The Tom Cruise “Mission Impossible” franchise is one of reliable quality and equally dependable “forgettable-ness.” I’ve seen every film, yet my memory is fuzzy when I try to recall what happened in any of them. And while it’s almost a given that “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” will somehow sadly meet a similar fate, it’s still one of the best of the bunch. Not one thing disappointed me about this seventh installment in the series, an exciting and entertaining ride that gets almost everything right. This is an absolutely terrific action movie that overdelivers, and I loved every minute of it. World class field agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) works as a field agent for an elite, top-secret branch of the CIA called the IMF (Impossible Mission Force). His team, including associates Luther (Ving Rhames), Benji (Simon Pegg), and Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) have become close friends, and they’re a well-oiled machine when working together. They regroup to embark on a dangerous mission to track down a new weapon that threatens all of humanity. The entire world is at stake, and Ethan must find a device before it falls into the wrong hands while dealing with some dark skeletons of his own past. In order to get the most enjoyment out of the film, it’s best not to read too much about the plot. What works so well about the story is that it has a modern angle, and the motivations of the villains are extremely strong. The stakes are high and there’s a very real danger, which adds to the overall excitement. As one character puts it, they’re fighting “an enemy that’s everywhere and nowhere.” It’s smart, sophisticated, and polished in a way that tends to evade your typical summer blockbuster. There are a few high tech, double cross, master of disguise elements, but they aren’t used as a distracting gimmick (as they sometimes have been in previous MI films). The high-concept action scenes are energetic and absolutely thrilling, making for some very clever and inventive spectacles. From a dramatic footrace through the canals of Venice to motorcycle jumps in the Austrian Alps to an epic car chase through the streets of Rome, there’s never a dull moment. There’s an inspired, extended sequence on a runaway train that will go down in history as one of the most creative and fun action scenes of the year, if not ever. There are plenty of strong female characters in the story, including the new addition of Grace (Hayley Atwell), a crackerjack larcenist, and Paris (Pom Klementieff), a fierce bodyguard who gives off strong Harley Quinn vibes. This movie, simply put, is packed with badass women. Seeing the gang reunited is always fun, and Pegg and Rhames have created characters that feel like old friends. There’s excellent work from the supporting cast too (Vanessa Kirby, Esai Morales, and Shea Whigham). Cruise is starting to show his age, but he’s still one of Hollywood’s greatest working superstars. His performance is reliable, charismatic, and believable, which is exactly what it needs to be. It’s clear that this is a movie that’s older and wiser and in turn, it’s made with more mature audiences in mind. Nothing is dumbed down, the emotional meter runs high, and the level of style and poise is unexpected and welcome (and to be commended). This is a classic espionage thriller that achieves a balance between artistry and pleasure, which is no easy feat. “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning” is the first part of a two part saga, but the finale isn’t so open-ended that it leads to frustration. Instead, it’s more of an excitement-based cliffhanger that’ll leave you salivating for the second half. This is a movie that could stand alone, but I’m awfully glad it doesn’t.