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‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One’ Shows What’s Possible in Franchise Filmmaking – Review

In a summer full of sequels, cliffhanger endings, and franchise world-building, the latest Mission: Impossible arrives as a complete film. Dead Reckoning is Tom Cruise’s seventh turn as Ethan Hunt and is among the greatest entries of the series. The Impossible Mission Force (IMF) is back with their trademark gadgets and trickery along with thrilling set piece moments, Cruise’s charm, and crowd-pleasing “I can’t believe they really did that” stunts. Ethan’s band of rule breakers is well known, but still have new tricks up their sleeve as they set off on yet another impossibly high-stakes mission. 

The partnership of Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise is still paying dividends. This movie has an ease and familiarity to it that just feels great on the big screen. Audience expectations of summer blockbusters are as high as they’ve ever been, but Cruise and McQuarrie have stayed at the forefront of popcorn cinema setting the bar for action films going forward. 

Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One
(Courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

There are other movies you’ll watch this summer with quality chase sequences through packed public areas, and there are more films from 2023 with car chases or train set pieces, but Dead Reckoning surprises at every turn with the most well-crafted version of those scenes we’ve seen before. 

The most memorable parts are often simple, a quick look from Cruise or an unexpected twist of the camera. It’s clear that the Mission: Impossible team knows action filmmaking better than most. Some highlights include a thrilling airport scene and a train sequence that brings back memories of Uncharted 2. These longer sequences show off the strength of the film’s stunt teams and the speed of Ethan’s decision-making amid chaos. He always feels in motion, with an improv-like quality to his fighting.

(Courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

Just like Dominic Toretto sipping a Corona and saying family 53 times, there is something that just feels right about Ethan Hunt launching into a full-on psychotic sprint. In the early days of the franchise, my brain asked, “Why is Tom Cruise running like that?” Now his signature gallop is a moment that needs to happen. If Cruise isn’t racing to save someone or outrun a blast at least once, it’s not Mission: Impossible. Seven films in and those ridiculous runs are as essential to the franchise as Ethan’s team members. 

Returning to the series, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, and Rebecca Ferguson bring much-needed levity, necessary tech chops, and the heart to balance Ethan’s adventure. Ferguson’s Ilsa is another fighter to root for, but her style of fisticuffs is more confident than Ethan’s. She smirks because she knows she’s going to win. As always, Rhames and Pegg do their thing as Luther and Benji. The tandem is pitch-perfect and tuned in to what makes these films work. They both act as a sounding board for Ethan. They definitely make his plans better and, of course, put themselves on the line for the mission.

(Courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

McQuarrie and crew made great decisions with their new additions too. Bringing in two fan-favorite MCU players in Hayley Atwell’s Grace and Pom Klementieff’s Paris. Atwell and Klementieff are high points of the film and among the most enjoyable characters of the franchise to date. Grace is a Catwoman-esque foil to Ethan’s righteous sense of good. She is in it for the money and changes her objective as needed. Paris is the lead henchwoman in Dead Reckoning, boasting some killer combat scenes and some outrageous reaction faces during her fights. Rounding out the main cast, we have the primary (human) villain Gabriel, portrayed by Esai Morales, Shea Whigham’s Jasper, and Vanessa Kirby’s White Widow. Kirby is really hamming it up this time around as a fun frenemy. The character is less important this go round, but she still brings a unique energy. Whigham’s Jasper pursues Ethan for the U.S. government, helping and hunting along the way as more factions get involved. Gabriel has ties to Ethan’s past, and without getting too into spoiler territory, it’s nice to see callbacks to Ethan’s past. 

If your question is if you should see this Mission: Impossible in theaters, then the answer is a resounding all-caps YES. The film touts an impressive cast and stunning visuals. Dead Reckoning is familiar action filmmaking that still ends up feeling new. The movie has an excellent pace of nonstop action. There are smoke bombs and false faces. Our heroes globe-trot from sands to scenic mountainsides. Ethan Hunt’s adventures are more grounded than most franchises, but they always fly higher than the competition. When it comes to blockbuster movie-making, what more can you ask for?

If you make fifteen of these films, we’ll watch fifteen. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is the first can’t-miss film of the summer. See it in the biggest, loudest theater you can. Part Two can’t come soon enough.

Rating: 9.5/10

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One hits theaters on July 12.

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