Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One Review

I’ve got a complicated relationship with Tom Cruise. Yes, he is the main financier of a horrific cult and the personal best friend of David Miscavige, one of the most dangerous and deranged men in America. But he is, undeniably, a Movie Star. Capital M, capital S. Tom Cruise is one of the best Blockbuster actors in the world, and somehow with each of the Mission Impossible films he pulls it off again.

Cruise has become this monolithic, unstoppable force of the fake, idealized Hollywood that hasn’t existed in decades. And even beyond Mission Impossible, with films like Top Gun Maverick, Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow, as both an actor and producer, he proves over and over again that he is one of the few people left that is Movie Star, the way Hollywood wants us to believe they exist. I’ve prefaced this statement to add weight to what I’m about to say; Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One is one of the very best action movies ever made.

Every Mission Impossible film is first and foremost a story about family; However, they show and don’t tell it, unlike a few fast action films I could name drop. Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is to me the ideal true American hero, not because he has a James Bond-like ability to do everything himself – it’s because he doesn’t. Hunt consistently tries to push his friends and family out of the picture to protect them, but every time they remain right where they are. In comparison to someone like Bond, who’s character I find utterly boring, Hunt needs his team. If he didn’t have then, he’d have died long ago. And that reluctant acceptance of the dependence is what makes this character fascinating, and makes him someone I have to root for.

Dead Reckoning Part One is, naturally, the first in a two-parter event, which I am starting to hope happens a little bit more. Films are typically constrained by the 2 hours, give or take, that they get on screen to tell a story. Sometimes, like with The Lord of the Rings, you’ve got a 10 hour story that demands to be told that way and split into parts. And with Across the Spider-Verse ending on an unbelievable cliffhanger and becoming one of the most beloved movies ever, producers should take a few notes.

In Dead Reckoning, Cruise takes on maybe the most societally timely threat ever: a rogue AI, hell bent on devolving the world into chaos, that has come to life. I don’t need to tell you that AI is a hot topic right now, what with greedy business owner and corporations attempting to replace everything from journalists to script writers and even live actors with it. And perhaps even… film critics? The fear of AI is real right now, and Dead Reckoning harnesses our fear of AI without cheapening it.

Dead Reckoning does the smart thing, introducing the AI only as “The Entity” and setting it up as a living monster that can fake messages, transmissions, phone calls, social media posts, and major news network sources. Essentially, The Entity is everywhere, it cannot be stopped, and whoever controls it controls the world. Hunt and his team know they are the only ones who can find and destroy it before it falls into… anyone’s hands. Of the players involved, it seems only Cruise and his team understand that no one can control The Entity.

Cue our Maguffin, a strange key split into two parts that unlocks… something, somewhere, that would unveil the Entity’s source code. The Maguffin in this movie isn’t just something our heroes are hunting for, but something they are consistently interacting with. Passing off, stealing, pickpocketing, planting, these key pieces make their way through dozens of hands following constantly shifting alliances. Our globetrotting adventure takes us to Yemen, Rome, and Venice across a carefully structured script that involves way more dialogue than I’ve come to expect from action films. Because of this, the huge action set pieces are more meaningful, and boy do they hit hard.

Mr. Movie Star is joined by an impeccable cast, consisting of course of his longtime teammates Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) as well as his old partner Isla (Rebecca Ferguson). But the star of the show is truly Hayley Atwell, who holds her own against Cruise in every scene they have together with impeccable chemistry. A lot of actors have had trouble “escaping the Marvel Machine”, finding it hard to find work after making bank on the biggest movies in the world – I’m glad to see that Atwell has survived the transition and absolutely cemented herself as one of the best actresses in the action film game. And same to Pom Klementieff of Guardians of the Galaxy fame, who here plays a French black widow-type assassin with deft expertise. Between Ferguson, Klementieff, Atwell, and Kirby, leading roles all, this film meaningfully spotlights women in action better than any film since Mad Max: Fury Road.

As I said before, a surprising amount of the film is just dialogue. Well-written, meaningful to each character, and performed impressively by all involved. Thus, when Cruise and Atwell are handcuffed to each other and trapped in a comical high-stakes car chase that is just looping around the same plaza square over and over again, I feel this certain glee. The shots are perfect, there are very few hard jump cuts, and you can see each of these actors feel the anticipation of performing their own stunts, as well as the glee of pulling them off. It is my favorite car chase scene in film.

And yet, when we reach the third act, and Vanessa Kirby gets to show off her acting chops on the Orient Express, it’s shot even better. I noted that all of the set pieces are edited with long shots, especially in fights making sure to show the full choreography of the punches and kicks. Each one has this gravity that is lost with the all-too-popular excessive jump-cutting of Blockbuster schlock today, and by the time they pulled off the final stunt on the train I was so enraptured I literally fell out of my seat at the theater. Now that’s edge-of-your-seat.

Cruise consistently manages to walk this line between Blockbuster schlock action and, as Martin Scorsese would put it, “Cinema.” Dead Reckoning Part One is Cinema in its finest form, and it manages to still be so enthralling you cannot take your eyes off the screen. With killer performances by Cruise, Atwell, and Kirby highlighting some the best action scenes I have seen since Aliens, Dead Reckoning Part One is firmly one of the best action films of all time. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get to theaters right now for the next showing of Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One.




Nirav Gandhi
Nirav is a 30 year-old living in an unlicensed, extended Nintendo commercial. He considers Avatar: The Last Airbender to be the absolute apex of media. He's best known for his unsolicited Scooby-Doo trivia and rants about lore inconsistencies in the Fantastic Beasts movies.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments