Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 (2023), a (right on time) review

Released this past weekend, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 is the latest in the Tom Cruise-starring Mission: Impossible films, the first of which was released way back in 1996. The franchise remains quite healthy and, if anything, seems to be finding its proper niche in the world of your James Bond-Ian type films.

Here’s the movie’s trailer:

I’m a fan of the series for the most part and have enjoyed almost all the releases, including this one. It is a slickly made film that never seems to slow down but like some of the other features, it works best when you put your mind into neutral and simply accept what’s being played before you and enjoy the earnestness -and at times hair-raising stunts- Tom Cruise does.

Despite a strong ensemble cast, Cruise as Ethan Hunt is the show… usually… in each of these movie but often we’re given some great scenes with the other actors. Alas, in the case of Dead Reckoning Part 1, unfortunately Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rahmes, Vanessa Kirby, and Simon Pegg this time around don’t have a ton of stuff to do. Perhaps Ms. Ferguson fares the best and Simon Pegg the worst (while he gets one exciting scene early on in an airport -no spoilers- he’s otherwise doing not all that much but following Hunt around).

Someone who does get to appear before the camera quite a bit is newcomer to the series Haley Atwell as Grace, a master thief that has gotten in over her head and whom Ethan Hunt is constantly after.

The movie is long, clocking in at two hours and forty three minutes, but the plot is, alas, somewhat underwhelming.

In the movie’s opening minutes we follow a Russian submarine on what will turn out to be its last run. It carries within it a sophisticated artificial intelligence program activated by a pair of interlocking keys. Something goes very wrong and the submarine is sunk and, a short time later, it appears the artificial intelligence is all over the world and is intent on getting the interlocking keys… along with seemingly all intelligence agencies.

Here’s the bad: After we get this setup, the movie goes from scene to scene as Hunt and his team -but mostly Hunt and Grace- get the key, lose the key, lose each other, find each other, get the key and lose the key again, and on and on to the end.

It pains me to say this but that’s what this film boils down to: Who has the key and what crazy ass stunt does Ethan Hunt have to do to try to get it back.

Again, though: At least there’s a great deal of skill in the telling of this admittedly undernourished story and things are exciting as they progress but you’ll forgive me if I’m not as impressed with the story as I wanted to be.

As a writer, and one who has dealt with the idea of artificial intelligence, perhaps I’m a little down on this because I’ve been there and done that, but it feels like the meat of the story was being held back for Dead Reckoning Part 2, which hopefully gets done soon. I don’t know how the current SAG writers and actors strike will impact the making of this film but I imagine like many other works out there, even those in mid-production, they will shut down until those issues are resolved.

Either way, I still recommend this film. It’s a fun, at times preposterous action/adventure film which will entertain you… provided you don’t think to hard about how little plot there actually is.

So, recommended.

I do have a couple of ideas as to where the next film might go and, for the heck of it, I’ll get into them. I could be totally off but here come my thoughts.

After, of course, some…


Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1, as I mentioned above, involves the hunt for a key that supposedly will unlock a powerful artificial intelligence computer within a sunken Russian submarine.

The thing that struck me, however, was that it appeared the artificial intelligence was behind the attack on the submarine itself, which resulted in its sinking.

However, we come to find the A.I. is already spread out through the world and doing all kinds of things, including trying to find that key and a way into the submarine’s computer programming. It is stated this is so that it can get the main programming, I guess, which might deactivate it.

Or does it?

I couldn’t help but think, once the film was done, that the whole attack on the submarine didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Why attack itself? And why do so in such a half-assed way that resulted in the sub -and the program- being potentially intact on the sea floor and ready to be recovered? How exactly did the keys get recovered from the bodies of the submariners and how did they get split up to where two different parties had them (this too is explained in the course of the film… the bodies somehow left the sub and floated to the surface/ice and were there and recovered afterwards).

It just… I dunno. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. That the submarine could be knocked out in such a way that the bodies got out so nicely?

If the screenwriters leave it at that, it will leave me with some rather massive things to simply accept.

However… what if there are two artificial intelligence programs out there, fighting against each other? Perhaps one is a United States A.I., the other the Russian one.

What if one of the A.I.s was the one that sabotaged the Russian submarine and got it to attack itself as shown in the opening minutes of the film? What if the other A.I. was the one that managed to get the corpses out, so that its masters could retrieve the key… and then fight off the other A.I. that was responsible for the attack?

I’m obviously just spitballing here but that would be a fascinating twist to find in the second film… if it is something that’s coming.

We’ll see!