Review: Dead Reckoning Part One surpasses many recent action movies, using Tom Cruise’s death-defying stunts as a reason to see them by themselves. Despite a few nitpicks, nothing compares to the practicality that the new Mission: Impossible movie offers.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is the newest movie from the tandem of Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie, a duo that’s dominated blockbuster action filmmaking for the last decade. The two need little introduction at this point as they’ve been responsible for life-altering experiences like Mission: Impossible – Fallout and Top Gun: Maverick.
Considering the latter is being hailed as “the movie that saved theaters,” I was fascinated to see Tom Cruise’s next move. The leading man still seems hellbent on holding the torch as action’s best movie star, and I’ll be in a theater seat until he conquers the mountain or dies trying – and he’s certainly attempting to do at least one of those with Dead Reckoning, either in Part One or Part Two.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One resets the stakes to focus on a new enemy: the deadly threat of artificial intelligence that looms greatly over every interaction threaded through this action-packed thrill ride. A.I. may feel too poignant as a threat for our current climate, which makes Dead Reckoning Part One even more impressive as a film too fit for our time.
Labeled as “the Entity,” A.I. plays a significant role in Dead Reckoning Part One, offering promise to those that follow orders, and threatening doom on those that try to shut it down. It’s a hard tightrope to cross, pinning overdone A.I. narrative beats and illogical tropes against insane stunts and tried characters, all for a showdown absent until Part Two inevitably rolls around.
And while Dead Reckoning Part One feels so much like a set-up for a better, more rewarding second movie, there’s certainly enough to take from Tom Cruise’s death-warning to studios. Algorithms and computers can’t make films like this – only humans are capable of the stunts and visuals offered in the latest Mission: Impossible movie.
Dead Reckoning Part One weaves together three fantastic set pieces, each with their own mini-movies offering three acts of unrelenting adrenaline. The first comes from an elaborate game of hide-and-seek played by Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and the bounty hunters searching for the precious key capable of *something* to do with the all-being A.I. program overseeing much this movie’s plot.
This takes place in an airport in Abu Dhabi, where Ethan Hunt meets the professional burglar Grace (Hayley Atwell), capable of pickpocketing even the most sophisticated businesspeople. This section of the movie feels the most like past Mission: Impossible movies as Ethan Hunt’s team of IMF agents simultaneously attempt to defuse a nuclear bomb capable of mass destruction. This team consists of past franchise mainstays Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg).
Grace is the most pivotal addition for the franchise in this entry, offering the mysterious middle-woman levying the world in her hands with each decision. This character was unfortunately the least effective of the new bunch in my estimation given that she continuously proves herself untrustworthy for the bunch. It’s a lot to ask of an audience member to hang in there hoping that she inevitably changes course in the third act (even though it’s obvious from the start – an issue I had with another recent release not to be named).
Dead Reckoning Part One then shift in the second act to a traversing action sequence through the streets of Rome, where a car chase ensues between Ethan and Grace, and the various villains acting on the parts of “the Entity” and government intelligence agencies. Although many of the actors do their characters justice in the movie, Dead Reckoning Part One could’ve used more memorable characters to shore up the back end. Gabriel (Esai Morales) serves as the movie’s main antagonist (at least in person, not including A.I. nonsense) but only gets surface-level exposition.
There’s clearly a history between Ethan and Gabriel, but it’s only teased as a talking point rather than fully explored, leaving a lot of narrative stakes in the air as the two face off in act three. I assume Esai Morales will reprise his role in Part Two, but I wanted more revelation for the character given his importance to the overall arch.
Paris (Pom Klementieff) becomes the primary villain during this stretch in act two of the film as she wreaks havoc on the city of Rome, driving straight through the pedestrian areas of the city in her military-grade vehicle. Although speaking little until her final moments on screen, Klementieff excels in her small supporting role doing the exact opposite of Mantis in the Guardians world. She gives serious Harley Quinn energy in terms of physicality in the few moments she’s given the runway to fully deliver.
Reviews for Movies like Dead Reckoning Part One (2023)
The fleeting car sequence in Dead Reckoning Part One delivers on its premise, although I wish the quippy dialogue was turned down a notch. It’s funny – almost to a fault. It takes a breather at about the halfway point, in which Ethan and Grace are required to switch vehicles to a smaller Fiat. The hijinks ensue as the two attempt to control the small car, which overstays it’s welcome just a bit.
The best Mission: Impossible movies have multiple fantastic set pieces, which may hold Dead Reckoning Part One back just a bit. Its third act (which we’ll get to shortly) is astounding in every way. Up to that point, it feels like another Mission: Impossible – not necessarily better, certainly not worse. Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg are sidelined for much of the movie as it attempts to establish new characters that just don’t offer much new value. Even Rebecca Ferguson isn’t given the necessary screentime to make much impact – I felt they needed some resolution to her character before she left to make more and more Dune movies.
But the third act delivers the promise and some – offering the same level of care and practicality as Fallout, a feat I thought would not be possible. Not sure if you knew this, but Tom Cruise jumps off a cliff on a motorcycle in this one. But that’s not it – he lands right in a train’s window and proceeds to scale said train as it falls off a cliff. It’s an unreal sequence, one that’s clearly done practically and amazingly by an actor setting his sights on dying in front of the camera.
Dead Reckoning Part One offers one of cinema’s greatest final acts in an action movie. It’s hard to judge this movie on it’s own merit given what Mission: Impossible – Fallout accomplished, but at least this outing gets somewhere *close*. The duo of Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie set up a sequel perfectly, building out so much of the world that the next could literally do anything.
So while Dead Reckoning Part One could’ve used another strong set piece like the final train sequence, I was so eager leaving the theater. I’ll be there opening night for Part Two, which means the first part worked. Tom Cruise, Christopher McQuarrie and company continue to deliver on practicality on a level that few production teams are capable of. I can’t imagine they’ll make many more movies like these, so I’ll cherish every one we get.
Watch Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One on VOD
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One Cast and Credits
Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt
Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell
Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn
Hayley Atwell as Grace
Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust
Vanessa Kirby as White Widow
Esai Morales as Gabriel
Pom Klementieff as Paris
Henry Czerny as Eugene Kittridge
Cary Elwes as Denlinger
Shea Whigham as Jasper Briggs
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Cinematography: Fraser Taggart
Editor: Eddie Hamilton
Composer: Lorne Balfe
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