Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning (Part One): familiar plotting offset by spectacular action set pieces

Rohit Balaji
Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn, Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell, Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt and Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust.

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (12A, 169 mins) Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi.
Starring: Tom Cruise, Hayley Atwell, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Esai Morales, Pom Klementieff, Ving Rhames, Cary Elwes, Henry Czerny.
Director: Christopher McQuarrie

IN THE realm of action franchises, the Mission: Impossible series has been a stalwart presence, consistently delivering captivating escapades led by the indomitable Tom Cruise.

While the earlier entries were not solely defined by jaw-dropping stunts (instalments one to three), they laid the groundwork for the franchise's evolution.

It was in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol that the series began exploring spectacles on a global scale, and subsequent instalments have continued to push the boundaries of adrenaline-fueled excitement.

However, with the seventh instalment, writer-director Stephen McQuarrie takes a subtle step back, reminding us that tension and misdirection can captivate an audience just as powerfully as grandiose stunts.

Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie.


The movie employs non-linear storytelling to build anticipation, constantly subverting expectations and leaving viewers on the edge of their seats.

The first major set piece, in an airport, showcases outstanding film-making and expert action movie writing.

Read more:

Tom Cruise's 10 best movie stunts

Tom Cruise says seventh Mission: Impossible film is franchise’s ‘biggest moment’


A chase ensues, involving five different characters expertly captured through dynamic editing, clever writing, and skillful camera work.

The sequence combines tension-building with deception and sleight of hand, weaving tension with humour that never feels detached. Crucially, the film does not leave its viewers in the dark: unlike a magician, it unveils the secrets behind its tricks, adding a layer of satisfaction to the experience.

The other large-scale set pieces are a testament to the franchise's commitment to excellence. The European car chase scene breaks away from the norm by featuring an unassuming vehicle.

Hayley Atwell and Tom Cruise


This unexpected choice breathes new life into the oft-repeated trope, ensuring the chase remains fresh and entertaining.

Meanwhile, a visually stunning train sequence impresses with its craftsmanship, although it does veer toward being overly-protracted. As the conflicts unfold, it becomes clear that, having survived the trials of the past six movies, this major train skirmish may not pose a significant threat.

Nonetheless, the action sequences remain top-notch and continue to deliver thrilling entertainment.

The film introduces an AI antagonist, a timely device that has been explored in various action film iterations before.

However, the movie manages to distinguish its AI from previous incarnations, keeping the narrative engaging and intriguing. This fresh take on the antagonist adds a layer of novelty to the story and prevents it from feeling overly familiar.

Esai Morales and Tom Cruise.


Unfortunately, the film does stumble in terms of character development. While Ethan Hunt is a beloved character, his grounded nature of being attached to his ex-wife was what made him relatable.

In this instalment, amidst the flurry of events, Ethan's personal journey and emotional depth receive inadequate attention.

Even the sacrifice of one major character fails to resonate as intended. This shock appears primarily aimed at evoking a sense of grief in Ethan, a sentiment already emphasised throughout the movie through flashbacks of Ethan losing another woman from his past.

Tom Cruise and Rebecca Ferguson


This attempt at parallelism with the film's human antagonist, portrayed by Esai Morales, ultimately falls flat.

Furthermore, Hayley Atwell's skillfully portrayed character breathes life into every scene she’s in, almost like a normal person. The performances from the talented cast are commendable, but the characters' interpersonal relationships remain shallow, leaving a sense of longing for more scenes of interaction between them.

Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames and Vanessa Kirby deliver their usual excellence, adding reliable depth to the ensemble. The dialogue, while straightforward and exposition-heavy at times, serves its purpose of delivering necessary information to the viewers.

Tom Cruise and Vanessa Kirby


Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning (Part One) showcases the franchise's evolution by cleverly balancing tension and misdirection while delivering outstanding action sequences.

Although the film falters in terms of character development and depth, the top-notch performances and thrilling set pieces ensure an engaging cinematic experience.

While it may not reach the dizzying heights of its immediate predecessors, the movie reminds us that sometimes the most effective magic lies in building anticipation and expertly executed storytelling.