When 2018’s “Mission Impossible – Fallout” was released, it felt like the perfect way to conclude the current MI franchise.  Never before had a movie so expertly connected multiple threads of the movies before it and tied up plotlines that we thought had been abandoned.  When “Dead Reckoning” was announced, and repeatedly shut down due to COVID, I increasingly thought this would just be a misguided cash grab after what I thought was a perfect “conclusion.”  I could have not been more wrong.

“Dead Reckoning Part One” dives even deeper into the MI lore, bringing back MI Director Kittridge (Henry Czerny) whom we last saw in the first installment.  There’s a new threat to the entire world, and once again Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) has found herself in the midst of it.  Kittridge offers Ethan (Tom Cruise) a mission, should he choose to accept it.  Intercept Ilsa and retrieve one half of a key, which no one knows what unlocks before the assassins hot on her trail take her out.  This is the first time the script reveals the four-dimensional chess it is playing.  Ethan would never accept a mission to intercept Ilsa unless her life was in danger.  Ilsa is so incredibly comment, that only Ethan has a chance to get close to her, but even then, only due to their personal connection.  The only way to motivate Ethan to engage her is to put her life in imminent danger.  This may seem like a large plot point, but it literally happens in the first 15 minutes of the nearly 3-hour film and is only a hint of what’s to come.

“Dead Reckoning” makes the bold, and almost frighteningly premonished choice to make its main antagonist a rogue AI.  This is a choice that could easily get hokey real quick and almost pushes the “spy tech” genre of the Mission Impossible series into pure science fiction if it wasn’t for some of the recent news articles.  Civilians now have access to software and apps that can mimic the look and voice of other people.  Just imagine what is available to the military and security agencies of the world.  Even more jarring is a recent viral news article that is now being retracted by the US Air Forces, where War Game simulations with an AI drone turned against its commanders because they were preventing it from accomplishing the prime directive of killing the enemy.  Keep in mind, this script was written roughly 5 years ago, pre-COVID!  Even more engaging (frightening?) is how great this script is.  There are a myriad of examples, but most are spoilers. However, there is one sequence that sticks in my mind.  All of the main antagonists have a meeting. No weapons are allowed. One character brings two switchblades. They are prominently displayed ala Chekov’s Gun.  After the next 20 minutes play out, it becomes very clear that the choice for these weapons to be introduced was predicted by “The Entity” and none of what happened afterward would have been possible without this algorithmic choice.  There were multiple times during the movie I began to wonder if they used AI to assist in writing the script.  This isn’t a dig at the writers, because I don’t believe they did, but more of a compliment considering the layers of possibilities they must have sifted through to create (relatively) believable scenarios that even had our incredibly competent heroes triple-guessing themselves.

Further elevating this incredible action flick is the ever-growing cast.  The bigger it gets, the less screen time everyone has, but do they deliver!  The human minion to the evil AI Entity is Gabriel (Esai Morales) a calm, collected sociopath with ties to Ethan’s past.  Another absolutely delightful addition is the assassin Paris (Pom Klementieff). Many will know her as Mantis from the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films.  She’s nowhere near as empathetic in this role, but she certainly chews every scene she’s in. (Be sure to check out the music video she made with Simon Pegg below the film trailer on this page.)  Last but not least, is career thief Grace (Hayley Atwell).  Another Marvel Alumi, who didn’t love her as Agent Carter?  She’s always been great, but her work in this film is surprisingly good.  Watching it I realized there is a rare quality my favorite heroes have, which is being equally competent and also legitimately shocked at the scenarios they find themselves in.  I can currently only think of three actors who can pull off this look.  Harrison Ford as Indy, Tom Cruise as Ethan, and Hayley Atwell as Grace.

The only minor complaint I have with the movie is the biggest stunt of the movie has had multiple BTS mini-docs released on it over the past year.  It’s an exceptional stunt, but knowing so much about what it was, and how it was done before the movie was released, really diminishes the movie magic when seeing it for the first time.  You already know it’s coming a mile away, you know what’s real, and what’s fake in the shot.   It’s still impressive, but already knowing the BTS completely takes you out of the moment.  Hopefully, they don’t make this same mistake with Part 2, the series finale.


Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One