The Mission: Impossible franchise has not just had some incredible longevity, it’s also one of the rare ones that has also reinvented itself. What started out almost quaint in comparison has now become some of the biggest cinema on the planet. Tom Cruise has shepherded this collection of films to the pinnacle of the action genre. Usually, the movies just build on what they’ve been doing well, ever since the big change between the third and fourth flicks. Here, we have something else going on. Opting for their first two parter, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One tries to do some different things than usual. The result could be a bit more of a divisive entries into the series yet.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is a step back from the recent highs of the franchise, but that’s partly in comparison to how good they’ve been of late. We won’t fully be able to judge this one until we see Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part Two next year, but while Ethan Hunt is showing no signs of weakness, this is the least satisfying outing since the first two sequels. Make of that what you will.
I’ll be as vague as possible about what the trailers haven’t revealed yet. After a prologue sets up the ungodly powerful weapon at the core of this story, we find Ethan Hunt (Cruise) learning about just what the stakes are. Briefed by Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny) on what’s known as “the entity,” he’s initially tasked with finding Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who has one of the two keys needed to control it. At the same time, the government is disavowing him and his IMF team (of course), especially once Cruise and Kittridge have a disagreement on what do with this terror. Setting off on the mission with Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), they’re very quickly public enemy number one.
Pursued on all sides, Ethan and his team go even more rogue than usual. Not only is the government after Ethan, led by agent Jasper Briggs (Shea Whigham), there’s a shady character named Gabriel (Esai Morales) who seems to be pulling many a string behind it all, as well as is a dark part of Ethan’s past. An encounter with him shakes Ethan, but he’s also brought into the orbit of talented thief Grace (Hayley Atwell). She’ll need him to stay alive, while he’ll need her on this mission, which will bring them back to The White Widow (Vanessa Kirby), across the globe, and potentially to their doom.
Tom Cruise is nothing less than totally committed here, once again. Intense yet suave in the dialogue scenes, the action sequences have him at as high a level as ever. The hook here has been his stunt work, and it does continue to make a difference. Seeing him here lends a tactile element that so many other action films don’t have. Hayley Atwell is an enjoyable new member of the franchise family. She and Cruise have a fun chemistry, too. Esai Morales is a disappointing addition, however, saddled with a character you never get a handle on. Unfortunately, it’s a one-note performance. Returning players like Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, are always welcomed, while some notable newcomers include Pom Klementieff and Shea Whigham, both having fun. The other returning champion is Henry Czerny, who was terrific in the very first flick and returns again here, not missing a beat. Supporting players include Rob Delaney, Cary Elwes, Charles Parnell, and more.
Filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie is, aside from Cruise, very much the creative force of this franchise. Here, the plot machinations and villain’s plan make less sense than usual, but the forward momentum is still very much there. The script he penned with Bruce Geller and Erik Jendresen doesn’t make a ton of sense, but the action scenes paper that over. McQuarrie’s direction plays to Cruise’s strengths, and while nothing rivals some of the biggest stunts in the series, it all manages to thrill. Just don’t try to think about this installment too much, as it might fall apart.
In terms of it being a part one, this doesn’t stop essentially in the middle of a scene like Fast X, but it’s not quite the shocking break in momentum that we saw with Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Here, it’s a clean point in which the mission is evolving and transitioning. No one is likely to be stunned when the credits roll, but there is perhaps a sense that a lot of the best bits are still to come. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part Two will have some heavy lifting to do, that’s for sure.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One won’t save cinemas like Cruise kind of did last year, but it’s a solid action epic. Perhaps expectations were a bit too high for this one, though Part Two could really shape this. More so than other recent two-parters, this one could live or die based on what happens next. Count me, but I’m starting to have reservations that I didn’t used to about this franchise…