He runs, he jumps, he parachutes - he’s Tom Cruise and he’s on a mission to save the movies once again as super-spy Ethan Hunt. Reteaming with Christopher McQuarrie, this latest M:I adventure Dead Reckoning Part One sees Cruise and friends face their fiercest foe yet, but the film’s extensive marketing took the wind out of some of the best-executed stunts of the franchise. On 4K, the film flies in for an excellent Dolby Vision transfer, a phenomenal Atmos audio mix, but a thin set of extras. Highly Recommended
For almost thirty years, the adventures of Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt have thrilled audiences. One by one, the films have redefined the standard for high-flying adrenaline-fueled spycraft action. From Ghost Protocol and the thrilling Burj Khalifa climb to Fallout and the nonstop action sequences, Cruise and his now director-of-choice Christopher McQuarrie have worked overtime to top themselves. With the planned two-parter Dead Reckoning we see the franchise maintain its globe-trotting scale, but return to intricate character-driven spycraft rather than rely strictly on action stunts to move the story. And when those stunts do come, they’re just as impressive as ever - or maybe would have been if the film’s theatrical marketing hadn’t spoiled some of the fun.
The Russians have created the most sophisticated artificial intelligence weapons system called The Entity. Gone rogue, it's now able to breach any security, information, and weapons network. The only way to control it is with a two-part key (that looks more like a Party City prop). Now every superpower in the world is trying to obtain both halves of the key. Should he choose to accept it, Impossible Mission Force Agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) must obtain and deliver the key to the Entity. But Hunt has his own plans for this new global weapon. With the help of Benji (Simon Pegg), Luther (Ving Rhames), Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), and mysterious master thief Grace (Hayley Atwell), Ethan has a shot at saving the world yet again. Only this time he’ll have to face an old enemy he thought he buried long ago.
After the breathless pace of Mission: Impossible Fallout, it was actually refreshing to have the franchise take a step back and let the film focus on fancy character spycraft again. The first film was all about creating a new team, locating the McGuffin, and finding out who the true bad guys were outside and within the team, while also having time for some exciting action sequences. Dead Reckoning Part One feels like a return to that form. In addition to our favorite IMF support crew, we have the return of Henry Czerny’s morally ambiguous Director Kittridge with his own CIA hunters led by Shea Whigam’s Briggs. Toss in a new mysterious bad guy with Esai Marales’ Gabriel and his silent-but-deadly henchwoman Paris (Pom Klementieff) and you’ve got a heck of a stage for this thriller to play out on. And it’s damned exciting stuff. Most of the time anyway.
I loved the plot. I loved the performances. My problem with this seventh cinematic adventure of Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is the film’s marketing. With the super-sonic success of Top Gun: Maverick, Cruise was given (justifiably so) the handle of “Savior of the Movies” as theaters tried to get back to “normal” post-pandemic. In the lead-up to this film’s release, we were inundated with a relentless marketing campaign that mostly showcased the film’s big stunts and little else. That's par for the course usually, but I don't recall the franchise going to such lengths to show the whole event like this.
If you went to IMAX at all in the year before release, you likely saw a stunt trailer detailing the exhaustive work that went into the incredible base jump stunt. And it’s still incredible - but because we saw it countless times waiting for other movies to start, it just wasn’t very exciting. Add in lots of press about the car chase through Rome and every trailer showing Cruise’s signature sprint, a lot of the best action sequences felt spoiled. At least to me. While I loved all of the thrilling spycraft work and the intricately detailed plot mechanics, the marketing focus on big setpieces ruined a lot of the fun. Also, without naming names, the surprising death of a key cast member felt stiffed. That individual deserved to go out with much more gusto. So not a perfect film. A very good and exciting one, but not my favorite of the series thus far.
At 61, nothing can stop Tom Cruise and his death-defying stunts. All COVID restrictions and Writers Guild and SAG strikes can do is slow the guy down a little. Made during the height of the Pandemic, Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One was supposed to shoot back to back and release in quick succession. But not everything quite came to plan. While the next film’s release has been rescheduled to 2025, fans will now have most of two years to decide if this first part of the franchise’s potential finale lives up to the hype.
