Film Review: Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One

Words: Joanna Hoyes
Thursday 13 July 2023
reading time: min, words

Tom Cruise is back doing his thing - throwing himself off of stuff, punching bad guys and saving the world. But is this his best bout of madness yet? 

Mission Impossible Dead Reckoning

Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Tom Cruise, Hayley Atwell, Ving Rhames
Running time: 163 minutes

I spent most of Tuesday evening feeling exactly how you should feel after watching the latest Mission: Impossible - excited, exhilarated and slightly hyper. 

Dead Reckoning Part One is, as anticipated, stuffed full of action, tension and a lot of Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise). There’s a car chase between a tank and a yellow Fiat 500, a shoot-out on horses in the Middle East, and an awesome sequence on a runaway train headed for an exploded railway track.

It wouldn’t be right to brush over the proximity of our city of Nottingham to where the set was built and shot for the tremendous railway scenes. Masquerading as the Alps, Stoney Middleton in Derbyshire provides the backdrop to a terrific locomotive stunt, which Cruise hopped on a helicopter to watch for himself (no actual acting shots were filmed locally). 

The stunts in a Mission: Impossible film always lend a certain authenticity, with the audience thrilled with the knowledge that Cruise completes the majority of them himself. It’s widely appreciated that he will give anything a go, which has led to him climbing up the outside of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and hanging onto the side of an aeroplane mid-flight. Despite getting on a bit this time around, Cruise does not disappoint. Let’s just say it involves a motorbike, a mountain and a parachute. He may not have an Oscar - but the man has nine lives.

It’s no great surprise the film ends on a cliffhanger, given its title - and I, for one, am genuinely looking forward to the next instalment

Joining Ethan in his quest to locate a key to either end or save the world – more on that later - are returning characters Benji (Simon Pegg), Luther (Ving Rhames), Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) and the illusive White Widow (Vanessa Kirby). In addition, French actress Pom Klementieff and Marvel’s Hayley Atwell join the gang.

There isn’t a single character that isn't a joy to watch, yet some leave their mark more than others. Pegg has provided the comedic relief in these films since the third outing - we’re now on the seventh - and there isn't enough of this in Dead Reckoning. His funniest quip happens very early doors, and he’s hardly seen again - apart from through some very frantic acting next to a nuclear bomb. Ditto Kirby; her witty delivery cuts through some of the spy babble - it’s like watching Princess Margaret running organised crime, and I’d like more of it. Fortunately, (spoilers) a couple of the characters are bumped off - so perhaps in Part Two there’ll be more space for each character to sing without it feeling as crowded.

The villain of the piece isn’t exactly human; described as ‘everywhere and nowhere’, it’s good old artificial intelligence coming to take over the world. This isn’t the first film we’ve seen about AI technology, but it feels somewhat prescient given the very real concerns around machines taking control, not to mention threatening everyone’s jobs, in the not too distant future. Slightly incongruously, the plot centres around finding a key, which somehow 'unlocks' the AI beast – admittedly, I’m unsure how a physical key would manage this. I did appreciate the cruciform design of the key, however, presumably denoting AI as akin to a god-like being or ‘entity’, as it is referred to.

Costume, hair and make-up deserve a nod for the fabulous work on the female cast. Kirby sports a stylish colour palette of camels, taupes and off-whites – feeling very ‘quiet luxury’ a la Succession. And it's only right to mention Atwell’s beautifully fitted suits and pirate-sleeved shirts. Paris (Klementieff) looks especially striking during one scene, with a semi-powdered face and a painted teardrop while she’s attempting to beat Ethan to death with a metal pipe. With four supporting actresses all playing strong independent characters, wardrobe does a great job of creating a clear persona for each woman. 

It’s no great surprise the film ends on a cliffhanger, given its title - and I, for one, am genuinely looking forward to the next instalment. Unless our computers have taken over the cinemas by then...

Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One is now showing at The Arc Cinema

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