In the latest “Mission: Impossible” movie, Tom Cruise’s superspy Ethan Hunt keeps the world safe yet again – at least for now, and things aren’t looking great! – but also gets put through the emotional wringer more than usual.
Director Chris McQuarrie’s “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” (in theaters now), the seventh outing in the action franchise, teams Ethan and his loyal friends Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) with skilled thief Grace (Hayley Atwell) to stop a rogue artificial intelligence called The Entity. Two halves of a key are integral to either destroying or controlling the AI, and Ethan’s mission – which he totally chooses to accept – is not only to get it but also find out what it unlocks.
Let’s break down the action-packed finale, plus who’s joining the team and who’s out of the picture permanently:
A race between Ethan’s team and the mysterious Gabriel (Esai Morales) – The Entity’s right-hand man in the real world and a guy from Ethan’s past – leads to a showdown on the runaway Orient Express, where a business deal to obtain the key goes down. Gabriel winds up with the key but during a nasty fight on the top of the speeding transport, Gabriel escapes and jumps to safety before detonating a bridge that the train is quickly approaching.
Good news is Ethan secretly swiped the key from Gabriel but bad news is they have to navigate train cars falling to their doom before ultimately being saved by Gabriel’s assassin henchwoman Paris (Pom Klementieff), left wounded after her boss tried to kill her. Paris tells Ethan that the key is to The Entity’s source code on a Russian submarine sitting at the bottom of the icy Bering Sea, Ethan parachutes out before the authorities can grab him, and meets up with Benji because they have an underwater mission in their near future.
Grace was hired by black marketeer White Widow (Vanessa Kirby) to obtain one of the key halves, but surviving a bonkers cars chase in Rome, almost dying in Venice and being embraced by the good guys leads the criminal to (somewhat reluctantly) put her faith and safety in Ethan’s hands. He recruits her to his Impossible Mission Force crew and at the end, when Ethan bolts and she’s face to face with CIA director Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny), Grace accepts this new role and he recognizes her skills that he can use.
She doesn’t become a hero as much as “she just grows a conscience,” Atwell tells USA TODAY. “She wants to believe that (these) are the right people to trust and for her to actually be part of something that’s more than just self-serving. And it’s now sacrificial because the cost of caring about someone is the risk of losing them now is greater. It’s like her heart thaws and she becomes more humane.”
Well, the American director of national intelligence (played by Cary Elwes) is assassinated by Gabriel, though he was a bad guy who wanted The Entity. But longtime fans of the franchise get a major gut punch in “Dead Reckoning”: Because he’s all about making Ethan suffer, Gabriel promises that either Grace or ex-MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a love interest and helpful ally to Ethan, will die. Ilsa saves Grace and confronts Gabriel in Venice, taking out her sword to face the knife-wielding villain, but he fatally sinks his blade into her chest. Ethan sprints along the canals though he doesn’t get to Ilsa in time to save her.
Ilsa’s death was “a really tough decision,” McQuarrie says. “But it was one we knew we had to make for the movie to have stakes and for the movie to remain ‘Mission.’ ‘Mission’ is primarily Ethan’s journey (and) there is this continuum that the people closest to him, he tends to lose them. It was a really tricky conversation for us to have, and we knew that there would be some reactions to that, but we also knew this is the reality of the world that’s been created over seven movies.”
Is there a ‘Dead Reckoning’ post-credits scene?
Nope! Unlike superhero movies and other blockbusters, the “Mission: Impossible” films have avoided teases and stingers and that tradition continues with the new adventure. But an action-packed climax and a lingering shot of a sunken sub are really all you need to get psyched for “Dead Reckoning Part Two” (out June 28, 2024).