As the Mission Impossible theme song burst through the theater to accompany the explosive opening credits of Dead Reckoning Part One, and the Dolby Atmos sound caused me to practically ascend from my seat, I thought that I might be witnessing the third dimension expanding before me.
It was an experience that could easily be misconstrued as a religious one since it served as the answer to my prayers for a movie that actually makes me feel even the smallest amount of physical joy. (Quite frankly, the last time I felt so alive was when watching the Mission Impossible: Fallout trailer.)
Dead Reckoning Part One sees Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) accepting a mission of which, according to the IMF, “the stakes have never been higher” (as is usually the case). When it becomes clear that his mission is to retrieve an access key that allows the holder complete and utter control of a sentient computer algorithm known as The Entity, Ethan and his team go rogue (as they are known to do), to retrieve the key for the greater good.
But they’re not the only ones trying to get their hands on it, and Ethan finds himself attacked from all directions by old enemies, government agents, and a digital menace. Spectacular antics ensue.
The ‘mission’ of the movie is perhaps a little more complex than we’re used to, as proven by its unusual two-parter format. But we’re never left floundering for long since the characters constantly pause to explain the stakes, players, and to reevaluate their position in the story. This isn’t done patronizingly, but rather lovingly so. We’re going on a ride, and the movie wants to make sure that everyone’s on it and strapped in safely.
And in exchange, we’re expected not to ask questions. As with most Mission Impossible movies, everything runs a lot smoother (and is a lot more enjoyable) if we don’t think too much about the spy-tech magic or Tom Cruise’s ability not to adhere to normal human body limits.
Interestingly enough, of all the Mission Impossible movies, this one feels the most lacking in Cruise. With the introduction of so many new characters, the old guard feels somewhat pushed to the background. Still, he meets his usual quota of hops, skips, and jumps over the ever-nearing shadow of death that haunts his action movie hero tendencies. He’s present for each white-knuckle set piece and stunt sequence, all of which are thoroughly enjoyable.
Even when we do see Ethan Hunt, he’s surprisingly not on top form. Whether it’s by witnessing him clumsily work a spy car, blast ungracefully through windows, or let a mark slip through his fingers, this movie shows a new fallible side to Hunt. It’s a refreshing take on the man we’ve come to think of as the spy movie master.
The rest of the cast, particularly the newcomers, offer remarkably fresh characters and give the series a boost. Pom Klementieff in particular steals the show as Paris, a deadly assassin that hearkens back to the golden age of wordless James Bond henchmen.
Hayley Atwell also stands out as a cunning thief who unknowingly becomes embroiled in a worldwide war for control, throwing herself into the action with a perfect wide-eyed zest. Cary Elwes too, though perhaps underused, makes his mark as the snarky, disbelieving Director of National Intelligence.
As always with the MI movies, the sound design is unparalleled. Every punch and body slam is felt with full force, punctuated by Lorne Balfe’s take on the classic Lalo Schifrin score that knows exactly when to play up a moment or let a scene run without. It’s the gospel music of the blockbuster movie world.
It’s not a perfect movie by any means, and lacks some of the silliness shown in the other installments in the franchise. And the two hour and forty-three minute runtime is self-indulgent by anyone’s standards, but a well-timed and rousing runaway train sequence at the climax is hardly going to leave any MI fans begging for the film’s end.
When watching, I couldn’t help but think that my brain had been somewhat rewired to new cinematic expectations, because I found myself continuously expecting to see Jeremy Renner emerge from the shadows, or for Angela Bassett to walk into a room. Alas, there is no cameo bait nor multiverse madness in Dead Reckoning, because Cruise doesn’t go in for cheap tricks.
No, he shoves a plate in front of you with the movie he’s made sitting atop like a nutritious meal — it’s what you’re getting, and you’d better damn well like it. Well, call me Oliver Twist, because please Sir, I want some more.
My first encounter with the Mission Impossible franchise was with 2011’s Ghost Protocol. I watched the movie on a red-eye flight back from the US, pixelated down on a barely visible shared-aisle airplane screen (the way the good Lord intended). The parallels between Ghost Protocol’s 2011 release and Dead Reckoning’s 2023 one are stunning: Back in 2011, there was a Transformers movie, a Fast and Furious movie, a Pixar movie, and a major superhero movie — exactly the same slate that has been unfolding this summer.
But as it was back in 2011, when the thrill of Mission Impossible took me by storm even on the smallest of screens, perhaps the result is set to be the same: When it comes to sheer enjoyment and dedication to spectacle, Tom Cruise always wins.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One will be released on July 10 in the UK and July 12 in the US.
For more of the franchise, check out our guide to the Mission Impossible cast. You can also see why Tom Cruise changed this rule because of the Mission Impossible movies, and which Mission Impossible 7 stunt nearly went wrong. Take a look at our list of the best Tom Cruise movies, too.
With a series of enthralling set pieces and enticing new characters, Mission Impossible has proven itself again as one of the most enjoyable franchises around with plenty of bang for its buck.