Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One review: At last, a five-star summer blockbuster!

Cruise and Co take us on one of their most thrilling rides in Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One.

Tom Cruise on a motorbike in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One
(Image: © Paramount Pictures and Skydance)

What to Watch Verdict

Mission accomplished! A thunderingly good piece of cinematic entertainment.


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    All the action, stunts and globetrotting we expect, done in style

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    Has its finger on the pulse with concerns about AI

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    Gives the audience what it wants — and more


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    A little too much exposition

For blockbuster season, read lackluster season. We’re barely halfway into the summer and a succession of big-budget expectations have come crashing down to earth. And, with franchises all but totally losing their shine, what’s left? At which point all eyes turn in the direction of the latest from a certain Mr Cruise. After last year’s triumph, surely he can hold on to his unofficial title of King Of Cinema, a movie star in the old-fashioned mould who champions the big screen experience. He can, can’t he?

Breathe a long sigh of relief. His reputation is intact with his latest outing as Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One and we, at last, have the summer blockbuster we’ve all been waiting for. One with all the action, stunts and globetrotting that we expect, but also with its finger unexpectedly on the pulse. 

Tapping into current concerns over AI and creating one that’s all-seeing, all-knowing — and seemingly indestructible — it has a topical relevance that makes the narrative more interesting and more important than is usually the case. The almost incidental plots of some of the others in the franchise have been replaced with something more thoughtful and which requires more explanation. That means a little less time spent on the action and a crucial gizmo that comes in more than one piece, an all-too-familiar trope of late, but these are small prices to pay for such a thunderingly good piece of cinematic entertainment. 

All the familiar faces from the previous installments return for another high-octane mission, one where the heart-stopping stunts have taken pole position in the film's marketing. But there's even more to that spectacular motorbike jump than you’ve already seen, Cruise’s famous running is packed into one extended scene and it even takes that traditional favorite, the fight on the top of a moving train, to new heart-pumping heights. And there are yet more races against time that have been kept under wraps until now, all of which are worth the wait and the 2 hours 40 minutes running time.

Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Tom Cruise and Rebecca Ferguson in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One

Ethan Hunt and co. (Image credit: Paramount Pictures/Skydance)

Cruise leads his regular MI team in his usual, dare we say, maverick fashion. His stunts may not be quite as crazy as usual, but they’re still breathtaking in his familiar “what the hell is he doing?” style. 

He’s backed up superbly once again by Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson and the ice cool Vanessa Kirby. And the breakneck car chases, vertigo-inducing parachute jumps and hand to hand fights are, as ever, scattered with a playful humour that often boils down to just a single, ironic glance. There’s new faces to enjoy as well, particularly the welcome addition of Hayley Attwell, and Henry Czerny returns as Kittridge, with his own trademark bone-dry humour. Keep a close eye on all of them, though. Fans of the franchise will know how much Cruise and co love masks, and this time they’re having a ball with them.

There’s more for the diehard devotees as well, reinforcing the sense of a franchise drawing to its close but still with more than enough in the tank to get it there. References to how Hunt came to join IMF and stunts that hark back to some of the earlier movies bring a hint of nostalgia, but they’re still an integral part of the story and never hold up proceedings. If anything, they add to it which means that, while this is essentially part seven of the franchise, it’s also a movie that can happily be viewed with limited knowledge of the others or none at all. And that’s no mean feat. 

After a series of titles that were expected to dominate cinemas this summer but haven't, this one genuinely will. It's a film that plays to its many strengths, understands its audience and gives them exactly what they want — and a little bit more. Cruise and McQuarrie know what they’re about: everything from the big set pieces to the little details is done with a confident skill that never spills over into arrogance. Just as importantly, they never take things wholly seriously. Action entertainment is the name of the game here, that’s what they deliver and they do it spectacularly well.

Mission accomplished!

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One hits theaters on Wednesday, July 12 and UK cinemas on Monday, July 10. For more info on all the latest releases, check out our guide to 2023's new movies. 

Freda Cooper

Freda can't remember a time when she didn't love films, so it's no surprise that her natural habitat is a darkened room in front of a big screen. She started writing about all things movies about eight years ago and, as well as being a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic, is a regular voice on local radio on her favorite subject. 

While she finds time to watch TV as well — her tastes range from Bake Off to Ozark — films always come first. Favourite film? The Third Man. Top ten? That's a big and complicated question .....!