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Review: Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

  • Release year: 2023
  • Director: Christopher McQuarrie.
  • Producers: Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie.
  • Screenplay by: Bruce Geller, Christopher McQuarrie and Eric Jendresen.
  • Cinematographer: Fraser Taggart.
  • Music by: Lorne Balfe.

Synopsis: Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team embark on yet another assignment, this time fighting against an AI that can predict the future and manipulate any digital data.

Shotgun Commentary: let’s face it, after six movies, if you are thinking about watching this is because you know exactly what you’re getting into.

A man in a suit hugged from the side by a blond woman in a white suit. Image for the review of Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One
Fig. 1. Ethan (Tom Cruise) and The White Widow (Vanessa Kirby) negotiating. Source: Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (Christopher McQuarrie, 2023). Skydance

Review

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One delivers the next step in what is now more the saga of “how will Tom Cruise risk his life this time?” than a spy franchise. While it is a little bit frustrating that social media fills up with videos of Tom Cruise doing stunts before the movies are out, they are still a riot to watch. Granted, they lose most of the wow factor because of these videos, but the Mission Impossible mojo is still there.

This time, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team face a self-aware AI, The Entity, that controls any digital data in the world and predicts the future with incredible accuracy. As a person who knows nothing about AIs and will not know anything about AIs until it is inevitable, that seems like quite the scary villain. Especially since it leaves the two most capable and useful members of the squad, Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames), pretty much obsolete.

Fig. 2. Ethan and the gang walking around all serious and stylish. Source: Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (Christopher McQuarrie, 2023). Skydance

This obsolescence and their almost voluntary ignorance of it is the loudest mistake of the feature. They are tricked in the exact same way several times and yet no one seems to think that it might be a good idea to change the strategy so it doesn’t happen again…and again.

An acquired taste

The film is generally quite surreal, with cliché characters and situations that push this franchise further away from mystery and more into comedy. After all these years, the fans still watching are acclimated to a certain level of surrealism, cringe and general nonsense.

If you are new to Mission Impossible as a product, it would be recommendable that you start from the beginning. Watching this one without context or anaesthesia might be too much for someone just in the mood for a spy flick.

A blond woman with white make up on her face, a tear painted on her cheek and black eye shadow. Image for the review of Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One
Fig. 3. Paris (Pom Klementieff) being all edgy. Source: Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (Christopher McQuarrie, 2023). Skydance

Tom Cruise’s performance is nothing exciting, his character stopped evolving around four instalments ago and both actor and audience are quite fine with that. As for the rest of the group, Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) and Luther are more of the same too.

Another level

Benji is not included in the previous section because, even though his personality is as stale as for the rest of the characters, his humour does grow better and better with each movie of the franchise. Truth be told, at this point that is the main, and possibly only, reason to keep watching the saga.

In Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, he has one scene that, although it is mixed with some other situation that Tom– Ethan Hunt is in, it becomes the most exciting and fun part of the film. Benji has to deactivate a bomb by solving puzzles that you can find in any book of enigmas for a six-year-old. To solve all the questions, he asks for advice through the comms. Basically, it is a tiny game show within a motion picture, but with the possibility of blowing up, and yes, it is awesome.

Cliché and Pointless

On the other side of the equation, we have Gabriel (Esai Morales), the most stereotypical bad guy you could ever think of. If someone says “Latin ex-agent turned villain”, you will see him: his clothes, his behaviour and even his “astounding” reveal. However, it would be unfair to say that this character is less developed than any of the dense agents following Ethan or any of the female characters. There is only so much Rebecca Ferguson and Vanessa Kirby can do to make a character interesting.

To men fighting on top of a moving train. Image for the review of Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One
Fig. 4. Ethan fighting Gabriel (Esai Morales) on a moving train, as one does every Saturday morning. Source: Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One
(Christopher McQuarrie, 2023). Skydance

Grace (Hayley Atwell) is the newest addition to the gang. By now everybody knows that it is part of the rules to have at least one girl on the crew, but if you are not going to bother giving her any special characteristics, why add anyone at all?

Since Mission: Impossible (1996), every single female agent has been the same. Ilsa Faulst has a special charisma and mad skills to make her stand out a bit, but Grace is basically a way less skilled and charismatic Ilsa. You traded the answer to all of your problems for a half-chewed candy someone just found on the side of the road, see how that could be confusing for the audience?

A masterful surprise

The only positive outcome of that exchange is the opportunity it brings to the score. The music in the most emotional part of the film is sublime.

Overall, the soundtrack is absolutely fantastic, as it has always been. Nonetheless, the way they adapted the traditional track to the times is great, and the track “I was Hoping It’d Be You” is one of the most beautiful things heard in cinemas during 2023. The melody is short, but the gravity the music conveys is so intense that it shakes you to the bones. It is the only reason you will even become invested in what is going on for a hot second. The loss and despair that the music expresses is the most shocking element of the whole feature.

Fig. 5. Ethan running around. Source: Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (Christopher McQuarrie, 2023). Skydance

To summarise, this film is two hours and half of Tom Cruise doing Tom Cruise stuff with no resolution or logic. Enjoy.

Advice to take from this movie:

  • Read one of those puzzle books for kids, you never know when that knowledge will save your life.
  • It’s 2024 now, if you are a scriptwriter, learn how to make a female character already.
  • If an AI controls your digital moves, stop using digital resources FOR EVERYTHING?!
Fig. 6. Ethan talking to the police with Grace hiding behind him. Source: Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (Christopher McQuarrie, 2023). Skydance

What’s your take? Have you watched Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One? Have you been able to sit through the two and a half hours it lasts? Is this your first Mission: Impossible? Don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below or leave a message in my contact page! For more reviews and cinema-related articles check out the rest of my blog! 😀

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