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'Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One' review: Tom Cruise does it again

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures


After putting the state of theatrical exhibition on his back last summer following the colossal success of “Top Gun: Maverick,” Tom Cruise returns as the indestructible IMF agent Ethan Hunt in this summer’s exhilarating “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One" Featuring a timely villain in the form of an Artificial Intelligence MacGuffin, elaborate “how do they do that?!” stunts where Cruise puts his life on the line, and an explosive finale that stands among some of the franchise’s best, “Dead Reckoning Part One" is a helluva good time at the movies. 

It’s the rare blockbuster saga where the stakes always feel higher and the narrative more engrossing with each subsequent installment. In an era where the 10th “Fast and Furious” movie is running on empty, Marvel superheroes are losing their luster, and Disney remakes aren’t justifying their monstrous budgets, “Mission: Impossible,” and more importantly Tom Cruise, understand the thrills audiences want to see. This is still probably the only franchise today, save for maybe James Cameron’s “Avatar,” that maintains a $300+ million budget and you can see every penny on screen.

Of course, this being “Part One" does leave a few unresolved dilemmas and it can occasionally struggle with pacing issues as it clocks a franchise record 160 minutes, but Cruise and co-writer/director Christopher McQuarrie keep the twists, action sequences, and rip-roaring grittiness at warped speed, not to mention the inclusion of some new characters, played by Haley Atwell, Pom Klementieff, and Shea Whigham, alongside returning ones, injects the series with a breath of fresh air. Seriously, make twenty of these moves for all I care!

In this outing, Hunt and his Impossible Mission Force cohorts are called back into action by old boss Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny – returning from the OG) with a task that could have serious repercussions for the world (don’t they always?) There’s an evolving AI device known as “The Entity” that’s slowly threatening global security and Ethan needs to locate two halves of a key that are imperative to stopping its massive reach. Luther (Ving Rhames), Benji (Simon Pegg), and love interest Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) tag long with their various athletic abilities, amazing tech wizardry, and uncanny masking enhancements, but “Dead Reckoning Part 1” also brings Grace (Atwell) into the fold, an expert pickpocket who eventually teams up with Ethan in one of the film’s signature and most entertaining moments: an insane car chase through Rome in a tiny Fiat that puts everything Dominic Toretto did in “Fast X” to shame. Apologies to Vin Diesel.

Chasing down the IMF crew is Gabriel (Esai Morales – a sinister presence and the best baddie since Phillip Seymour Hoffman in “MI3”) and his lethal team of assassins, notably Klementieff’s silent Paris who lets the blades, and the punches do most of the chatting. Like Atwell, Klemntieff is put to exceptional use here, as is Vanessa Kirby’s White Widow (returning after first being introduced in “Fallout”) showcasing the “Mission: Impossible” series is no longer just a boy’s club. They all share a common objective in understanding how the entity works, which for Ethan and company, means trying to outmaneuver it at any turn. But how can you trick something that’s already envisioned millions of different outcomes and scenarios? I’m not sure, but holy moly is it fun watching them try.

Obviously, nobody comes to see “Mission: Impossible” for the lore or exposition (and there is plenty), though “Dead Reckoning – Part One" is more a sequel to Brian De Palma’s 1996 classic than any of the previous entries. The real bread and butter is watching whatever shenanigans and death-defying expenditures Cruise and the stunt team have cooked up. And the big one this time, where Crusie yeets off the top of a mountain, does not disappoint, though it does pale somewhat in comparison to when Cruise halo jumped in “Fallout” or hung off the side of a plane in “Rogue Nation.” Again, we’re talking about a series of unreal sequences that’s like picking your favorite child! The fact we even have an actor willing to entertain the masses on this scale should be celebrated. 

“Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part Two” can’t come soon enough.

Grade: A-

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING PART 1  opens in theaters everywhere Wednesday July 12th.


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