Mission: Impossible: Dead Reckoning: Part 1 (aka Mission: Impossible: Dead Reckoning: Part One / Mission: Impossible 7) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
The Mission Impossible movies have been the most consistent of movies for an action-spy saga going on this long. Now in its seventh entry and the first of a two-parter, Dead Reckoning still packs a punch. Even for having to follow up on the pitch-perfect Fallout, it's astounding how this series manages to excite with white-knuckle action, stunts, and a fast-paced plot.
This entry becomes more enticing because rogue agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is not just stopping a syndicate from gaining nukes. This time, he's trying to prevent a sentiment and vicious AI from falling into the wrong hands. Specified as The Entity, this program, harbored in a missing submarine, has been able to infiltrate every intelligence network on the planet. Every agency and syndicate both fears and wants it for themselves. And with power that goes well beyond nukes, nobody is trustworthy. That's pretty much been the motto of the IMF, but now it's doubly true more than ever.
Even though this seems like a more dire situation, it’s more or less business as usual for Ethan. He returns with his loyal techs Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg). He tries and fails to push Ilsa (Rebecca Fergusson) away from harm’s way but to no avail. He runs afoul of old enemies, from the most recent MI movie with the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby) to the first MI movie with Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny). They all play a familiar game of cat and mouse where missions and deals don’t go according to plan, complete with all the thrilling chases, fights, and masks.
Mounting the stakes is the presence of Gabriel (Esai Morales), an old rival of Ethan who knows how to twist the knife. He’s aware that Ethan grows attached to his comrades and can’t stand to see them in harm’s way. In addition to this knowledge, Gabriel also acts as a disciple of the Entity, gaining a bigger probability perspective. And in a spy universe loaded with twists upon twists, you’re pretty much a god if you can speculate what’s coming. It’s up to Ethan and a lot of luck to outsmart the most intelligent tech on the planet and all the parties after it, spanning from crime syndicates to the CIA. Oh, and the newcomer of the thief Grace (Hayley Atwell), who acts as both a questionable ally and audience surrogate for the capers that go down.
The many showcases of hacking, disguises, and double-crosses have plenty of thrills, but the big draw for most viewers is undoubtedly the action. This aspect has not been skimped on for the first section of Dead Reckoning. The centerpiece stunt of Cruise taking a daring dive off a cliff while on a motorcycle is just as thrilling as it’s been teased in the many teasers and trailers. The fight aboard and atop the train he lands on after that is just as intense, packed with plenty of players all vying for the MacGuffin and Ethan’s head. I especially dug the mute assassin Paris looking like the most stylish and ready of rivals.
This film also embraces a bit more of the absurdity of this spy game. There’s a sequence in Rome where Ethan and Grace make a ridiculous escape from the assassins and authorities while handcuffed to each other. They try to flee in a yellow Fiat but struggle with their reduced driving abilities while attached at the wrist. This sequence made me think so much of Lupin The Third and was a refreshing dose of comic relief amid the pressures of the complicated mission. Sometimes you have to laugh when you’re handcuffed to a car that’s about to be hit by a train.
Dead Reckoning might seem like half a movie for being labeled as Part One but it’s a strong start. It remains as fantastically grand as the past three Mission Impossible movies and never bores, even for a film that nears the three-hour mark. It doesn’t even matter how silly the MacGuffin is for being activated by keys or how the bad guys play into such expected tropes of the genre. It’s a well-oiled machine of a spy thriller that dollops on extra heaps of action that remains oh-so-satisfying and solidifies MI as one of the most consistent and enticing action franchises by far.