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July 28, 2023


written by: Christopher McQuarrie and Erik Jendresen
produced by: Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie
directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
rated: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, some language and suggestive material)
runtime: 163 min.
U.S. release date: July 12, 2023


Another summer means another movie summer for Tom Cruise to save! After “saving cinema” with “Top Gun: Maverick”, he’s back for another installment of the greatest action/thriller movies series based on a television series with “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One”, the seventh outing led by the indefatigable Cruise. Once again, he partners (and co-produces) with Christopher McQuarrie, the director who’s helmed the last couple of sequels, starting with 2015’s “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”, and the result is indeed another propulsive spy thriller with more outrageous spectacular action sequences in a story that surprisingly leans a little more on expositional espionage than the last two outings with the IMF gang. There’s still much to enjoy here, even if this “Part One” includes an overused MacGuffin and a phantom menace that’s obviously not going to be fully realized until next year.

The unseen threat for this installment of the franchise is advanced technology, specifically an artificial intelligence called The Entity. We don’t learn about that silly name until a clandestine meeting of the U.S. Intelligence Community attending by CIA Director Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny) and Director of National Intelligence Denlinger (Cary Elwes), that’s infiltrated by our hero, Ethan Hunt (Cruise). It’s a cool scene that utilizes the franchise’s requisite disguise that grows in tension, resembling what director Brian DePalma did with the very first movie (away back in 1996, if you can believe it) by focusing on the suspicions and paranoia, while adding elements of humor, in the enclosed room.



McQuarrie and cinematographer Fraser Taggart employ the use of Dutch angles for this sequence, enhancing the anxiety the moment calls for, which differentiates from the previous cinematographer on the last movie, “Fallout”. Still, some of the dialogue here feels as if McQuarrie (who co-wrote with Erik Jendresen) is playing “catch-up” with the audience.

Through some clunky exposition, it is explained that The Entity was originally created to sabotage digital systems, but like Ethan Hunt has done so many times, it’s gone rogue and is now sentient and prone to infiltrating defense and military systems as well as intelligence networks all over the world. Still, what human is behind it all though? It’s unclear, but what is known is that there’s a special two-piece cruciform key that gives one access to The Entity and one piece of the key is floating in the ocean with a sunken Russian sub (seen in an underwhelming opening sequence, that feels akin to a classic Bond opening), thanks to The Entity.

The other half of this special key is in the hands of someone on the IMF (that’s Impossible Mission Force), which prompts Kittridge to task Hunt with finding it. The human antagonist the Hunt and his team must contend with is Gabriel (a game Esai Morales), a mysterious figure from Hunt’s past who works closely with The Entity. His goal, like so many Bond villains, is to collect both key pieces and have global control of whatever he wants. Once again, Hunt reunites with field tech agent, Benji (Simon Pegg), computer tech, Luther (Ving Rhames), and former MI6 agent, Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), as seek out the key, while doing their best to avoid Gabriel’s hired muscle, the violence prone, Paris (Pom Klementieff, oddly playing a character that had the same name as Leonard Nimoy’s character in the original television series) and outwit a pair of government agents, Jasper (Shea Whigham) and Degas (Greg Tarzan Davis) and reuniting with black arms dealer, Alanna Mitsopolis (Vanessa Kirby), in Venice. Characters in “Dead Reckoning Part One” want to collect the key or capture Ethan Hunt, whereas Hunt would rather destroy the key to prevent it from getting into the wrong hands.



The overall story to this “Part One” isn’t terribly unique, but it’s as wildly entertaining as we’ve come to expect from a McQ (an abbreviation the director goes by) and Cruise offering. The storytelling approach here differs somewhat from the last two outings since the goal is to setup a story in two parts. That’s why the movie doesn’t open with the requisite “impossible” stunt from Cruise, but rather a Bond-type opening involving a Russian submarine that establishes the power and potential The Entity has. While the AI capabilities of this unseen threat are quite meta it comes with it a plethora of exposition to explain away what’s at risk (everything!) and instead of a real-world horror threat, the story learns more toward a spy fantasy with a touch of comedy (that situational kind, mostly physical). While the exposition is obvious, it’s never eye-rolling, going out of its way to focus on clarity, especially when it comes to character motivations.

