‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One’ review: staggering stunts can’t make up for the nonsensical plot

Never count Tom Cruise out. Beating Barbie or Oppenheimer at this summer’s box office might seem like an impossible mission, but the 61-year-old actor has history with those. Dead Reckoning Part One, the seventh film in his Bond-esque spy series, arrives just days ahead of its buzzier rivals – and to considerably less fanfare. Can rogue agent Ethan Hunt overturn the odds once more and serve up a blockbuster-sized surprise?

If he does, it won’t be thanks to a total reinvention. Dead Reckoning kicks off in much the same way as its predecessors: there’s a new world-ending weapon on the scene, a dastardly villain wants to steal it, and Hunt is the only one with wits enough to stop them. Joined by all of his best pals – hacker whizz Luther (Ving Rhames), geeky sidekick Benji (Simon Pegg), blink-and-you’ll-miss-her hitwoman Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) – plus a new partner in Hayley Atwell’s slippery cat burglar Grace, the Forrest Gump of intelligence operatives runs madly around Abu Dhabi airport, Rome and finally the Orient Express while attempting to track down the key to a super-powered artificial intelligence dubbed The Entity. Fail and the futuristic tech may fall into the wrong hands – creating an omniscient digital overlord that puts humanity’s very existence at risk.

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As usual, there’s an array of mind-boggling set pieces that defy belief. Cruise is thrown into or out of every type of moving vehicle you can imagine – and the much-trailed motorbike cliff-jump doesn’t disappoint either. Then there’s the extended hand-to-hand combat sequences, which include a meticulously choreographed alleyway brawl and a climactic knife fight atop a moving train. Also worthy of mention is the opening desert sandstorm shootout which boasts a hair-raising sound mix that will have you ducking for cover in the cinema, convinced you’re dodging bullets shot through a Sahara gale. It all serves to prove that Mission: Impossible works best when it is being as loud and loopy as possible, pairing eye-popping practical effects with its bombastic score (this time reinvented to thrilling effect by film composer of the moment Lorne Balfe).


The problems come when Dead Reckoning tries to be too clever. Production on the film wrapped in 2021, so Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie couldn’t have known how prescient the AI themes would prove to be. Now, as ChatGPT dominates the internet and we all wait anxiously for robots to make us redundant, the film’s setup seems like a masterstroke. But it’s sadly also its downfall. After an exciting first third, we drift into a series of bloated exposition sessions where thinly drawn side-characters spend far too long talking up the apocalyptic (but actually quite vague) threat of AI. Even the main baddie, Esai Morales’ mononymous creep Gabriel, doesn’t really understand what’s going on. He seems to believe his fast-evolving gadget can actually predict the future, making bold predictions that turn out true for no reason other than he’s said them. The plot borrows from Westworld and aims for cerebral but ends up coming out like a half-baked Christopher Nolan brain fart.

Dead Reckoning’s spectacular finale does well to bring things back on brand – seriously, the closing action tableau is as impressive as any you’ll see – but by then most will have stopped caring because their heads hurt. When’s Barbie out again?


  • Director: Christopher McQuarrie
  • Starring: Tom Cruise, Hayley Atwell, Simon Pegg
  • Release date: July 10 (in cinemas)