Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One

The best action sequences ever put on film (SPOILERS!)

Jiří Stacho

7/20/20234 min read

Tom Cruise manages to push the line of what’s humanly possible yet again. It’s widely known that he does all his own stunts and everything you see on screen is real. It’s incredible to watch how this huge train falls from a bridge for real, how Tom is jumping off the cliff and drifting in Rome while handcuffed. I recommend you to watch behind the scenes from Paramount on YouTube. It’s truly inspiring to see how much effort is put into every shot and every aspect of the movie. Christopher MacGuire and Tom Cruise are the best film making team in the world. Despite all the phenomenal set pieces Ethan Hunt is not someone who does death defying stunts while looking bored (looking at you Daniel Craig’s Bond). He is vulnerable and only through sheer tyranny of will does what needs to be done. Before the spectacular motorcycle jump off a cliff he shakes his head as if he couldn’t believe he’s actually doing it. And that’s exactly why Ethan Hunt will always be more human and relatable than other action protagonists.

The antagonist in Dead Reckoning is an AI which is fitting with the current rise of ChatGPT and other AI’s. As this enemy is faceless, it uses Gabriel (played by Esai Morales) to perform tasks where human body is necessary. Ethan knows Gabriel from his life long before he joined IMF. I’m not sure if we needed that connection. It seems that in 7th film of the franchise there is no need to explore stories which happened thirty years ago. On the other hand, it introduces us to a deadly pattern which always follows Ethan – every woman that puts her trust in him ends up dead. This will surely come to a resolution in part two. Ethan was given an impossible choice – either Ilsa (played by Rebecca Ferguson) or Grace (Haley Atwell) has to die. What is really touching is that Ilsa took the choice from him, took the burden from him and went to fight knowing it’s likely she’ll die. Ilsa’s death was foreshadowed in the beginning in the beautifully shot sequence in the dessert. Her death was tough to get over as she’s been there from Rogue Nation and had great chemistry with Ethan. The scene in Venice where they just look at each other and hug encompasses their connection. Ilsa is another woman that Ethan couldn’t save, and the movie sets up Grace as the next woman Ethan is about to lose judging by the narration at the end of part one. She may be the first one to break the deadly cycle in part two.

Gabriel is an average villain thus far mainly because he doesn't have much to do. We'll see if that changes in part two. In my eyes Paris (played by Pom Klementieff) is a much more intriguing character. I hope that she didn’t die on that train and will come back in part 2 as she was promising and watching her switching sides after Ethan spared her life could be interesting. Otherwise, it would be a missed opportunity. I'd much rather have Paris in part two than White Widow (Vanessa Kirby) whose character probably already reached full potential.

Grace (Haley Atwell), the new addition to the team, is fantastic. She’s smart, resourceful, funny, but also vulnerable. Her chemistry with Ethan is electrifying. They play off each other beautifully. From the moment they met at the airport, through the drifting in Rome handcuffed to each other, to the heartfelt moment where Ethan tells her he can’t guarantee her safety, but he promises her life will always matter more to him than his own. It’s astounding that Mission: Impossible manages to constantly push the boundaries in terms of action set pieces and still doesn’t lose the focus on the story and characters. The franchise simply has a heart. The characters are real, and you feel for them throughout. What separates M:I from other action flicks is not just the biggest practical stunts but also the vulnerability of the characters and the audience's connection to them.

When it comes to downsides, I'd say that the exposition about the AI's capabilities are a bit too frequent and needlessly long although interestingly upon second viewing I didn’t find those scenes too long anymore. I was a bit apprehensive about Grace when I learned she'll be a funny character. I didn't want to sacrifice tension for the sake of cheap jokes. Thankfully, that's not the case. Apart from one line ("Who parks like that?") the humor brings levity but doesn't get away with the seriousness of the situation.

All in all, the franchise keeps getting better with each instalment which is unheard of especially considering this is the 7th film in the franchise. All thanks to Tom Cruise and Christopher Macguire’s incredible drive and vision.

Standout scenes:

1, Motorcycle jump - the biggest stunt in cinema history. No need to say more.

2, Ethan telling Grace her life will always matter more to him than his own - probably the most touching moment from all M:I films.

3, Train sequence - seeing the train switch instantly from horizontal to vertical and then fall from the bridge was intense.

4, Ilsa’s death - a gut wrenching sequence. Foreboding from the moment she appeared on the bridge while Ethan desperately tries to get there.

5, Airport sequence - is incredibly well set up. We have Ethan and Grace trying to follow the key while hiding from agents on one hand and Benji with Luther dismantling a bomb on the other.

Bonus Scenes:

6, The horseback riding action sequence in the dessert – beautifully shot and felt intense.

7, Ethan and Ilsa “It’s my first time in Venice” – originally they had pages of dialogue for that scene but Tom and Rebecca just went with what felt right and natural and the scene without words except that sentence.