‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One’ (2023) Review

In case you hadn’t heard, Tom Cruise saved the movie theaters last year with Top Gun: Maverick. This year, he’s back with another installment in the franchise that fuels his kingdom. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning: Part One embraces the high-octane energy of the franchise’s later entries, while also harkening back to some of the cool and seductive vibes that make Brian de Palma’s original Mission: Impossible film so enjoyable.

Christopher McQuarrie draws you in with a deliberate slow build. The action is minimal early on, but the tension is palpable. An almost comical number of Dutch angle and low angle shots fill the room with an uncomfortable mystique. Everything can go awry at any moment.

However, once the action kicks in, it’s pretty much full throttle from here on out. It’s time to strap in. This is what we came for. This is the pure cinematic entertainment that we were promised. McQuarrie, Cruise, and team fully deliver.

We’re never asked to think too much about the film’s sensibilities. We just need to go along for the ride. However, the parallels between the fiction and our real world are hard not to notice.

With each passing moment it becomes harder and harder to see where Cruise ends and Hunt begins. Both men are so blind in their pursuit – whether it be saving the world or saving the movies.

An overwhelming digital monster called The Entity poses the latest threat. It promises to completely upend all of humanity, if not to destroy it completely. The only possible hope against it is Ethan Hunt and his band of misfits. The human spirit must prevail.

Much like Cruise (rightfully or not) feels that he bears the responsibility of not allowing the movie theater industry to fail in the face of emerging digital technologies, Hunt cannot allow for The Entity to win. Through sheer force, each man must stare down the non-existent face of the enemy and tell it to “buzz off”.

Obviously, said digital threat must come with a human embodiment. The danger needs a tangible counterpart. Sometimes it’s a cartoonishly evil studio exec, and other times it’s a devilishly suave villain named Gabriel.

No matter the villain, the threat must remain vague enough to not insult viewers of all different shapes and sizes. Everyone can recognize the dangerous power that The Entity represents. Any government or rogue individual who gets their hand on it is sure to use it against the rest of us. Well, anyone except for Ethan Hunt of course. There lies the beauty of the Mission: Impossible franchise; the universality of our desire to trust Hunt’s motives.

The other series hallmarks are all here. Tom Cruise runs a lot, obviously. He drives scooters and tiny cars through the streets of Rome. He beats up random thugs during a party scene. And yes, he rides a motorcycle off a cliff in what is probably his most impressive stunt in a Mission: Impossible career defined by awe inspiring stunts.

Side note: much of my interest in this movie was to see how this stunt would work itself into the flow of the movie. I’m happy to report that it totally works within the context of the film and is as thrilling as you think it’s going to be.

There are also twists and turns. Masks get pulled off. And there’s a fight atop a moving train. Honestly, what more could you ask for? If that’s not enough for you, Cruise also performs a magic trick and cosplays as a sexy Italian lawyer.

Although raw sexual energy appears obvious between Hunt and his female counterparts, it’s repeatedly reinforced that they’re all just friends. In a strange way, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning: Part One is a movie about the power of friendship.

Ving Rhames’ Luther, Simon Pegg’s Benji, and Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa invite Hayley Atwell’s Grace into their family of lovable weirdos hopelessly devoted to the gospel of Hunt. Pom Klementieff’s Paris is a one-woman wrecking crew who manically delights as she bulldozes everything in her path during a chase sequence. Shea Whigham is wonderful as Jasper Briggs, a government agent in way over his head as he attempts to chase down Hunt.

In another film, the large ensemble cast could feel unnecessary and overstuffed. Fortunately for us, McQuarrie has a great understanding of how to utilize everyone and play them against each other.

At the end of the day, it’s still Cruise’s movie. At this point in his career, everything he works on his baby. His dedication to entertaining cannot be denied. A lot can be said about Cruise or his movies, but he cannot be accused of half-assing anything. It must be infectious. The passion jumps off the screen. Not just from Tom and his performance, but from every aspect of the movie.

It still feels like a dark time for the film industry. Maybe this guy truly is the only one who can save it. We’ll just have to check back in for Dead Reckoning: Part Two next year in order to find out if he did.

Author: Raf Stitt

Brooklyn based. Full time movie fan, part time podcaster, occasional writer. Follow on Twitter: @rafstitt