Tom Cruise and Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One fall flat with A.I.-centric plot
Since Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie started making movies together, the results have been mostly amazing. McQuarrie has either written, or written and directed, Cruise-starring movies likeEdge of Tomorrow, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, and Top Gun: Maverick (yes, he also wrote Jack Reacher and The Mummy, but nobody’s perfect).
The duo is back together again in their favorite series with Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, what could be the beginning of the end to Cruise’s three-decade run as IMF agent Ethan Hunt. As always, Hunt and his extreme world-saving adventures have run him afoul of the U.S. government, with Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny, returning for the first time since in the original film) tasking a group of mercenaries to take out Hunt once and for all.
Hunt, naturally, has bigger concerns on his mind, this time an artificial intelligence known as The Entity that threatens to destabilize the entire world. Joined by team members Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), love interest/fellow spy Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), and a thief by the name of Grace (Hayley Atwell), Hunt travels around the world trying to track down a cruciform key that could help stop The Entity.
Directed by McQuarrie and co-written by McQuarrie and Erik Jendresen, the nearly three-hour film is the longest in the series’ history, mostly because the filmmakers fill its running time with a ton of exposition. Even for a series that is famously dense with confusing plots, this one takes the cake, as scene after scene tries to explain how dangerous The Entity is, as well as how new villain Gabriel (Esai Morales) fits into the scheme.
Somewhat disappointingly, that means that the series’ action scenes take a bit of a backseat. To be sure, there are some truly spectacular sequences, including a finale that will have audiences holding their collective breath, but they’re not as plentiful and definitely not as impactful as ones in previous films. Perhaps McQuarrie is saving the truly great stuff for Part Two, or perhaps – after upping the ante in each film in the series – he and his team were due for a letdown.
The film also suffers to a degree from a lack of a compelling central villain. The idea of A.I. taking over the world is very timely given the rise of ChatGPT, but in the context of an action film, it’s not that exciting. How or why Gabriel is a conduit for The Entity is also confusing, as is his supposed long antagonistic relationship with Ethan, which is never explored well enough to be noteworthy.
The 61-year-old Cruise is as fearless as ever, giving his all to each action scene and truly making you feel the depth of Hunt’s emotion. Ferguson, who’s been a boon for the series in the past two films, is great again, although she’s not given as much to do in this film. Atwell fits in nicely, but the presence of Ferguson and Vanessa Kirby as returning character The White Widow makes her superfluous in the “pairing Cruise with femme fatales” game.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is still much better than the majority of franchise films being offered up by studios, but when you have the track record the series has had to this point, anything less than greatness is discouraging. Part Two awaits in 2024, so redemption may not be far off.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is now playing in theaters.