No one reloads their arms in this one.
FINAL SCORE: 0 OUT OF 10.
Okay okay we’ll review the movie but let it show in the records that we’re doing so under duress.
It has been around five years since Mission: Impossible – Fallout was released, a movie that felt like yet another bump in the insanity of this movie franchise. We still think back to this movie often, and not just for the arm reloads. From one of the best trailers ever to the credits rolling in the theatres, we had such a good time with Fallout that we’ve been patiently waiting for almost half a decade for a follow up.
Now it’s here in the form of Dead Reckoning Part One, the first of a pair of movies that some have rumoured to end the Mission: Impossible saga in some way or another. With the hype coming off of Fallout and the pressure of potentially ending on a bang, has star Tom Cruise and returning director Christopher McQuarrie managed to do the impossible once again?
Amazingly, yes. In some cosmic happenstance of lighting striking again and again, Dead Reckoning Part One has yet again proven to be an amazing moviegoing experience with action and stakes that few movies will be able to match, even those with superheroes and other more fantastical elements.
But let’s draw things back to the setting and who we’ll be seeing on screen. Unfortunately we can’t even reveal the most basic details of the plot as it leads massively into spoiler territory. Even the official description for the movie is as generic as can be:
“In Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF team embark on their most dangerous mission yet: To track down a terrifying new weapon that threatens all of humanity before it falls into the wrong hands. With control of the future and the fate of the world at stake, and dark forces from Ethan’s past closing in, a deadly race around the globe begins. Confronted by a mysterious, all-powerful enemy, Ethan is forced to consider that nothing can matter more than his mission – not even the lives of those he cares about most.”
If that sounds like every other Mission: Impossible movie, and every James Bond movie and several hundred other movies, you’d be right, but we actually have to commend the marketing team for playing their cards close to their chests and not revealing key details to get butts in seats.
What we can say is that the premise and overall execution of the story of Dead Reckoning Part One is, honestly, rather ingenious. If you’ve watched a lot of modern movies of this kind and thought “do ‘spies’ like Ethan Hunt even make sense when everything is digital warfare nowadays?’, well this movie agrees with you. The main antagonistic force in this story and the ‘all-powerful enemy’ that the IMF needs to defeat is rooted in modernity and its power brings into question the reliance of world powers on their technology and – even more relevant for the age of being chronically online – the nature of truth itself.
That’s all very lofty and vague so let’s summarise by saying that we truly loved the story this movie has to tell… even if it becomes extremely clunky at many intervals. Yes for every genius plot point there is an equally dumb one that makes no sense. This isn’t just a case of poor internal logic for the world of the story, but also some cringe-worthy dialogue.
At one point a character literally says “so the plot thickens” and we fully expected them to turn to the camera and wink at the audience.
It’s bizarre since other parts of the movie and its writing are so well done. It’s like this script was written by two people: one accomplished writer who had an idea for a very modern espionage thriller, and then their little brother whose mother promised them they could write some parts of this big Hollywood movie.
Thankfully, for those who just want to see Cruise and company leaping from insane set piece to insane set piece, well you’re covered. Almost every single action set piece in Dead Reckoning Part One is honed and polished to perfectly have the audience on edge and engaged for every second.
It’s truly masterful how well the editing, score, acting and action blend together into extended action scenes. At the end of these events you feel like you held your breath the entire time and your stress levels have skyrocketed. We know the trope of suggesting people see a movie in IMAX is played out and many have already taken that advice for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, but we have to insist you do it again this time.
If all you care about is action, this may be the best movie of the year.
But again we have to add a caveat. While we have near breathless praise for the action, there are a litany of smaller problems that really add up. Some events were obviously not given the same time, thought or budget as the others and are left rather boring. Other scenes are less interesting because the plot armour of certain characters becomes unreal at points and we’re left not really worried about the main cast biting the dust, which takes an axe to the apprehension we just praised a few sentences ago.
This comes back to the troubled writing mentioned earlier. A sweeping edit wouldn’t have been uncalled for for this movie and we’re not even asking for death at every turn to up the stakes, but at least show our heroes being hurt or even having their perfect hair and makeup messed up a bit to show how dire things are.
The cast gives a solid showing all the way around with Cruise as always putting in the work. There are some surprisingly heartfelt moments from his Ethan Hunt this time around too. Where Dead Reckoning Part One falls down yet again is that none of the cast really gave a standout performance that anyone will be talking about in the future.
No one can compete with Philip Seymour Hoffman in Mission: Impossible III, but we’d like some actors to at least try get close. Not helping the matter is bizarre camera choices during plot-heavy conversations. It seems like the filmmakers were a bit lost thinking up ways to make the dialogue more interesting so they went with wacky angles and several changes every scene.
To answer one final question about Dead Reckoning, is it brought down by the Part One in its title? To bring up Across the Spider-Verse again, another movie that is a two-parter, we can see less people being upset by the time the Dead Reckoning credits come around. For one you know what you’re getting into because of said Part One in the title, unlike Across the Spider-Verse, and Dead Reckoning feels slightly more satisfying to watch as a single movie.
In all honestly some very minor elements of the plot could have been changed and this could have been a standalone movie too, which isn’t something we can say for Across the Spider-Verse.
While there’s a lot of nuisance at play in the strengths and weaknesses of Dead Reckoning Part One, there’s less complexity in our closing thoughts of a high recommendation from us and that earlier nudge towards IMAX.
We’re not sure just yet if we will look back on this one as fondly as we do for Fallout, but we are now patiently waiting for Part Two and will be at it on opening day to see Ethan Hunt and the IMF for possibly the last time.
FINAL SCORE (FOR REAL THIS TIME): 8 OUT OF 10.