“It’s all led to this.” That is what Tom Cruise tweeted out Monday morning alongside our first taste of the Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning – Part One teaser trailer. It’s an old familiar line in movie franchises that have survived, or even thrived, for decades: every previous film has been building to this moment!
And yet, while watching how the dazzling sizzle reel footage is framed in Dead Reckoning, it is hard not to think this will be some kind of capstone on the entire Mission: Impossible franchise. After all, this is the first feature in nearly 30 years to directly call back on the events of the original Mission: Impossible movie from 1996.
Most obviously, that is apparent in the way the trailer is structured around a verbal dressing down from an IMF and/or CIA handler. At this point, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt getting chastised for his insubordinate and showboating ways is pro forma. The price of doing business as “the gambler” of super-spy espionage (as previously described in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation). However, the fact that the man chewing Hunt out this time is the first superior he ever had to deem Hunt more enemy than ally is significant. Indeed, that is Henry Czerny as Eugene Kittridge.
If his distinct sneering cadence sounds familiar to you in the trailer—as he informs Ethan the ideal he’s fought for doesn’t exist and never did—that’s because Czerny’s Kittridge was previously the IMF Director in the 1996 movie directed by Brian De Palma. Due to the machinations of the film’s true villain, Jon Voight as Jim Phelps, Kittridge came to be convinced by a frame job that Ethan Hunt was a dirty agent. He then spent most of the film chasing Hunt down until he was led to a fateful chunnel ride between London and Paris where he learned of Phelps’ culpability… and arrested a covert crime boss named Max (Vanessa Redgrave).
That ending to the original Mission: Impossible is also important to the new trailer since we see the daughter of the Max character, Vanessa Kirby’s “the White Widow,” on her own fateful train ride in a desert terrain. The familiarity of the action set-piece is unlikely to be coincidental.
Right down to its title, which ends in “Part One,” Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning promises to be the most continuity-heavy Mission: Impossible movie ever made. It also taps again into the sweet spot the franchise discovered with writer-director Christopher McQuarrie at the helm. The Oscar winning scribe became the first director to return to the stylishly diverse franchise more than once, helming Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation in 2015 and then Mission: Impossible – Fallout in 2018. As such, he was the first director to maintain a stylistic sensibility for more than one film in a series that previously prided itself on letting different filmmakers and auteurs leave their own stamp.
But while McQuarrie carried over his best additions from his films throughout the M:I movies he’s directed—including really digging into Ethan Hunt’s recklessness and developing his relationship with the new character of Ilsa Faust (a scene-stealing Rebecca Ferguson)—he’s also surprisingly embraced the franchise’s continuity and sense of history for the first time. Beyond Ferguson’s Ilsa and other recurring characters who’ve been maintained through the years, most notably Ving Rhames’ computer hacker Luther Stickell and Simon Pegg’s amusing sidekick Benji Dunn, each movie has largely been a standalone.
Nevertheless, Mission: Impossible surprised fans when it revealed the shady White Widow character was actually the daughter of Vanessa Redgrave’s character from the ’96 movie as well as unexpectedly brought back Michelle Monaghan’s Julia, Ethan Hunt’s one-time wife from Mission: Impossible III (2006).
It’s currently vague whether the two-part Dead Reckoning films from McQuarrie and Cruise really will be an actual finale for the series, but it certainly feels that way when one of Hunt’s original antagonists warns, “You need to pick a side.”
Going back to the beginning of a saga, even one as episodic as Mission: Impossible, seems typical of a story with an eye on drawing its final curtain. It also raises the question over what other callbacks we might have from previous Mission: Impossible movies. It’s nice to have Ilsa Faust return yet again from the last two movies and have apparently developed a real romance with Ethan—as well as curiously an eyepatch by the end of the movie which is all sorts of badass—but what if we tie this in to other ways of what came before? By the time Part Two comes out, could we see a return of Anthony Hopkins’ own IMF director or pick up on what ever happened to Thandiwe Newton’s Nyah Hall? Might we even learn there was more to the infamous Phelps treachery than we knew before?
We’ll know eventually since Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning – Part One opens July 14, 2023.