Few blockbuster franchises have aged as gracefully as Mission: Impossible. Tom Cruise returns as unflappable super-spy Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, the seventh film in the consistently entertaining series. While the plot retreads familiar territory, director Christopher McQuarrie delivers standout set pieces and character beats to reignite the action. 26 years in, this Impossible mission still packs exhilarating espionage thrills.
We open on Ethan and tech wizard Benji (Simon Pegg) infiltrating a high-security foreign prison to free a wrongfully imprisoned ally. The bravura opening escape sequence sets the tone, blending smooth teamwork, witty banter and edge-of-your-seat stunts. But the mission reveals a sinister organization targeting IMF agents for assassination, forcing Ethan’s team back into the fray.
The shadowy group soon kidnaps Ethan’s closest allies to obtain a dangerous device with apocalyptic potential. Up against his gravest threat yet, Ethan assembles elite partners Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) and Benji to get them back and stop doomsday. From London to Dubai, familiar elements are honed into supremely crafted set pieces only this franchise can deliver.
At 56, Cruise remains fully invested as an anchor to Ethan’s tireless drive for justice. The script leans into Ethan’s guilt over the danger he puts colleagues in, adding a melancholy edge to Cruise’s charisma. But when action hits, he’s as magnetic as ever, especially in a show-stopping motorcycle stunt. Ethan’s superhuman resilience gets tempered by the toll of his responsibilities, making Cruise’s work here his most nuanced in the role.
McQuarrie’s direction keeps the elaborate action coherence and impactful, harkening back to ‘90s grit before a modern sheen. Sharply choreographed shootouts and chases are rendered in clean, continuous takes that immerse us in the action. Though outlandish at times, the stunts carry weight because McQuarrie commits visually. The exotic locales provide eye-candy between tense suspense and fisticuffs.
Pegg’s Benji skillfully handles tech wizard and comic relief duties, getting an expanded role that complements Cruise’s serious Ethan nicely. Standout Rebecca Ferguson also returns as the duplicitous yet loyal Ilsa, sharing crackling chemistry with Cruise in spy gamesmanship and hand-to-hand combat. And new villain Esai Morales menacingly chews scenery with rage and cunning. The core cast balance spectacle with humanity.
While the globe-trotting plot covers familiar ground, enough fresh character angles give it intrigue. Beyond Ethan’s inner conflict, emotional beats involving Benji’s love life or Ilsa’s shifting allegiances raise the personal stakes beyond Prima Cinema thrills. A commentary on cryptocurrency and emerging technology also feels timely rather than a gimmick to service the set pieces.
Some supporting characters and subplots get underdeveloped in the expansive runtime, but McQuarrie trims any narrative fat that could bog down the propulsion. We get all the romantic friction, gadgets, disguises and narrow escapes that define the Mission aesthetic, peppered with winking references for longtime fans. It walks a confident line between reinvention and honoring a beloved formula.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One provides evidence this franchise still has gas left in its creative tank 26 years later. Christopher McQuarrie balances callbacks and risks to deliver an exhilarating spy escapade. While retreading some ground, stunning craftsmanship and performances make it a thoroughly enjoyable thrill ride. This imposing first chapter concludes with a cliffhanger that assures the next mission will be just as riveting.