Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One Movie Review

Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One movie poster

Tom Cruise braves death and stupidity in the entertaining but disappointingly dumb Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One. The action spectacle is worth the price of admission, but the movie is a notable step down from the excellent and polished Fallout.

The first half of a two-part story, Dead Reckoning Part One needed a few more passes through the writer’s room before going to screen. Nearly three hours long, you may wonder, after getting through it all, why returning director and co-writer Christopher McQuarrie felt the need to stretch this story across two movies and presumably close to six hours. After all, it isn’t very good.

About sentient AI, a cocky but one-dimensional villain, and the team once again finding themselves on the outs from the U.S. government, Dead Reckoning suffers from drawn-out scenes, clunky dialogue, and unnecessary complexity. It’s all just a little stupid, which is a shame given how consistently solid most of the rest of the Mission: Impossible franchise has been.

What is consistent is the action. The movie boasts several well-staged, sweat-inducing action sequences that deserve to be seen on the big screen. Yes, there’s the big motorcycle-off-the-cliff scene, but oddly that one barely leaves a mark (primarily because the behind-the-scenes marketing piece is more tantalizing than the end product). It’s the rest of the action that makes the price of admission worth it–a cat-and-mouse game in an airport stands out, among others.

But this movie could have easily been a lean, two-hour event without a second part needed. The storytelling feels a bit desperate, as if the filmmakers knew they didn’t have it all nailed down but kept layering on in hopes you don’t notice. The characters, who have interacted so wonderfully in past movies, talk at each other with poorly worded one-liners; Ving Rhames looks like he’s ready to retire, and Simon Pegg is a little too Simon Pegg-y this go-around. Even Tom Cruise, as hard as he tries, seems to lack the conviction and intensity you’ve come to expect–perhaps this is a result from the film’s overreliance on humor (the franchise has clearly and sadly reached the “we’re going to make fun of ourselves” stage).

Dead Reckoning handles Rebecca Ferguson’s badass character especially poorly. Insultingly so, even. While newcomer Hayley Atwell makes for a fine addition, the movie treats her character development sloppily and hastily–again, the filmmakers keep layering on with hopes you don’t notice (or care).

I particularly hated the villain Gabriel (Esai Morales), who is more obnoxious than intimidating. He’s meant to be an omniscient force of evil, but the character is so poorly written it’s hard to take him seriously. It doesn’t help that his boss is an algorithm.

Despite all of these criticisms, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is entertaining. Though its length is unnecessary, you never really feel it–McQuarrie maintains a frenetic pace. And again, the action is top notch–maybe not Fallout quality, but certainly in line with what you’d expect from the franchise.

In short, Dead Reckoning is a worthwhile summer blockbuster. It’s not the incredible follow-up to Fallout I hoped it to be, nor is it the intelligent thriller you’d expect from a Mission: Impossible movie, but it’s fast, it’s fun, and it’s finally here.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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