Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One

A strange looking man enters a meeting of The Community where its head, Director of National Intelligence Delinger (Cary Elwes) is outlining the extreme danger of a new cyber threat called The Entity, one capable of creating its own truth by changing our perception of reality.  There is a two part cruciform key needed to control it and former MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) has half.  Suddenly the strange man hands CIA Director Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny, ‘Mission Impossible”) a ventilator before gassing the room.  It is IMF agent Ethan Hunt (producer Tom Cruise) and he is alarmed that his boss is one of many hoping to seize the entity for his own use rather than destroy it in “Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One.”

Laura's Review: A-

Cowriter (with Erik Jendresen)/director Christopher McQuarrie has made a sure fire summer blockbuster with a film that feeds into our fears of AI and manipulation of the truth, gathers together MI players old and new for what is looking like a sendoff (“Part Two” is due in June 2024) and delivers a one-two knockout punch of a cliffhanger ending.  There is a new potential romance in Hunt’s likely pre-IMF history, one introduced but unexplained as his own personal grudge against this film’s villain, Gabriel (Esai Morales), but heck, Gabriel is keeping company with global governments here, including Hunt’s own.

No sooner has Ethan heard about Ilsa than we find him riding through Arabian dunes on a magnificent black steed.  He gets coverage under a hail of gunfire before reuniting with Ilsa manning an automatic weapon, then heads to the Abu Dhabi airport with Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg) to upset the other half of the key’s handoff.  While Ethan engages in a pas de deux with the pickpocket, Grace (Haley Atwell, Marvel’s Margaret ‘Peggy’ Carter), engaged to hand off to Gabriel, Benji wrestles with a nuclear bomb in baggage that keeps asking him questions.

If we just went through a case of thieves stealing from thieves in “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” MI will put us through the paces in 3D.  After posing as Grace’s lawyer in Rome, Ethan will handcuff himself to her as the duo are chased by the Italian police, Gabriel’s henchwoman Paris (“Guardians of the Galaxy’s” Pom Klementieff, this film’s Harley Quinn) in a hummer and Clandestine Services‘ Briggs (Shea Whigham) and Degas (Greg Tarzan Davis, “Top Gun: Maverick”), working on Kittredge’s behalf.  A switch from a BMW to a yellow Fiat 500 ‘safe car’ adds some humor to the mayhem.

The shifty Grace ditches Ethan once again and the gang reconvenes in Venice, Ethan and Ilsa both noting they’ve never been to the romantic city before.  They’re tipped off to a party at the Doges Palace where Alanna Mitsopolis, aka The White Widow (Vanessa Kirby), is about to cut a deal with Gabriel for ‘the thing everyone wants.’  Ethan begs her not to, explaining the consequences.  The host of the party?  The Entity itself…

After things don’t go the IMF’s way once again, Luther lays out a theory about the Entity’s outcome algorithms to Ethan, warning him that he must not kill Gabriel, the only person who knows just what that key unlocks.   Everyone who gathered in Rome hops on the Orient Express excepting Ethan, who must figure out a way to get aboard.  Have you seen that stunt where Cruise drives a motorcycle off a cliff?  That’s one way of doing it (Cruise performed the stunt, which also required him to base dive dangerously close to the ground, eight times to ensure it would look perfect).  And that’s not even the climax, which is like a four part extreme obstacle course where one false move could kill you.

While the action scenes almost inconceivably continue to top those that have come before, the filmmakers have also imbued the film with friendships that matter and shifting allegiances which reconfigure the odds.  The IMF team may be showing their age, but that also gives the film both gravitas and jolts of humor.  The ensemble, veterans and newcomers alike, is excellent and with Cruise producing, the production is as good as it gets, action scenes featuring immersive camerawork and slick editing.  Even the familiar theme music has been maximized, Lorne Balfe’s score more commanding than ever before.

A late breaking revelation from a surprising source takes us back to the film’s nerve jangling prologue (with unfortunate parallels to the recent Titan tragedy) which introduced us to The Entity while a new IMF recruit ‘chooses to accept’ with the wrong person.  It’s going to be a long, long wait for next June.

Paramount opens "Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One" in theaters on 7/12/23.