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‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One’ (review)

Most franchises tend to stagnate as they go on, but Tom Cruise & Co. have gone against the grain and somehow managed to make each installment of the Mission: Impossible film series better than the last.

With Fallout being an immensely successful and celebrated franchise entry in 2018 before Cruise took a filmmaking detour to revisit the character and film that made him the action star he is today with the long overdue but practically perfect sequel Top Gun: Maverick, he is now back with Christopher McQuarrie and the rest of the crew to continue the high octane shenanigans of the IMF.

Favorites Luther, Benji and Ilsa are back alongside main man Ethan Hunt, and with a new roster of memorable baddies, as well as love-to-hate-them characters the White Widow and slimy IMF director Kittridge, there are plenty of obstacles for the team to contend with once more.

Outside the usual disposable henchmen and easily outsmarted law enforcement, Esai Morales’ Gabriel feels like a genuine threat as an effectively eerie villain with a stoic callousness, and Pom Klementieff plays against the gentle demeanor she is known for with Marvel’s Mantis as Gabriel’s devilishly deadly right-hand woman, Paris.

As one has come to expect, the action set pieces are expertly handled and are once again in a league that in terms of Hollywood productions is only matched by the John Wick franchise, all the while not being derivative of what Stahelski and his team have become famous for.

Instead, there is a degree of charm and humor present here that gives Dead Reckoning: Part One a feel not unlike that of the summer blockbusters of the 90s that always seemed to be larger than life. The only difference is of course that the action is elevated to the standard that has become synonymous with Cruise, and while it does not seem possible, he will certainly find a way to outdo himself for Dead Reckoning Part Two.

With a hefty runtime of 2 hours and 43 minutes, the latest installment is the longest in the franchise thus far, but the pacing maintains a good balance that keeps feeding the tension between the various players due to what is at stake, peppering in the action at well-executed intervals that secures they refresh the viewing experience without undermining the story.

As a result, the spy thriller element is never neglected, and the stakes genuinely feel like the highest the team has contended with up until now, as many of the regulars find themselves outsmarted and outmatched at some point or other during the film.

This in turn makes the film feel like it has come full circle since Cruise’s first turn as Ethan Hunt in 1996, but this is not to say that there is fan service as such, but rather an acknowledgement of what has come before and how it all fits into where the franchise is now.

Despite the runtime, the film is essentially only half a movie, and the main concern with that is always how much the viewing experience is impacted by only telling half the story. Thankfully, the film neatly wraps up at the end, giving the audience a sense of having watched a complete film, even though the larger conflict is still roaming large by the time the credits roll.

While Fallout is arguably the best film in the franchise yet, Dead Reckoning: Part One is nonetheless an incredibly satisfying first half of the latest IMF adventure, and at this point it is safe to say that Hunt is better than Bond.

Verdict: 9 out of 10.

*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Tom Cruise, Christopher McQuarrie
Written by Christopher McQuarrie, Erik Jendresen
Based on Mission: Impossible by Bruce Geller
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie
Starring Tom Cruise, Hayley Atwell, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg,
Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, Henry Czerny, Esai Morales, Pom Klementieff


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