‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One’ is Summer’s Best Blockbuster (Review)

by | Jul 10, 2023


Ethan Hunt is back and hasn’t skipped a beat in this thrilling seventh entry of the franchise. 

The dog days of summer are here, and it’s more than just the heat that we’re feeling. Outside of a couple of hits, studios are feeling the effects of big-budgeted films failing to meet expectations. Whether it’s nostalgia failing to connect with audiences via a live action remake of a Disney animated classic, or the fifth entry in a film franchise going back to the 80s, or even superhero fatigue settling in thanks to a film centered around a second-tier superhero in their comic book universe, the crowds are not there for these films in a time when audiences attend theaters more often than other times of the year. Sure, there is a debate to be had about where these studios should be spending their funds, but it’s obvious that so far this summer audiences are speaking with their wallets by not committing to the theatrical experience unless they know it’s going to be worth their time and money. So now July is here, which brings with it more than a couple of films that hopefully will generate enough excitement to make the theatrical moviegoing experience worthwhile, while at the same time reigniting the summer box office. First up is Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, who is back to once again save the day in this seventh entry of the franchise. With last year’s Top Gun: Maverick still fresh on most viewer’s minds, leave it to Cruise to have back-to-back years delivering the summer’s best blockbuster. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is consistently thrilling, thanks to its timely story and high-octane action set pieces that push the limits. While there are a couple of minor nitpicks here and there, there’s no denying that Cruise’s latest effort fits the bill as a pristine summer blockbuster.

Dead Reckoning Part One finds Ethan Hunt and the IMF team up against a threat they have never faced: artificial intelligence (AI). The AI in particular here is called “The Entity,” and right from the opening sequence, audiences get a taste of how dangerous it could be. When the presence of the AI is made known to international forces around the world, Hunt and his team must race around the globe to get their hands on the keys to “The Entity” before it lands in the wrong hands. However, standing in Hunt’s way is more than just a power-hungry country (or two), as his past catches up with him and gets entangled with his IMF team that he cares about more than anything else. 

With the use of AI ramping up around the globe, much to the concern of many, including those involved in the ongoing writer’s strike that’s currently affecting Hollywood, it’s timely to see it used to great effect here in the film’s story. The Mission: Impossible franchise never has been known for its antagonists throughout most of the franchise. But the AI at the center of Hunt and his team’s problem makes it the most unpredictable of adversaries they have ever faced in the franchise’s seven entries. While not an antagonist with a clear face, its presence is known throughout the film as Hunt and his team try to catch up with, out-maneuver, or handle the AI’s unpredictability; while the AI is its own thing, there are a couple of humans in the film who attempt to keep the AI in the driver’s seat. The antics of this tricky foe benefit the film, making it feel like a 155-minute race with plenty of twists and turns. 

Like every other Mission: Impossible film, they put their money where the action is, and it is no less entertaining here in Dead Reckoning Part One. From close, hand-to-hand combat in every city Hunt visits, to a train sequence that may feel a bit like a throwback to the climatic train sequence in the very first film of the franchise, to a car chase in Rome involving a yellow Fiat 500, there are great multitudes of high-octane action. Of course, there’s also the sequence shown in all the marketing that has Cruise going over a cliff on a dirt bike; but don’t worry. It doesn’t disappoint. 

While Tom Cruise is as good as it gets as Ethan Hunt, so is the rest of his IMF team who returns here, including Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, and Ving Rhames. A welcome sight for the franchise is the return of Henry Czerny, as Kittridge, the director of the IMF, who was last seen in the very first film back in 1996. Dead Reckoning Part One introduces a slew of new characters to the franchise, headlined by Hayley Atwell, who many viewers will recognize from his various Marvel Studios projects. Playing a thief that feels eerily similar to Selina Kyle (Catwoman), she delivers a good performance while adding a new wrinkle to the cast of characters fans of the franchise will appreciate. Joining Atwell are Cary Elwes, who plays Denlinger, the Director of National Intelligence, Pom Klementieff (another actress of fame and recognition from various Marvel Studios projects) as an assassin hot on Hunt’s trail, and Shea Whigham as an enforcer for The Community; all three are equally solid in their minor roles. The best new addition to this entry goes to Esai Morales, who plays Gabriel, a terrorist with a connection to both Hunt and the AI. 

Dead Reckoning Part One was always going to have a hard time matching up with its predecessor (and cemented masterpiece) Mission: Impossible Fallout, but it clearly is in the upper echelon of the franchise. Sure, its runtime and the payoffs in a couple of the story arcs leave a little to be desired, but those can be forgiven by the time the credits roll. In a time where we need quality blockbusters to satisfy consumers, leave it to Tom Cruise and director/writer/producer Christopher McQuarrie to overcome the film’s well-documented (and numerous) COVID-19 shutdowns to deliver the goods in this fast-paced globetrotting entry of the franchise that shows no signs of slowing down. And thankfully, we only have to wait until next June to see the next entry, Dead Reckoning Part Two


RATING: ★★★★1/2

(out of five stars)