The Mission: Impossible franchise has been stronger than ever since Christopher McQuarrie took over directing duties, with Rogue Nation and Fallout delivering some of the best action set pieces the films have ever seen. Much of that success can also be attributed to Tom Cruise and his continued drive to push the limits of stunt work. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One follows suit with amazing stunts and explosive action. The story and script aren’t as strong as its predecessors, but honestly, does that really matter? You’re here to see Tom Cruise do the impossible, and on that front it’s mission accomplished.
An experimental AI known as the Entity has become self-aware and growing in power as it infiltrates technology systems across the globe. No one knows the location of the Entity, but a special two-part key can lead whoever has it to the AI’s source code. And whoever has access to the code can control the Entity and essentially the world. As countries race to find the two parts of the key and the location of the Entity, Ethan Hunt and his IMF team are on the hunt as well. Their goal, however, is to shut down and destroy the Entity. In their eyes, no one person or country should have that much power.
With artificial intelligence and systems like ChatGPT on the rise in all aspects of life these days, it’s not surprising that the Mission: Impossible franchise would use AI as its main villain for Dead Reckoning Part One. As timely as it may be though, the whole premise does come off as a bit too silly. The Entity is this all-seeing, all-knowing AI that wants to take over the world. Technology can only get you so far though and the Entity uses a mysterious man known as Gabriel (Esai Morales) to do its bidding. It’s not really clear how the Entity convinces Gabriel to retrieve the key for itself, whether its through blackmail or promises of power. The film needs a villain to go toe-to-toe with Ethan Hunt and Gabriel fits that bill, with flashbacks to Hunt’s days before the IMF showing that there is some bad blood between the two for added drama.
Like the title says, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is only the first half of a two-part series so not everything is going to be answered. The Amazing Race-like structure to the story feels barebones at best. Everyone wants this key. That part is clear. What isn’t as clear are the motivations behind it. Why does Gabriel want the key so much when he could just have it destroyed and therefore the Entity would continue “living on” with no one else able to gain access to it? And even if someone is able to retrieve the key, find its location, and access it, how are they going to actually gain control of it? IMF tech wizard Luther says he’ll be able to hack its source code, but with something supposedly this complex and powerful I imagine it’s going to take more than a few lines of code to take control. The more you think about the story elements of the film, the more outrageous and less intelligent it sounds.
Thankfully you don’t have to do much thinking, because its the action and stunts that at the true heart of the film. Tom Cruise continues to go bigger and more explosive with each M:I installment and Dead Reckoning Part One is no exception. Even as he continues to age, he continues to entertain. Nowadays it feels like big blockbuster films are so quick to jump to CGI and de-aging technology that it becomes a crutch. With Mission: Impossible everything is built around Tom Cruise pushing the limits of what’s possible on film. He could have easily done the motorcycle stunt on a studio lot with green screen and have the best visual effects artists make it look good, but seeing him do it for real on the big screen hits a different portion of your brain that reminds you why you fell in love with these big blockbusters in the first place.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One has a lot going on for half a film. Some of it works, like Paris, an assassin played by Pom Klementieff who relentlessly chases after Ethan with a Joker-esque madness. Grace, on the other hand, isn’t as great a new addition. Played by Hayley Atwell, she’s a pickpocket thief who finds herself caught in the middle of this mess and joins Ethan’s team. Her inclusion feels unnecessary and more like a replacement for Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust, who doesn’t as much screen time as a result. It’s a delicate dance, with so many characters and plot lines going on all at once, that unfortunately has a few missteps in the routine.
Dead Reckoning Part One may be my least favorite of Christopher McQuarrie’s trilogy so far, falling behind both Rogue Nation and Fallout, but it is still entertaining nonetheless. The plot is a little sloppy with its emphasis on AI never fully hitting and oftentimes comical expositional dialogue, but the action remains top notch. It’s rare for franchises to be seven films deep and still be entertaining, but Mission: Impossible holds on tight, much in part due to Tom Cruise’s willingness to take stunts to the next level. The story might not be artificially intelligent, but there’s no denying the reality of the action.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One follows suit with amazing stunts and explosive action. The story and script aren’t as strong as its predecessors, but honestly, does that really matter? You’re here to see Tom Cruise do the impossible, and on that front it’s mission accomplished.