While some franchises have a tendency to fly off the rails (most recently — if not gloriously — The Fast Saga), leave it to Tom Cruise to have steered the Mission: Impossible franchise through steady waters for 27 years. With each film continuously better than the last — aside from M:I-2 which honestly works better as a standalone John Woo film — Cruise, and co-writer/director Christopher McQuarrie, show absolutely no signs of slowing down with Dead Reckoning Part One.
Interestingly though, Dead Reckoning manages to feel more old school than the last five outings, with lots of cat-and-mouse chases, onscreen sleight of handwork, and some good old fisticuffs. That’s not to say it doesn’t feature the death defying stunt work and action set pieces it’s notorious for. But no matter how big the action gets, Cruise and McQuarrie strive to capture as much as possible in camera, making scenes feel bigger and far more intense than they might otherwise.
IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) has chosen to accept his mission from director Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny): find Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) and retrieve one half of a key that opens something that no one seems to know what it is or even what’s inside. Ethan also learns that the key is related to an AI program called the Entity, which has gone rogue and has infiltrated intelligence networks and major defense and military systems.
Ethan, along with his team — Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg) — has decided to destroy the Entity. Teaming up with the mysterious “Grace” (Hayley Atwell), who may or may not have ulterior motives. But first he has to find the other half of the key, leading them on a trail full of old allies like Alanna Mitsopolis (Vanessa Kirby), and both old and new enemies: Ethan’s ally before joining the IMF, Gabriel (Esai Morales) and Paris (Pom Klementieff), an assassin working for Gabriel.
Considering all the press/promo screenings, and IMAX fan events, there’s really not a whole lot one could try to add to the Dead Reckoning hype train. This is pure and simply Cruise & Co. doing what they do best: gangbusters crowd-pleasing action of the highest order. Any time the gang gets back together — Cruise, McQuarrie, Rhames, and Pegg — we know what we’re getting into. With the additions from Rogue Nation forward — Ferguson, Kirby, Klementieff, and especially Atwell — it continues the franchise’s trend of top tier action filmmaking with no end in sight. It’s also a delight to have Czerny returning for the first time since the original film.
McQuarrie (and co-writer Erik Jendresen) has come up with a very timely McGuffin, helping make it extremely scary in the process. Not to undermine Morales’s performance or character, but I have a feeling there will be plenty more coming for his story in Part Two and can’t wait to see the backstory between Gabriel and Ethan hopefully as fleshed out as it should.
If there’s one tiny gripe, it’s that the marketing is leading us to believe that Dead Reckoning was filmed for IMAX. That is not the case, and something audiences should be aware of as I kept waiting for the IMAX scenes to kick in, which took me out of the film and was very distracting. However, Fraser Taggert still manages to keep his cinematography feeling as big as it could have otherwise. Aside from that, this is the biggest and best summer movie yet, if not one of the best films of the year so far.