Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Cast: Tom Cruise, Hayley Atwell, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, Esai Morales, Pom Klementieff, Mariela Garriga, Henry Czerny, Shea Whigham, Greg Tarzan Davis, Charles Parnell, Frederick Schmidt,Cary Elwes, Mark Gatiss, Indira Varma, Rob Delaney
Runtime: 2 hrs 43 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence)
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 13 July 2023
Synopsis: In Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF team embark on their most dangerous mission yet: To track down a terrifying new weapon that threatens all of humanity before it falls into the wrong hands. With control of the future and the fate of the world at stake, and dark forces from Ethan's past closing in, a deadly race around the globe begins. Confronted by a mysterious, all-powerful enemy, Ethan is forced to consider that nothing can matter more than his mission – not even the lives of those he cares about most
Before last year’s ‘Top Gun: Maverick’, ‘Mission Impossible’ would certainly be the defining franchise of Tom Cruise’s illustrious movie-making career; and perhaps it still is, seeing as how it is the one role, as Impossible Mission Force (IMF) agent Ethan Hunt, that Cruise has played six times before and is now reprising for another two more.
Whereas ‘Fallout’ followed from the events of ‘Rogue Nation’, ‘Dead Reckoning, Part One’ kickstarts an entirely new storyline, albeit with some familiar faces from the past. Instead of the usual nihilistic terrorists or vaporous international espionage networks, the enemy here is an all-powerful artificial intelligence known as ‘the Entity’ capable of turning ‘allies into enemies and enemies into aggressors’; and whether due to sheer luck or prescience, the timeliness just as the world frets over AI is uncanny.
Said Entity is seen in the opening scene deceiving a Russian submarine Sevastopol into launching counter-measures against an enemy attack, only to have its own torpedoes change course and blow it up instead. Following that devastating act of sabotage, Ethan receives his next mission to hunt down former ally and ex-MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who has a US$50 million bounty on her head after gaining possession of one half of a key believed to be quintessential to gain control of the Entity.
That hunt brings Ethan to the Arabian desert, where, as you can imagine, Ethan learns of the power of the Entity and why it should never be allowed to fall into any government’s hands, including that of his own. So begins a globe-trotting adventure that sees Ethan journey from Abu Dhabi’s new Midfield Terminal, to the cobbled streets of Rome and its Spanish Steps, to the Doge’s Palace of Venice and Ponte Minich, and lastly to the Austrian Alps comprising the spectacular Helsetkopen Mountain and Kylling Bridge. Each is the scene of a meticulously executed set-piece, and we dare say a beautiful testament to Cruise’s commitment to old-school action filmmaking.
Indeed, we cannot overstate just how exhilarating the set-pieces are. The cat-and-mouse chase around Abu Dhabi’s airport is loaded with exciting close-calls, tongue-in-cheek moments, and bits of sheer ingenuity. The subsequent ride through the streets of Rome in a tiny yellow Fiat is both harrowing and hilarious, not least with Hunt handcuffed to his female foil. A typical two-on-one fight gets a thrilling makeover within one of Venice’s tight alleys, alongside a knife fight on its dimly lit canal. Last but not least, the climax on board a runaway train pays homage to the first movie’s big-bang ending, laying the premise for a number of jaw-dropping stunts, including Cruise’s much-touted motorbike ride and base jump off a cliff, a mano-a-mano fight on board the Orient Express, and a fight against gravity one plummeting train car at a time.
At the very centre of the action is Cruise, whose singular focus and all-in commitment to big-screen action is humbling. In each and every frame, there is no doubt it is Cruise himself driving, riding, kicking, punching, running and running and running some more. Lest we forget, Cruise turns 61 this year, and while the movie was filmed over the past three years through the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is no less impressive how Cruise insists on performing his own gravity-defying stunts with as little computerised gimmickry as possible.
While there had been some truth that the earlier movies were his vanity projects, Cruise’s decision to bring on board his trusted filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie (their partnership goes way back to ‘Valkyrie’ in 2008) has in turn enabled its evolution into a team effort. Besides field agents Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), as well as Faust, Hunt also forms a new alliance with wily thief Grace (Hayley Atwell), who has to choose whether to trust Hunt and his team or put her own interests first. Cruise and Atwell have excellent chemistry, and we dare say their jokey interplay is the reason why the film remains bright and likeable throughout.
Though plot and character have always been secondary, it is to McQuarrie’s credit that both ‘Rogue Nation’ and ‘Fallout’ were compelling not only for Cruise’s daredevilry. Compared to ‘Fallout’ though, ‘Dead Reckoning Part I’ may not be as finessed, but McQuarrie (who shares writing duties with ‘Band of Brother’ lead writer Erik Jendresen) is a consummate professional at keeping the narrative tight, sharp and focused. He does however rely a little too much on the film’s McGuffin, i.e. the aforementioned metal key of two halves that slot together, and leaves it a little too late before establishing just what the key does in relation to the Entity.
Even if it falls just short of being the best in the series, it is in our opinion that the best action movie of this summer. Not only does it present probably the most intriguing antagonist, it also offers the most complete set of blockbuster thrills, whether in terms of chases, fights, mayhem, sleight of hands, or even riddles and puzzles. And of course, it reminds us yet again why Cruise is indeed Hollywood’s last action hero, as well as why Spielberg had praised him for “saving Hollywood’s ass”. ‘Dead Reckoning Part I’ is pure visceral thrill, with just the right dose of narrative and self-winking humour thrown in for good measure – and as impossible as it may seem, we hope that Cruise, who started playing Hunt 27 years ago, will do it for as long as he can keep running.
(Just short of 'Fallout', 'Dead Reckoning Part I' is nevertheless a breathless, pulse-pounding and edge-of-your-seat entertaining blockbuster that only Tom Cruise can deliver)
Review by Gabriel Chong