I don’t particularly like the demand that comes with a “Part One” tag. It puts a lot of pressure on the follow-up film to not only complete a cohesive story unit but do it in a way that works and is worth it. I’m sure Cruise and McQuarrie have something great in the can with some exciting setpieces to get our blood pumping, but my real hope for Part Two is they hold back from showing all of the most exciting parts in the marketing leadup. I want to be excited by those moments, not nodding my head because I already saw the big stunt at IMAX dozens of times for a year.
For other points of view - we did two theatrical reviews for Dead Reckoning Part One
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One chases down a three-disc 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital release from Paramount. For this review, Paramount sent us the stylish but very, very red SteelBook. The 4K of the film is pressed on a BD-100 disc with a BD-50 saved for the 1080p and a BD-25 used for the remaining bonus features that didn’t make it to the other discs. The 4K and 1080p
This latest adventure from the IMF arrives with a generally very good 2160p Dolby Vision transfer. I say "generally" because the bitrate doesn’t run as high as some of the best of the format keeping in the relatively safe 55-60mbps range. Where this might worry some out there, it’s a notable step up over the included Blu-ray which has a pretty low bitrate by comparison. There are some sequences where it felt like details were neck and neck between formats, others felt like a very noticeable improvement. Facial features, especially in close-ups up looked much cleaner with more attention to fine lines, hairs, and blemishes. Image depth also felt stronger on the 4K release with a stronger three-dimensional quality, especially in tight-walled locations like the submarine opening or the alleyway fight between Cruise and Klementieff.
The biggest A-to-B difference between formats for me came down to the very pleasing Dolby Vision HDR grade. Red and green lighting highlights in the submarine opening, the lighting of the dance club, the weird graphic representation of the entity, the lovely train interior all looked much better and more vividly lifelike. I’d even say the skin tones of our various cast members looked much more natural healthy and human. Black levels also look fantastic with deep inky true blacks and excellent shadow gradience. Whites are crisp and clean without blooming. Spectral highlights also have a lovely glint to them.
Once again a Tom Cruise flick sounds incredible in Atmos! Right from the jump with Lorne Balf’s heavy bass score, the LFE rumble in the subs and the intricate sound design throughout the channels are well prioritized. That tight submarine to the echoing clickity-clack of thousands of typewriters arching our nation’s secrets is a terrific example of location spacing. Activity in the front/center, sides, rears, and heights is pretty damn constant with some lovely variations. From big open sets like the airport chase to the inside of the train as one car after another screech off the rails, the soundscape is pitch-perfect. Throughout the show dialog is crystal clear without any problems. Levels are spot on, but like past films in the series, I really liked playing this one nice and loud. And again the Lorne Balfe score adds some excellent highlights to every intricate exchange of dialog or big thrilling fight scene.
On the bonus features front, this isn’t exactly the greatest selection ever assembled. Interesting, yes, but not altogether earth-shattering. The best pieces I’d say are thankfully found on the 4K disc itself - the very informative Christopher McQuarrie and editor Eddie Hamilton commentary track and the isolated Lorne Balfe score track. Those are also on the 1080p Blu-ray if you’re so inclined. As for the bonus features disc, it’s mostly a collection of mini-featurettes that give a very brief overview of various shooting locations or training for the various stunts. At barely thirty minutes, it’s an interesting selection but very thin.
4K UHD Disc
The story started in Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One will finish in just under two years from now. For this first part, the plot is certainly thrilling and exciting but I’m ultimately reserving final judgment of the whole experience for when I can check out that final half. While this adventure is very good (despite my misgivings about the marketing of action setpieces) the final entry may not stick the landing. That’s my biggest worry at this point. I want the entirety of this big sprawling story to be worth it, not just one great half with a limp finale. As for this half, Tom Cruise proves his star power once again. Whether it’s some sleight of hand, fighting on a moving train, or running across the roof of an airport, his dedication to one-upping each film is certainly appreciable. Maybe someday we can see him get shot into space...
Now on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Dead Reckoning Part One can thrill audiences in the comfort of their homes with an impressive Dolby Vision transfer and a damn near demo-worthy Atmos audio mix. Bonus features junkies though may feel starved for content as the Commentary track is the only real worthwhile extra. Not my favorite film of the franchise but nevertheless this is a Highly Recommended addition to the collection.