Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One — watch in theaters or wait for streaming?

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One
(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Forget James Bond or Jason Bourne, Ethan Hunt is cinema’s greatest superspy. And the legendary espionage operative returns in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One, which is now playing in theaters nationwide. 

Watch or Wait?

Welcome! This column is part of a new series where we aim to help you determine if the latest movies are worth seeing in theaters or if you should wait until they are available to stream in the comfort of your own home. Be sure to check out our previous entry where we looked at Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.

The seventh installment in the blockbuster franchise, and the first chapter of a two-part saga, Dead Reckoning Part One has a lot to live up to following on from 2018’s Mission: Impossible - Fallout, which received critical acclaim and is now often cited as not just the strongest Mission: Impossible movie, but one of the greatest action flicks ever made. 

Expectations for Dead Reckoning Part One are extremely high, and while star Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie are undoubtedly committed to their craft, there are only so many times you can raise the bar before you reach maximum altitude. Not to mention, this year’s summer movie season has thrown up several high-profile disappointments already. 

As the cost of a movie ticket (and the associated snacks) continues to rise, you might be wondering if Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One is worth seeing in theaters, or if you’d be better off waiting for its streaming debut (most likely on Paramount Plus, as that’s where the previous Mission: Impossible movies can be streamed right now). And that’s the exact question we’re here to help you answer. 

What is Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One about? 

Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One is the seventh installment in the long-running spy-action series, and sees the world’s last remaining movie star, Tom Cruise, step back into the role of Ethan Hunt. 

Mission Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One packs a seriously engaging story that manages to leave several dangling threads for its sequel — without leaving its viewers feeling like they’ve watched half a movie.

What’s the impossible mission this time around? In Dead Reckoning Part One, Hunt and his team — comprised of Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) — must race across the globe in search of two interlocking keys that once combined give the possessor access to an artificial intelligence dubbed “the Entity." This computer program is so powerful that just about every nation is looking to control it. Plus, a shady individual from Hunt’s past is also involved in the search.  

Also mixed up in the action are returning characters Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a disavowed M16 agent who has acted as both a friend and a foil to Hunt in previous movies, and Alanna Mitspolois (Vanessa Kirby), a black-market arms dealer known as the “White Widow." Plus, there’s some new blood in the form of Grace (Hayley Atwell), an expert thief whose true loyalties are extremely hard to pin down.  

As the title suggests, there will be a Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part Two. This is scheduled to arrive in June 2024. But fear not, there's no frustrating cliffhanger ending here. Part One packs a seriously engaging story that manages to leave several dangling threads for its sequel but it does this without leaving its viewers feeling like they’ve only watched half a movie.

Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning  Part One reviews: What the critics say

Esai Morales as Gabriel and Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Reviews are still trickling in but Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One can already be considered a verifiable critical hit. The movie currently boasts a seriously impressive 96% score on the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. This is a higher score than Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (93%) and Mission: Impossible - Rouge Nation (94%), and just a single percent point below Mission: Impossible - Fallout.  

Kyle Smith of the Wall Street Journal was extremely complimentary, saying “The chases and stunts are robust, the European locations glamorous and there is an occasional slapstick undertone reminiscent of the Roger Moore James Bond movies.” As was Dylan Roth of the Observer: “Dead Reckoning Part One delivers all of the high-speed, high-altitude, captured-in-camera thrills that fans have come to expect.” 

It’s not just the action sequences that are earning praise from professional reviewers either. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times said, “For all its action, Dead Reckoning Part One does an admirable job of juggling a myriad of supporting characters.” Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday labeled the movie a “comforting weighted blanket of pure escapism and reassurance.”

Even critics who pointed out some of the film’s narrative shortcomings were still very positive overall. Legendary broadcaster and movie buff Mark Kermode declared that the “zeitgeisty plot” has “holes through which you could drive the Orient Express” but also noted that the film is “pure adrenaline rush entertainment” that will leave you “eager for more.”

It would appear that early viewers are similarly impressed The film currently holds a very strong 95% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, while it's earned a similarly solid “A” rating on CinemaScore. Its initial box office takings are also very strong with a $15.5m opening day (as reported by Variety), and an expected haul of almost $100m in its first five days of release.     

Who is Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One for?  

(L to R) Simon Pegg as Benji driving the boat with Ving Rhames as Luther, Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa and Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in the Mission: Impossible 7 trailer

(Image credit: Paramount via YouTube)

Naturally, fans of the Mission: Impossible franchise are going to enjoy Dead Reckoning Part One the most. It packs all the franchise’s well-established trademarks including thrilling chases (this time through the streets of Venice, Italy), an utterly ridiculously but still highly enjoyable main plot and some of the best stunt work you’ll see all year. Cruise actually jumped a dirtbike off a cliff for this movie! 

However, this seventh entry doesn’t serve as the best starting point for newcomers. While the main narrative doesn’t rely on knowledge of previous Mission: Impossible movies, you’ll need to be familiar with the main players for the film’s more character-driven moments to really hit home. If you don’t have time to watch all six movies beforehand, we’d recommend starting with 2011’s Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol, the franchise’s fourth entry, and working forward from there. 

Should you watch Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One in theaters?  

Hayley Atwell as Grace and Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

This is an easy question to answer: You absolutely should see Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One on the big screen. This is a movie that was very clearly made to be enjoyed in a movie theater. From the dramatic opening in the Arabian Desert to the tense finale set on the Orient Express, Mission: Impossible is the very definition of a popcorn blockbuster. 

While I have my own personal problems with some of the narrative choices — mainly the weak primary antagonist and a controversial character decision in the second act — Dead Reckoning Part One is a riotously good time throughout. It’s an almost three-hour movie that bares feels half its length. Grab your friends and/or family, and get down to your local movie theater because Cruise has delivered once again. 

It’s hard to see the film’s best moments playing as well on a smaller screen, but if you’re insistent on skipping the crowds and waiting to watch this one at home, then we expect Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One to begin streaming between late October to November. But that is just an estimate based on the normal window for a flagship theatrical movie to arrive on streaming, it could be a longer wait if the movie is a box office hit.  

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Rory Mellon
Entertainment Editor (UK)

Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.