Mission: Impossible 7 doesn't live up to its spectacular action

tom cruise, vanessa kirby, mission impossible dead reckoning
Mission: Impossible 7 reviewParamount

Mission: Impossible has become a bigger draw at the box office the longer the series has gone on, with 2018's Mission: Impossible – Fallout recording the biggest global haul for the long-running franchise.

A large part of the increasing popularity has undeniably been the ever-more-outrageous stunts that Tom Cruise has delivered. However, the series usually knows that while the stunts are a big draw, they need to have a compelling story, even if it's typically a spin on rogue agents wanting to destroy the world.

In Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (the first of a two-parter that's potentially the finale for the series), the balance between stunts and story just isn't there. Instead of being engrossed in the spycraft going on, you're just counting down the minutes to the next set piece.

It means that the new movie is a step down from Fallout, but still a blockbuster that often delivers immersive and spectacular action that gets the adrenaline pumping like few other movies can.

tom cruise, vanessa kirby, mission impossible dead reckoning

A lot of Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One's plot has been kept under wraps, so we're not about to spoil loads here. On the surface, it sounds like almost every other Mission: Impossible movie.

Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his IMF team have to head on their latest 'most dangerous mission yet' to track down a weapon that threatens all of humanity. Obviously, some terrible forces are after it also – this time linked to Ethan's past before IMF – so Ethan must get his hands on the weapon before it falls into the wrong ones.

The Mission: Impossible movies have always had a fluid structure where Ethan's approach of 'we'll figure it out' is often a reflection of the real-life production, especially since Chris McQuarrie became writer/director from Rogue Nation onwards. When done well, it allows for a viewing experience where you truly don't know what's coming next.

For Dead Reckoning Part One though, you can see the seams. There are regular exposition dumps to either catch you up on what you need to remember from the last bit, or to set up what they're doing in the next. It leaves the movie feeling like a series of set pieces rather than a complete whole.

hayley atwell, tom cruise, mission impossible dead reckoning

That's also not helped by the fact that this is part one of a two-part story. There's not a cheap cliffhanger like Fast X, but neither is the finale compelling enough like Across the Spider-Verse to justify part two. If you've been paying attention, the big reveal of the climax is pretty obvious from the opening scene.

What the plot does have though is a unique and timely villain. Esai Morales' Gabriel might be a bland cipher (you could see how Nicholas Hoult might have brought something weird to it), but what he's working for is something we haven't seen yet in a blockbuster. It's a big swing from McQuarrie and one that makes this mission distinctive.

The Mission: Impossible series will also always have its stunts to mark it out from other blockbusters, regardless of the plot's flaws. Ethan's death-defying motorcycle jump might be the most publicised, but Dead Reckoning Part One has other huge set pieces up its sleeve that are equally impressive.

Whether it's a frantic car chase sequence through Rome, a night-time brawl in Venice or an outrageous train escape, the practical nature of the set pieces ensure they're visceral, intense and thrilling to behold. They feel real like no other series can match and you can't help leaning forward in your seat.

esai morales, tom cruise, mission impossible dead reckoning part one

You do still end up wishing as much attention was paid to the characters as to the meticulous planning of the audacious set pieces. As good as newcomers Hayley Atwell and Pom Klementieff are as Grace and Paris, respectively, they feel like spins on previous characters in the series and aren't afforded much depth.

It's not an issue with returning characters as they come with a few movies' worth of development. Even Henry Czerny's Eugene Kittridge (a welcome return) has the first movie to fall back on, so long-time fans will know he's immediately somebody who might not trustworthy.

There's just too much going on elsewhere to delve into the backstories and motivations of the newcomers, despite the hefty 163-minute runtime. The movie prioritises an info dump or an extended set piece over character development, a balance that hopefully is better achieved in part two.

If this feels overly harsh given the achievement of the action sequences (arguably what most fans come to the movie for), it's only because we know this series can be more than just the sum of its chases and explosions.

pom klementieff, mission impossible dead reckoning

Even with the flaws, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One still delivers big-screen spectacle like no other blockbuster this year. Seven movies in, Tom Cruise still has the capacity as Ethan Hunt to leave you stunned at what you are watching.

But if the next movie is going to be his farewell, the mission for part two, should they choose to accept it, is to make us care about more than the stunts.

3 stars
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Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is released in UK cinemas on July 10 and in US cinemas on July 12.

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