazy stunts they’d put Ethan Hunt and his crew through. While the series overall has never been my favorite, it’s the fourth film, Ghost Protocol that really upped the ante on delivering literally edge-of-your-seat thrills that kept me hungry for me. I’m thinking of Tom Cruise literally crawling up the side of a towering building with nothing more than magnetic gloves to keep him adhered to it. And who can forget the previous entry, Fallout, in which he’s climbing up a cliff trying to hurry and reach a detonator before a bomb goes off. Thrilling stuff indeed. Now that I have seen all the films, I still think the 5th entry, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation remains my favorite, there is no denying that these films fully deliver on the promise of delivering the goods. It helps that Tom Cruise does his own stunts. That only makes the impossible missions seem at least somewhat probable.

Rather than starting with a crazy stunt to bring us back into this world, reckoning instead, features an early scene where we see a Russian submarine called Sevastopol testing the stealth capabilities. We see that the system has been hijacked and the torpedoes end up killing everyone on board the sub. It isn’t a long sequence, but likely won’t be remembered as one of the better opening sequences of these films. Getting that out of the way, we catch up with Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his crew. We learn that Ethan’s next mission (Should he choose to accept it) is to travel to the desert to retrieve half of a key (one you’ll hear a lot about throughout the film) from Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). She has a bounty on her, and Ethan encourages her to stay below the radar. Meanwhile, there’s a meeting with Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny) who some may remember from the very first film. We hear a lot about The Entity which is a form of AI that several governmental agencies will pay top dollar for. To obtain this would be to have two genuine copies of a key that everyone seems to want. We meet Gabriel (Esai Morales) who works with the Entity and swears only he knows where the keys can lead and what it does. There are returning faces here with Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames as Benji and Luther, respectively. They’re given a lot to do here even if it’s sometimes simply detailing the plot and connecting the dots. Hayley Atwell plays Grace, who is simply a pickpocket at first, but then gets involved in the scheme, and not only are her motives not entirely clear, but she also has a past that makes her more than just a random thief. There are two other female characters here that make a strong impression. We have Alanna (Vanessa Kirby) who is dubbed “the white widow” and the mostly silent character, Paris (Pom Klementieff) who is a French assassin going after Hunt and his crew. She is one of the more interesting characters here and has shown she’s more than willing to go toe-to-toe with hunt, this includes her wielding a sword in a narrow alleyway. In what is one of many effective sequences in the film. There isn’t a character here that isn’t given their chance to shine at least at some point in the film. Things lead to a climax on a speeding train that, of course, can’t be stopped. It is quite a thrilling sequence that has some similarities to Skyfall in which characters fight on top of the train and must know when to duck at just the right time as a tunnel approaches.

For a film that is over 2 and ½ hours, Dead Reckoning mostly zips by. I didn’t find the film quite as enjoyable as the previous 2 entries, but it more than gives the audience their money’s worth. While certain aspects seem vague, the simplicity of obtaining the key is a good driving force for us to know the basic goal here. The villains are worthy adversaries and there is a right amount of humor during some of the chase sequences, including one where the Cruise and Atwell characters are cuffed together, and must seriously compromise on just how to escape. The film isn’t perfect as some of the line readings have such a self-serious nature to them that it feels almost like a read through. A lot of this comes from the Ving Rhames character. It is as if he is directly telling the audience what is happening and spelling things out just a bit too clearly. Still, that is nitpicking in what is otherwise a fast-paced and engaging action flick. It will be interesting to see what part 2 brings us when it arrives next summer. As it stands, this entry more than wets the appetite. It may even improve on a second viewing where some of the plot points flow more smoothly after we know where things are headed.

The Bottom Line

Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1 gives the audience what they want. It deserves to be seen on the big screen and one that offers the best capabilities as it has some thrilling sequences. It gives us action and suspense and the characters we’re familiar with and want to follow. The film isn’t perfect, and I prefer the previous two entries, but it does more than enough right. There isn’t a character here that feels shortchanged, and despite some complexities, the plot has a simple enough motive to keep us with it. Recommended.