Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One Review – Glass Half Empty

Mark Pacis

Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One

After several shaky early installments, the Mission Impossible franchise has found its stride. None of the films were necessarily bad, but a couple showed a dip in quality. However, Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol gave the series new life and a stable identity. It was an action-packed blockbuster anchored by an entertaining story and over-the-top stunt work. Since then, the Mission: Impossible films have been a must-see with each release. Unfortunately, the seventh film, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, takes a dip in quality as Part One focuses more on setup than thrills and entertainment.

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is not much of an action movie. It’s much more interested in exploring the paranoia that attunes to a hotly debated topic today: The emergence of AI. Considering this movie is about the world’s most elite, specialized operatives. However, Ethan and company have been known to finish an impossible mission through ludicrously tricky feats. Yet, is artificial intelligence the next logical step in Ethan Hunt’s list of foes, or is the science-fiction element derailing the franchise similar to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Of course, that’s up to the viewer. However, the execution of this plot point could’ve been done with more excitement and less exposition. Boring is too strong of a word, but the film doesn’t have as many exciting moments for current film audiences. Christopher McQuarrie’s plot choices don’t do much to prevent these flaws. It usually feels that he was more invested in pursuing ideas for the sake of it than pursuing ideas for the movie’s sake.

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One takes a dip in quality as it focuses more on setup than thrills and entertainment.

Yet, that’s the inherent problem of a film split into two parts. If there were no prior setup, the first film would try to build up the plot before things pick up in the second film. Also, the film has difficulty defining its stakes. Dead Reckoning’s MacGuffin is a particular point, primarily because of how many times it turns out fake. Its characters range from distinct but under-used (Pegg and Rhames are ineffective here) to stale functional characters in the script’s structure. 

That said, there is enough excitement here for long-time fans and newcomers alike. Some standout action sequences make it an entertaining watch beyond the overdrawn plot—namely, the few action sequences. A chief example is the climax on the train. It features an exceptionally entertaining stunt sequence that reminds you that Mission: Impossible will always provide some genuinely awe-inspiring action.

Overall, director Christopher McQuarrie has crafted an entertaining, twisty little thriller despite its faults and some overly fabricated designs. At times, it’s a touch too complicated for its good. Still, the film is difficult to criticize as it’s only one-half of a complete story. For all we know, Part Two will stick the landing and put Dead Reckoning up there with McQuarrie’s fantastic series of Mission: Impossible flicks. Until then, Part One feels as incomplete as the MacGuffin Ethan Hunt is searching for.

Rating: 3/5 atoms