In the interest of full disclosure, I’m often somewhat skeptical about films that include the word “part” in their titles; I frequently feel that such offerings have difficulty standing on their own, unable to complete their stories in a single vehicle. So, admittedly, that consideration was on my mind as I screened the first half of the final installment in this long-running action-adventure franchise. To its credit, director Christopher McQuarrie’s latest has a lot going for it – an intriguing plot with a strong cautionary tale message for us about the potential dangers of AI, an array of superbly staged action sequences, the welcome addition of some much-needed comic relief (something this series has often lacked) and a fine cast of supporting performers (especially the expanded role of Vanessa Kirby, who was woefully underused in the franchise’s previous release). However, with that said, there are some elements that could use improvement. For starters, the picture is simply too long; with a runtime of 2:43:00 (and this is just the first half of the story!), the film is definitely bloated and could stand some judicious editing, especially in the action sequences, several of which begin to try one’s patience after a while. Then there are certain aspects of the narrative that are predictable, formulaic, and, at times, implausible (particularly in the picture’s overlong final act train adventure sequence), qualities that are not as apparent (or at least better hidden) in previous outings. Finally, there are the underwhelming performances of the IMF crew (Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames). The leader of the pack (Cruise) comes across more like someone whose presence is designed largely to carry the plot rather than serve as a genuine, actively engaged protagonist, and his two colleagues are underused, seemingly playing sidekick roles rather than participating as key characters (unlike previous installments in the series). All told, this is by no means a bad picture, but it could have been better, especially with it being the series finale. It makes me wonder if the full story of “Dead Reckoning” might have been better executed in a single, slightly longer offering than as two separate feature-length releases. That might have solved the issues noted above, and it may have eliminated that nagging “part” problem I wrote about, allowing the picture to stand on its own two feet as a single vehicle. We’ll have to wait another year to see how it all plays out, but I can’t exactly say I’m holding my breath about it.