The VodkaPundit Review of 'Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One'

(Promotional still courtesy of Paramount.)

My wife, teenage sons, and I returned home last night from a packed preview showing of the inelegantly named “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One,” and we were all smiles. The short version is: This is a perfect summer popcorn flick. Continue on for the slightly longer review with only the tiniest of spoilers that you might already have gotten from the trailer.


The movie makes us wait before seven-time star Tom Cruise emerges from the shadows as superspy Ethan Hunt. The action, however, kicks off right away on board an undetectable Russian attack submarine somewhere in the Barents Sea. It’s there we learn that the sub’s “brain” is a militarized artificial intelligence that might be playing mind games with its own crew.

Without giving too much away, the AI — later known as “the Entity” — escapes. Everybody from national governments to a gorgeous arms dealer (yes, the delectable Vanessa Kirby is back as the White Widow) believes they can use the Entity to serve their own ends — right down to the ability to “control the truth.” That particular theme is very much on-point in today’s world of Orwellian social media controls.

There’s also a shadowy figure from Hunt’s past who has other plans for the Entity. Hunt, of course, wants to destroy the thing.

ASIDE:Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” is a mouthful, so let’s just call it “MIDR1” from here on out.

The McGuffin in MIDR1 is a two-piece key that unlocks a something-something where the Entity’s source code is located, because somehow-somehow that will shut it down. The plot doesn’t make much sense, but that’s okay. What we have is basically the world’s biggest McGuffin ever, and very powerful and dangerous people are after it.


That’s why it was such a smart move, bringing back Henry Czerny’s Kittridge, a despicable CIA bureaucrat, from the original movie. Now chief of the CIA, Kittridge represents the amoral Deep-State types who only see the Entity as a way to make themselves even more powerful.

FUN FACT: You can mix and match Mission: Impossible titles to your heart’s content, and they always make sense. “Dead Protocol,” “Ghost Nation,” “Rogue Reckoning” … well, maybe not “Rogue Reckoning,” which sounds a little too much like a pr0nstar name, but the rest hold up.

Also returning are fan favorites Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, and Rebecca Ferguson as longtime members or associates of Hunt’s impossible mission team. Welcome additions include Shea Whigham and Greg Tarzan Davis as a pair of special forces soldiers sent out after the McGuffin and to stop and/or kill Hunt.

The chief heavies are played with relish by Esai Morales and Pom Klementieff, and that’s as much about them as I can say.

New to the franchise is London-born actress Hayley Atwell as a high-end thief named Grace who took a big job she really shouldn’t have. Again, without giving anything away, it feels like the studio might be preparing to make Atwell the new star of the franchise once Cruise retires after Part Two.


If so, that’s another smart move. Atwell displays a natural athleticism (unlike Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the new Indiana Jones movie) that lends credibility to her action scenes. But, as a woman, Grace relies less on strength and much more on her wits, stealth, and ample feminine charms. If an Atwell-led Mission: Impossible movie series returned to the TV show’s roots as a brainy spy thriller instead of pure action, I’d welcome the change.

Recommended: Indiana Jones’ B.O. Stinks

There was a pivotal moment when a bad guy asks Hunt why he didn’t kill them when he had the chance. I half-wanted Hunt to say, “Because I’m the good guy,” but the look was right there on Cruise’s face. In a movie filled with BIG GIANT MOMENTS, that small moment was one of my favorites.

MIDR1 has a generous runtime — particularly for a two-parter — of two hours and 43 minutes but rarely feels long. There’s too much exposition to keep the (admittedly ridiculous) plot moving along to the next action set-piece, but that’s my only complaint.

About those action scenes … the MI franchise has almost never failed to deliver, and MIDR1 delivers better than most. From caper-style thrills in a Middle Eastern airport to a Bond-style chase through the narrow streets of Venice in a souped-up Fiat 500 (really!) to the most edge-of-your-seat train sequence ever — man, does MIDR1 deliver.


Finally, fear not: although MIDR1 is the first of a two-parter, we’re given an ending just satisfying enough to last us until MIDR2 comes out in 2024.

Until then, I’ll be on the edge of my seat.


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