Review for Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One
At what point should you start listening to the world? A more paranoid person might think that the Mission Impossible franchise is cursed. The last film, Mission Impossible: Fallout had its production go on hiatus for a few months after the star broke his ankle, doing a stunt that should have been left to someone with a lower insurance premium. That film could have been a good stopping off point to the franchise given that it wound up the “Syndicate” story arc, and gave the characters the potential for a happily ever after. But, golden goose and all that; another film in the Mission Impossible franchise might as well have been inevitable. And then COVID hit, which made Tom Cruise’s broken ankle seem like a hangnail in comparison. And the story got so bloated that Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning became Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One and Two. And this year, the writers and the actors went on strike in Hollywood. Do I even need to mention that one of the stars of the franchise got run over by a snowplough?
A revolutionary new Russian submarine is lost in mysterious circumstances, and Ethan Hunt gets a mission to recover two halves of a unique key that was in the possession of the sub’s command crew. For that key is the secret to controlling The Entity, a new AI that is loose on the Internet, and rapidly evolving. Whoever controls The Entity will become the new superpower in the world, and will set the future for centuries to come. Everyone wants that key, not least The Entity itself, and a mysterious figure from Ethan’s past. The first half of the key will be passing through an airport in Abu Dhabi, and Ethan’s team has the perfect plan to outwit the other agencies... and then a pickpocket named Grace gets in the way.
Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning – Part One gets a 2.39:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on this disc, and you get the choice between Dolby Atmos English, and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround English Audio Descriptive, Spanish, French, and Japanese with subtitles in these languages and Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, and Finnish. The film looks good on Blu-ray, clear and sharp, with excellent detail and strong colour, which makes the most of the stunts, and globe-trotting action. Alas, we’re back to heavily colour graded cinema again, and for half of the runtime, I was taken aback by just how yellow the movie looked. The audio is fine, great immersive action, powerful subwoofing when required, with the dialogue clear throughout, although once again, the core Dolby Surround of a Dolby Atmos track is quieter than a straight Dolby Surround track would be.
You get two discs in a BD Amaray style case, with one on a centrally hinged panel, all wrapped in an o-card slipcover. The discs boot to animated menus, and the extras are as follows.
Audio Commentary with director Christopher McQuarrie, and Editor Eddie Hamilton
Isolated Score (DD 5.1)
Abu Dhabi (3:55)
Speed Flying (4:17)
Even given the length of the film, the extras could have been squeezed onto disc 1, which makes the second disc with just half an hour of content an extravagance.
I think Dead Reckoning might just be a Mission too far. It doesn’t live up to previous instalments; indeed the franchise is looking a little tired at this point, just going through the motions, lacking even the energy and chutzpah that made the otherwise dire second film a guilty pleasure. Let’s take it for granted that Hollywood will never get computers right, and the plot of this film (and the next) revolves around another Skynet. Artificial Intelligence means agency, personality, and malice, and what little meaning the film showed in the exposition dump at the beginning, about the nature and mutability of truth and how populations can be moulded, is lost in the mayhem of another mad computer program.
That is Hollywood though... What really disappoints is a thin story that is stretched so far that it’s actually split into two movies, and there’s nothing to it. This film is about getting a key; 2 hours and 45 minutes of getting a key. The next film will no doubt be about defeating Skynet (The Entity), which will probably be another three hours. It’s a story that could have been told in 90 minutes, but we have to have the stunts, the action and the travelogue.
It feels like Mission Impossible is ticking the tropes off a checklist. In each film thus far, there’s always been some trigger that will cause Ethan to go rogue, off the grid, and take on the mission in his own way, to be proved right to his superiors by the end credits. In Dead Reckoning, they didn’t bother with the trigger. He just goes rogue off the bat, because he feels like it. Also the best part of the Mission Impossible formula, the bait and switch, the heist aspect that comes with those intricate plans and ridiculous disguises is missing from this movie. It’s just action scene after action scene.
It seems imagination is in short supply for this film, as the action scenes seem to be reliving glories from Mission Impossible movies past, or worse, cribbing from other film franchises altogether. Okay, admittedly Mission Impossible had some damage control when it comes to fight sequences atop moving trains following the first film, but another car chase in a European capital, more skydiving stunts, another action sequence in a desert sandstorm; we’ve seen all this before. As well as Skynet, we have a villain in Gabriel who appears to be the poor man’s Silva from Skyfall; that bit in For Your Eyes Only, where Bond has to make do with a 2CV gets pastiched here with a Fiat 500, and the homage to the train crash from Back to the Future III is followed by a suspenseful action sequence that Jurassic Park: The Lost World did better.
Worse, the film really belabours the action sequences. The car chase through Rome felt like it didn’t want to end, the hand to hand combat in Venice made me look at the clock, and that final train action sequence kept on wanting to do one carriage more. It’s the action equivalent of those Austin Powers pun sequences, where he keeps coming up with wordplay until all of the energy is sucked out of the room. In this case, when it comes to the Mission Impossible action, more is definitely not better.
It’s not all bad with the film. The story, thin though it is, does enough to hold the attention, and the character moments still work well. Hayley Atwell as the pickpocket Grace is the breath of fresh air the film needs to have some semblance of novelty, and there is great chemistry between the irreverent thief and the superspy. Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning – Part One is still fun. The fun might be stretched and diluted into a 2 hour 45 minute runtime, but it is fun nevertheless. Part Two will have to do something special to pull things back and give the story a conclusion that fixes the first part’s shortcomings, but as it is, with Part One, the Mission Impossible franchise just looks lost for ideas.