It’s hard to underestimate the impact of Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One, the highly anticipated first chapter in the franchise’s two-part seventh installment. The release of detailed footage showcasing one of the film’s most spectacular stunts online last December speaks volumes about the level of excitement surrounding this $3.5 billion franchise.
In the clip, Tom Cruise, reprising his role as superspy Ethan Hunt, executes a breathtaking motorcycle jump off a cliff, descending 4,000 feet into a ravine, and concluding with a BASE jump from the final 500 feet. Most action thrillers would reserve such a daring money shot for the film’s release, fearing leaks that would undermine its awe-inspiring impact.
However, director Christopher McQuarrie, in his third time at the helm, has packed the espionage saga with an abundance of exhilarating stunt sequences, visceral fights, intense gunplay, and high-speed chases, ensuring that audiences will be captivated throughout every moment of the film.
Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One delivers an adrenaline-fueled experience that both exhilarates and occasionally falls short. Comparisons to Brian De Palma’s 1996 series opener, which elevated the CIA’s covert Impossible Missions Force from its television roots to the big screen, offer valuable insights into how audience expectations have evolved over the past 27 years. De Palma, together with screenwriters David Koepp and Robert Towne, meticulously constructed a story that, despite its complexity, allowed the characters to breathe and built up to stylishly choreographed action sequences infused with the director’s signature Hitchcockian flair.
De Palma’s film notably featured a nail-biting CIA heist in which Ethan Hunt, portrayed by Cruise, is lowered into a state-of-the-art Langley security vault to copy a highly classified document. This sequence set the stage for a series that would be defined by jaw-dropping stunts, forever changing Cruise’s career trajectory. Over the past three decades, Cruise has evolved into a much-improved actor. It becomes challenging to take the younger version of Ethan seriously, with his cocky grins and exchanges with Vanessa Redgrave’s smooth-as-silk arms dealer, Max, resembling a high school jock trying to impress the head cheerleader.
Ethan’s character has matured, growing wearier, more jaded, and emotionally scarred. He has acquired the gravitas that accompanies loss. Cruise’s unwavering commitment to executing his stunts practically, prioritizing practicality over visual effects, has only intensified over the years. Cruise is a performer who consistently delivers what his audience desires, including copious amounts of running. And in this regard, Dead Reckoning Part One excels. While the film may sacrifice some elements of storytelling along the way, it is unlikely to trouble the core fanbase. McQuarrie, who co-wrote the screenplay with Erik Jendresen, invests heavily in the continuous array of set-pieces, making the connective narrative tissue virtually disposable.
At times, it seems as if McQuarrie has distilled the most thrilling elements not only from the Mission: Impossible series but also from the James Bond and Jason Bourne franchises, seamlessly blending them into a sizzle reel. The film lacks a strong sense of a story that demanded a two-part telling, despite its lengthy two-and-a-half-hour runtime. Instead, it feels as though McQuarrie and Cruise simply had a surplus of jaw-dropping stunts to showcase and new picturesque locations to unleash mayhem upon. With uncanny timing, the plot revolves around rogue artificial intelligence, the “perfect covert operation,” and the suave and sinister terrorist Gabriel, played by Esai Morales.