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Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One ★★★★



Directed: Christopher McQuarrie

Cast: Tom Cruise, Hayley Atwell, Esai Morales, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, Henry Czerny, Pom Klementieff

Released: 10th July 2023

Few film franchises last as long as eight films; even fewer improve quite as dramatically as the Mission: Impossible series. After Brian De Palma’s exquisite curtain raiser in 1996, two middling entries were followed by notable improvements, first in Brad Bird’s Ghost Protocol and finally culminating in Christopher McQuarrie’s Fallout. Anticipation for Dead Reckoning Part One has been high, and, unsurprisingly, it delivers in living up to its booming blockbuster expectations. The eighth film—Dead Reckoning Part Two—will arrive in cinemas in 2024, but McQuarrie has already confirmed he hopes it won’t be the last. If Dead Reckoning Part One is anything to go by, this spectacular, heartbreaking franchise shows no sign of diminishing in quality, stakes, or action.

Despite the world-ending events that continuously take place, watching a Mission: Impossible film feels like a particularly safe place: in Dead Reckoning Part One, the familiar scene of a nuclear bomb being defused happens within the first 30 minutes, whilst the glorious opening credits and use of masks are all here again. The mission, which Ethan Hunt and his IMF team accept, sees Tom Cruise’s agent up against an old enemy in a race for a mysterious key that threatens humanity. It’s a familiar setup, but writers McQuarrie and Erik Jendresen keep the narrative remarkably tight, delivering a perfect opening part to this dual entry.

The globe-trotting adventure that follows is consistently mindblowing, both in scale and action, which is expected from a McQuarrie and Cruise collaboration. For example, when Hunt drives a motorbike off a mountain, it’s breathtaking and barely believable that Cruise did it for real. The excitement remains despite the amount of behind-the-scenes footage of this moment that we’ve been privy to.

Throughout Dead Reckoning Part One, the action is scintillating and energetic but always controlled and clear for viewers to follow: smart editing and soaring cinematography from Eddie Hamilton and Fraser Taggart, respectively, situate the action in a wider setting, whilst close-ups and quick cuts give proceedings that gritty, highly involved edge. The longer setpieces, whilst not as memorable as those from Ghost Protocol or Fallout, are dizzying to see on a big screen.

Dead Reckoning Part One is as serious as Mission: Impossible comes—sadly, white pigeons never precede Hunt, nor does he zip one-liners off, such as “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall”—but it still finds time for comedy amidst the end of the world. Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg as Luther and Benji are as dynamite as ever in their more comedic roles, whilst Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa gives the IMF team that much-needed edge and drive. Her ever-deepening connection to Hunt is also a beautiful expansion of what has come before. One thing McQuarrie has honed since Rogue Nation is this emotional attachment: we feel genuinely invested in the team’s story, which gives fight sequences an added danger as our favourite agents come face to face with death.

Rounding off this glorious ensemble is an always terrific Vanessa Kirby as arms dealer The White Widow, whilst a new (but old to Hunt) villain in the form of Esai Morales’ Gabriel gives Solomon Lane a run for his money as the most deranged and most terrifying foe. Newcomer Hayley Atwell slots in seamlessly as a thief with ambiguous loyalties who ends up working with the IMF for reasons never obvious. Every actor brings something invigorating to Dead Reckoning Part One, whether it’s stunt work, charisma, comedy, or terror.

Despite being the longest entry in the series, Dead Reckoning Part One‘s runtime is never felt. The action is suitably propulsive, whilst exposition scenes carry weight and always feel necessary. The seventh film perhaps feels like a recycling of ideas seen before and a slight retread of Fallout—but is that such a bad thing?—and therefore doesn’t feel as fresh or groundbreaking as that release. However, McQuarrie and Jendresen add comedy directly into the action and directly satirise the series, a wryness that is always welcome. Dead Reckoning Part One is sketched carefully at first, like a puzzle with intricate pieces and people converging, before the full-blown, giddying action truly takes flight. It is breathless. Much like its leading man, this glorious franchise shows no signs of ageing.

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