One storytelling aspect that feels like it will be paid off in “Dead Reckoning-Part Two” is the mysterious backstory between Morales’ Gabriel and Cruise’s Hunt. There are black-and-white flashback scenes that introduce us to the death of an unknown brunette that was apparently killed off by Gabriel, someone that meant a lot to Hunt. Specifics are slim and there’s no indication that this was before or after his wife from “Mission: Impossible III” (played by Michelle Monaghan, remember her character? didn’t think so), then again one could glean from “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” that her story ended. It seems odd to reference such an event without provided any kind of context, but that’s why it’s obvious there will be more to this dangling plot thread in the next movie. “Dead Reckoning-Part One” is also the first time the franchise introduces us to Gabriel and although he has a climactic skirmish with Ethan atop the Orient Express train bound for Innsbruck. This occurs after Gabriel’s showdown with Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust on Ponte Minich, a luminous bridge in the Sestiere Castello in Venice. It’s hard for viewers to determine why Gabriel is such a threat since we hardly spend time with him and the connection to Ethan’s past is vague at best.



Another addition to the cast of “Dead Reckoning-Part One” is a welcome one and that’s Hayley Atwell as Grace, an international thief that Ethan (literally) bumps into. She’s an expert at sleight of hand handiwork and winds up getting swept up in the IMF mix when she steals half the key (it really does feel like this MacGuffin is a hot potato that everyone handles) at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Through most of the movie, Grace’s motivations can be questioned, but inevitably she becomes the latest brunette that partners up with Cruise’s Hunt. Atwell is a refreshing addition to the cast, matching physicality and comic timing with Cruise and providing somewhat of a gateway character for new viewers to latch on to, since Grace is pulled into this spy game for the first time. Personally, I wouldn’t find if she took over the franchise, but Cruise is gonna Cruise.

Grace is the focus of “Dead Reckoning Part One,” with the thief and her mastery of sleight of hand caught up in Gabriel’s world domination plans, meeting Ethan in an airport where the agent navigates surveillance with help from his team (who also deal with more direct challenges to their safety), setting up one of many situations where the consistently rogue one is surrounded by enemies and interested parties, forced to figure out a plan of escape. McQuarrie keeps the action coming, taking the story to Rome and Venice, where Ethan and Grace get to understand each other, while Gabriel’s history with the senior IMF agent makes things personal for maximum aggression. Cruise and Atwell work well together, especially when they handcuffed together and most flee pursuers behind the wheel of a mini yellow Fiat. The crumbling train sequence towards the end finds both actors stretched to their limits. You know there are precautions taken and stunts all worked out, but you nevertheless still feel the extreme peril of the dire situation the two are in.



As for that motorcycle (Honda CRF 250) cliff jumping scene with Cruise (filmed in Norway) – sure it’s great, but maybe they shouldn’t have marketed it death before the movie was released, since once we experience the scene in context, there’s a sense of, “oh yeah, this.” We really didn’t need a whole behind-the-scenes show-and-tell of how McQ & Cruise managed the 4,000 ft. free fall BEFORE the movie came out. Oh, you can say, “Well, you don’t have to watch it.” That’s true, but it’s still out there. Nevertheless, the sequence is impressive and invigorating, but not surprising, thanks to all the pre-release coverage. The action on the Orient Express after this stunt is definitely more absorbing.

Like it or not, “Dead Reckoning-Part One” is a bit of a departure from the last three sequels, focusing more on building a brand new two-parter story. Like “Fast X” and “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” before it, the movie ends with a cliffhanger. At least this time, you expect it if you caught the “Part One” of the title. “Part Two” is supposedly coming out next year, but who knows now with the strike. Without a doubt, this is a movie that offers entertaining summer escapism, but it’s certainly among the best of the M:I movies.






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