Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One – Review

Worth seeing: for some thrilling action sequences that will leave you on a high until you realise this is only the first half of the story
Director:Christopher McQuarrie
Featuring:Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Cary Elwes, Esai Morales, Hayley Atwell, Henry Czerny, Indira Varma, Pom Klementieff, Rebecca Ferguson, Rob Delaney, Shea Whigham, Simon Pegg, Vanessa Kirby
Length:163 minutes
Released:10th July 2023


The latest impossible mission that Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team choose to accept is – of course – the most important and dangerous yet.

There are two small metal crosses that intersect and form a key that controls something – but no-one’s quite sure where the two parts of the key are or what they control when they’re combined.

All anyone knows is that the key has to be kept out of the wrong hands. And if anyone can do that, it’s Ethan and his sidekicks, Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg).

To make this more complicated, a number of rivals are also after the key – and one step ahead of everyone seems to be an artificial intelligence entity, known as – well – the Entity – whose human representative, Gabriel (Esai Morales) appears to be the most ruthless and powerful rival of them all.


The latest (half an) instalment in the long-running Mission: Impossible franchise has been in production since lockdown – long enough that in a number of places, it’s been beaten to the punch.

Some of its highlights appear to have made it onto the big screen in other films.

The maguffin is in two parts – much like the Antikythera in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, which – like this – also featured an ageing action hero involved in a chase and fight on the roof of a speeding train.

Like Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre, there’s a slick search for a maguffin in an airport lounge, with rivals hot on their heels and hi-tech assistance provided by remote operatives and Cary Elwes looking on.

And there’s a car-chase down Rome’s Spanish Steps, not dissimilar to that seen recently in Fast X.

Then there are the action film staples of runaway trains and ticking timebombs. None of these make what happens here any less entertaining – it just feels a bit more familiar and less surprising. There are perhaps only so many ways you can create tension and excitement and when a film such as this requires a few, it’s maybe not too surprising that some of them have also been dreamt up by others – it’s perhaps just a little unusual that so many have appeared on screen so recently.

But they manage to add a twist or two and the centrepiece of Tom Cruise’s intricate blockbuster emerges relatively intact – if you’ve seen a hero boldly riding his motorcycle off the top of a cliff, it will most likely have been on a Bugs Bunny cartoon rather than a rival movie franchise. And that’s thrilling.

The plot is at once simple – everyone’s looking for an all-powerful key – and complicated – with dozens of characters, some new to the franchise and others returning, trying to control no-one quite knows what.

It doesn’t really matter who’s doing what or why – the action is sewn together with punchy dialogue, peppered with dry wit and in-jokes and it doesn’t really matter if you’re not quite keeping up. You can just sit down and enjoy the journey – like so many other spy films, a tour of the world, from one astonishing action scene to the next.

Despite being in his 60s, Cruise still has the energy and looks of someone many years younger. It’s only when you look back at snippets from the 1996 franchise opener that you realise just how old his is.

The most frustrating thing about Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Part One is that it’s a full hour longer than the first film, and even then, it’s only the first half of the story. At least it’s upfront about only giving you half a film, making it clear in the opening credits that this is just Part One. Narratively, this is – of course – frustrating, as you’ve given two and a half hours of your time for no catharsis – and you’re still none the wiser about the entity called the Entity, whose after it, who’s protecting it or why. Roll on Part Two.