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Movie Review - Paramount's Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One (Spoiler-Free)

We all share the same fate.

Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One is a 2023 spy action thriller film directed by Christopher McQuarrie, written by Christopher McQuarrie and Erik Jendresen, produced by Skydance and TC Productions, and distributed by Paramount Pictures. It is based off of the the 1966 TV series, Mission: Impossible. The film stars Tom Cruise and Hayley Atwell. This is the seventh film in the Mission: Impossible franchise. It was preceded by Mission: Impossible - Fallout and will be succeeded by Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part Two.


"Your life will always matter to me more than my own." - Ethan Hunt

Plot


When a powerful new artificial intelligence surfaces and begins a global race for control, IMF agent Ethan Hunt assembles his team alongside a new slippery thief to stop this technology from falling into the wrong hands.


The Sweet


The madness of Tom Cruise is single-handedly saving the film industry right now.


While I don't expect Dead Reckoning to be the next Top Gun: Maverick, this film is still a must-see on the big screen. Why? Because Cruise and the entire team on this movie pour their hearts and souls into creating an experience that must be had in the movie theater. There is definitely CGI in this movie, but most of the stunts and action sequences are practical. Obviously, the big thing here is the motorcycle stunt, which is, for my money, the biggest and best stunt in the history of film. But there's so much more than that. The fight scenes are practical. When people fly all over the place, it's not CGI. That's so refreshing in an industry that is constantly overtaken by digital effects.


I also really liked the story we get here. It manages to have these huge stakes while also pertaining to Ethan himself. The film is all about AI being a threat, which makes grounds the fantasy and tackles a very real fear that a lot of us have. The technology discussed in this film could absolutely exist. The world-ending threat that they face here could be an actual threat to us one day, and that just makes the movie a little bit more intense and scarier. And I mean that in a good way.


Hayley Atwell's Grace is a highlight new character that most people are absolutely loving coming out of the film, and she's great. She brings a different type of energy than the rest of the IMF team. She's very much a slick, sly thief that challenges Ethan at different points before eventually teaming up with him at the end. She has an anti-heroic charisma to her that I really enjoyed. Her chemistry with Tom Cruise is great, and I cannot wait to see her in future installments.


One thing that I've noticed about the Mission: Impossible movies is how smart they are. These films are really good at using the world established around them to outsmart the audience. There's a sequence that takes place in an airport at the beginning of the film that absolutely sums up what I mean by this. It sets up something the audience has seen a million times but throws a wrench into the cliche and takes the scene in an entirely different direction. It allows for natural tension building and thrills that you don't see in any other action franchise. I love it.


I also really love Christopher McQuarrie's direction in these movies. He knows how to direct action films really, really well. I think it helps that he both writes and directs, because he and Tom Cruise just work really well together. McQuarrie has this epic style about him where he makes everything feel enormous. He uses extremely advanced tactics to capture the insane Tom Cruise stunts, and that's something that a lot of directors might be unable to do. I love the colorful aesthetics he creates. I love the different set pieces that he shows us. He is a really fantastic director, and I hope he really gets more work outside of Mission: Impossible in the future.


The Sour


Although I do like the story, I think Dead Reckoning has one of the weakest screenplays of any of the Mission: Impossible films. This movie constantly feels the need to deliver exposition about the AI and about the villains, and it really bogs the movie down. When there aren't scenes of exposition, this movie moves at a breakneck pace. It is fast. But every so often, it slows to a halt to explain some backstory or some new piece of information that we need to do, and it really just kills the momentum. It's very, very frustrating.


I also am not sure how I feel about our human villains in this movie. Our main antagonist is a man named Gabriel, and I think he's actually pretty cool, but I don't love the way he's utilized here. His goal isn't confusing, but the path he is taking to get there is. He also has some connections back to Ethan that are just retconned. The film makes it seem like you should know who he is, but he hasn't appeared or been mentioned in any of the previous films. Due to this, his presence feels less imposing than it should. And it took away from the movie, because even though the stakes felt very high, if he was a great villain, they could've been higher.


This movie also definitely reuses some tropes that previous films in the franchise have used. It always seems like IMF is actually chasing after Ethan Hunt or he's "gone rogue", and I think that that device has run its course. It'd be interesting if, for once, the IMF was actually on Ethan's side, but they never are. Despite this, they are never really villains, because they are always redeemed at the end. Dead Reckoning reuses this plot beat again, and this time, it kind of falls flat because it just feels so recycled.


Finally, I think Dead Reckoning has the same problem that every single Mission: Impossible movie has: it sidelines most of our supporting cast. The first three Mission: Impossible movies just have one-and-done characters with the exception of Ethan and Luther. Ghost Protocol does the best job of balancing a great group of characters. But then Rogue Nation primarily focuses on Ilsa. Fallout primarily focuses on August Walker. And Dead Reckoning primarily focuses on Grace. Benji, Ilsa, and Luther are fantastic characters, but they don't get enough to do in this. It feels like such wasted potential.


Final Thoughts and Score


Dead Reckoning may not meet the heights of its predecessor or the incredible Top Gun: Maverick, but it's still a great, fun mission that you should absolutely choose to accept.


I will go Savory here. Age range is 9+.


SWEET N' SOUR SCALE

Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)


"Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One"


Fun Factor: 8.5/10

Acting: 8/10

Story: 8/10

Characters: 8.5/10

Quality: 8/10


Directed by Christopher McQuarrie


Rated PG-13 for moderate violence and action, disturbing themes and images, language, thematic elements


Released on July 12, 2023


2 hours and 43 minutes


Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt

Hayley Atwell as Grace

Esai Morales as Gabriel

Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn

Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell

Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust

Henry Cznery as Eugene Kittridge

Vanessa Kirby as Alana Mistpolis / White Widow

Pom Klementieff as Paris

Shea Whigham as Jasper Briggs

Cary Elwes as Delinger

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