Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One (2023)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 7/22/23
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Music: Lorne Balfe
Cast: Tom Cruise, Hayley Atwell, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, Henry Czerny, Vanessa Kirby, Pom Klementieff, Cary Elwes

Stop me if you've heard this one before: A top secret military AI goes rogue and its creators lose control of it. The key to controlling it is a literal physical key, and every nation on the planet wants to get their hands on it. And so the responsibility of procuring the key falls to Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team of tech wizards, but they have their work cut out for them because the AI (called "The Entity") can hack into EVERYTHING. A master thief named Grace (Hayley Atwell) also shows up to throw a wrench in the works, and much like Ilsa Faust's (Rebecca Ferguson) historical role, the film revolves around her antagonistic relationship with Hunt. The film ends with an exciting set piece aboard the Orient Express, and sets the stage and stakes for Part Two.

The film looks absolutely gorgeous and literally plays out like an "Uncharted" video game in both locations and set pieces. While it's a slow starter, it really picks up speed in the second half, and the brilliant and exciting car chase in Rome is arguably the highlight of the film. Topping that, in terms of outrageousness, is the climactic showdown on a runaway train speeding towards a blown-up bridge. Having just recently seen "Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny" (2023), the train sequences are eerily similar. However, Indy's dark and murky CGI mess can't compete with the scale and practical effects of M:I, which makes Indy look even worse by comparison. Lorne Balfe's tense and bold music score is riveting and matches the action perfectly. However, I'm annoyed that the soundtrack isn't being released until three months after the film's theatrical run. What's up with that?

Tom Cruise continues to shine as Ethan Hunt, but his age is definitely starting to show. Hayley Atwell is utterly delightful as Grace, but she unfortunately overshadows Rebecca Ferguson's character, whose fate is immediately and obviously telegraphed. The biggest surprise is the return of Henry Czerny as director Kittridge from the first "Mission: Impossible" (1996) film, and his wonderful voice was music to my ears. Pom Klementieff makes an excellent, but sorely underutilized, psychotic assassin employed by the film's main villain. Sadly, her fight scenes are obscured by cramped quarters, dark lighting, and choppy editing. She's also the source of public outcry regarding "the silent Asian" stereotype, which I call complete bullshit on. First of all, she doesn't say much because she doesn't have anything to say. She's a hired assassin, for crying out loud. It has absolutely nothing to do with racial profiling. HER CHARACTER SPEAKS WITH ACTION. THAT'S WHAT ASSASSINS IN ACTION MOVIES DO. In fact, she probably has more lines than John Wick does. Does Boba Fett get racially profiled for speaking only when necessary? Other supporting characters in the film don't talk much, either, but are we pointing that out? What people SHOULD be discussing is the fact that when Grace disguises herself as Alanna Mitsopolis (deliciously wicked Vanessa Kirby), her eyes are brown instead of blue, and even Alanna's brother doesn't notice. This was literally the first thing I saw, which completely ruined my suspension of disbelief. Of course there would be obvious height and weight differences as well, but out of all the ridiculous nonsense in the film, this is what bothered me the most. And it was clearly done on purpose for some unfathomable reason. The rest I could excuse for the sake of entertainment and excitement, but the unnoticed eye color was too much for me.

Still, despite all of its unreal situations and physics-defying lapses in logic, "Dead Reckoning" is a superbly crafted film and a thoroughly exciting piece of action cinema, and I anxiously await seeing the next chapter.