Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part 1
Updated: Aug 24
The first part of the supposed big finale struggles to find its balance
It’s hard to believe but the Mission: Impossible movies have already clocked seven entries, with an eighth one on the way. It has been fascinating to see the spy franchise evolve and transform itself into a sure-fire action blockbuster. After extensive COVID delays the supposed first part of this two part finale has been released.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 (2023) finds our hero spy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) forced to confront a deadly and all-powerful rogue AI program that can predict every move and outcome he and his ragtag group of rogue agents can think of. As such, Hunt and his team will have to think outside the box in a mission that seems…impossible.
Christopher McQuarrie returns to direct his third consecutive installment in the franchise after two deliciously enjoyable entries in Rogue Nation (2015) and Fallout (2018). These two previous entries excelled by keeping plot scaled down, action scenes inventive, and tongue-in-cheek tonality. With Dead Reckoning Part 1, however, McQuarrie throws nearly all these valuable factors out the window.
Dead Reckoning Part 1 opens with a nearly 30-minute opening sequence that is a pure exposition dump explaining the rogue AI concept. This is revisited and re-explained at multiple points throughout the runtime, slowing the pace and delivering such corny and generic spy dialogue, it’s hard not to role your eyes at. Likewise, the excuses to get from exotic locations get increasingly laughable. The double and triple-crossing between spies gets to ridiculous degree where you don’t buy it. Story-wise it is only the chemistry between Cruise and his two leading ladies, Rebecca Ferguson as the returning rogue agent Ilsa and Hayley Atwell as the professional thief Grace, that add any fire or intrigue into the characters and story.
Thankfully, Dead Reckoning Part 1 is saved by the franchise’s greatest strength: its action. McQuarrie continues to invent creative and exciting tight spots for Ethan to improvise his way out of, and stages it with a steady camera and smooth choreography. Just like the John Wick films, Mission: Impossible has become a reliable producer of quality and exciting action. However, the Wick films know that plot should be kept to a minimum in order to show off their main assets, something Dead Reckoning Part 1 did not take into account.
As a result, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 becomes heavily bloated amongst its redundant exposition dumps and over-extended action sequences. McQuarrie would have been wise to choose to emphasize one or the other to reduce the film’s nearly three-hour runtime. Being a Part 1 film, Dead Reckoning Part 1 also suffers from being an incomplete story, leaving viewers on a cliffhanger that is shamelessly made for a TV rather than a cinema.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 continues an impressive path down the gritty action path for the franchise. However, an inexplicable turn to self-seriousness with a laughably lazy 1980s plot, seriously drags down the enjoyment and patience for viewers. Let us hope McQuarrie and Cruise return to the trend of their previous two collaborations had set, and thus exit the franchise with a bang.