“With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon.” - Elon Musk
These days you can find numerous articles declaring the “inevitable death of cinema!” It’s all very dramatic. Every year they would have us believe that the theatrical experience is on the chopping block and that movies as we know them are doomed. And at the same time studios repeatedly produce record box office numbers. If you ask me, as with most things in life, there is an ebb and flow of success and failure. I do however think that maybe many of the recent box office misses are due to the never ending wave of blockbusters year-round. It used to be a spectacle experience, something to look forward to every summer. Now, by the time May and June roll around we’ve already seen ten major tentpole releases.
With the fear of failure looming so large, especially since COVID, studios rarely bet on the idea of an original concept. So we are truly in the era of superhero movies, sequels and remakes galore. As millennials we haven’t exactly been subtle about our love of all things nostalgia, specifically from our youth during the 90’s. So any property from that decade is definitely a potential money maker in the age of nostalgic yearning. Case in point - Mission: Impossible. And yes I’m aware M:I began as a series in 1966. I’m speaking of the Tom Cruise led espionage thriller from 1996 that relit the fuse of this aspiring franchise. And now here we are twenty-seven years later talking about the franchise being as fresh and bigger than ever.
The M:I property has had at least three course corrections over its fifty-seven year existence. After the series ended in 1973, it was Brian De Palma and Tom Cruise that brought it back to life in 1996. Unfortunately someone made the mistake of taking the brilliant but undoubtedly misplaced John Woo and seating him in the director’s chair for the sequel. M:I 2 nearly killed the franchise for a second time. It was the prowess of J.J. Abrams that brought it back from its coma and redesignated the franchise as not just simply an espionage drama series but an action franchise not just dependent on great storytelling but phenomenal stunts, something Tom Cruise definitely has a knack for, to put it lightly and highly understated. And here we are witnessing Tom Cruise’s best work of his entire career.
Now in 2023, for the second year in a row, it would seem Hollyweird has turned to the all powerful Cruise to save the very idea of the summer movie experience. After the massive and unexpected success of the spectacular Top Gun: Maverick, Cruise is back again this summer with the highly anticipated return of the Mission: Impossible franchise. And with the promise of this being only part one, we knew we were in for something huge. And with the scale of Fallout, Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One had a very high bar to outperform. Having experienced Ethan Hunt’s latest daring adventure in glorious IMAX, I am elated to report that in my most humble opinion, Dead Reckoning Part One is the best of the entire M:I franchise, including the seemingly insurmountable Fallout.
Some will understandably declare that Fallout is still the best and I can’t fault them for it. It is honestly as simple as which phenomenal action movie do you love more? In a competition featuring two movies that can both easily be mentioned among the greatest action movies ever made, you can’t really go wrong. And I mean it when I say that Dead Reckoning Part One is one of the greatest action movies I’ve ever experienced. It would seem Tom Cruise has reached a place where he can do no wrong on the silver screen.
Dead Reckoning is a theme of past and present colliding as the future stares both down with nothing but resentment and violence in its heart. In Rogue Nation, Hunt and his team faced the ultimate agent in Solomon Lane. In Fallout they faced the remnants of Lane’s influence still threatening our very existence. So now, how can the stakes be raised even more? By incorporating a subject that is extremely prevalent in our current timeline, Artificial Intelligence. While the idea of A.I. going awol is nothing new, Dead Reckoning forces it into Ethan Hunt’s world with a violent shove and it’s nothing short of exhilarating to watch as Hunt and his team try to navigate their most complex and harrowing mission yet.
I love this franchise. I thoroughly enjoyed the original thriller starring Cruise and reboarded the hype train when M:I 3 emerged as the franchise’s savior. And since then I’ve only enjoyed each installment more than the last. It’s so rare that a property this many movies deep can exclaim that each sequel is as good if not better than the previous. I was hooked with Fallout. I was blown away by Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie’s commitment to the franchise by orchestrating and performing some of the most insane stunt work ever put to film. The HALO jump I think may never be topped and I think they realized that when approaching Dead Reckoning. So rather than trying to top it and losing focus on creating the best movie they can, I think they kept to their tried and true approach of making amazing stunts that fit within the story they were currently working on rather than concerning themselves with what came before.
I think it can be argued that while the stunts in Dead Reckoning are amazing, Fallout still feels bigger and grander. But where Dead Reckoning exceeds expectations is with its story that is unexpectedly timely as well as overwhelmingly entertaining. The last time I felt such cinematic euphoria was last summer when I watched Cruise fly jets off of carriers in Top Gun: Maverick. (I want to make mention that John Wick Chapter 4 is action movie perfection but it’s a different kind of action that is its own kind of brilliance. To compare these franchises is pointless in my opinion.)
Sitting in an IMAX theater as the room literally vibrated and roared as the screen amazed us visually was a wholly enveloping experience. It becomes clear from the very beginning that everything about this movie was concocted and crafted and carried out with absolute clarity and attention to detail. From the smaller moments of mission planning and hand to hand combat with nothing more than a pair of knives to the death defying cliff jump with a motorbike and a parachute, Dead Reckoning is one of the most complete action movies I’ve ever seen. Even the musical score, which is its own marvel, adds yet another level of entertainment elevating everything about the franchise. What truly makes it work is the attention to the adventure happening right here and now rather than trying to set up what comes next. If they had simply looked to the future, Dead Reckoning Part Two, Part One would have most certainly suffered as a result. Thankfully they had the foresight to allow Part One to be its own adventure with the promise of something coming afterward once its own story was completed.
While Part One definitely sets up Part Two, it stands completely on its own achieving what I consider to be the best thing about it; leaving me wanting more. At a lengthy two and a half hours, I couldn’t get enough. I didn’t want it to end. Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One is my favorite of the entire franchise and may just end up as my favorite movie of 2023. If there is any saving of Hollyweird needed, it appears Tom Cruise has done it again for the second year in a row. If Part Two is as good as Part One, I think he’s primed to do it again next year.
PG-13 For: intense sequences of violence and action, some language and suggestive material
Runtime: 163 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller
Starring: Tom Cruise, Hayley Atwell, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson
Directed By: Christopher McQuarrie
Out of 10
Story: 10/ Acting: 10/ Directing: 10/ Visuals: 10
Buy to Own: Absolutely.
Check out the trailer below: