Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One Trailer Breakdown: Echoes Of The Past

Ethan Hunt is back, baby! And you know what that means? Movies are back. "Mission: Impossible" has, without question, been the greatest franchise since it began back in 1996. It is a series that is constantly reinventing and one-upping itself, and writer/director Christopher McQuarrie, who joined as a writer on "Ghost Protocol" and a director on "Rogue Nation," has elevated it to the point where every other franchise going looks paltry in comparison. The most recent film in the series, "Mission: Impossible – Fallout" ranks among my top ten films of the 2010s. So ... you can say I am excited for its sequel "Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One," and what is proposed to be the beginning of the end for Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt.

Though the film is still over a year away, we have been treated with the first trailer for "Dead Reckoning Part One" ahead of Tom Cruise's other massive action film "Top Gun: Maverick." I can't stop watching it. It's becoming a problem. The movie looks like it absolutely rules, and the waiting game we have to play with it will be intense. For now, let's dig into the 135-second trailer and see what we can glean about the story and where things might be headed for good ol' Ethan and his crew (aka the only "family" that matters, Dom).

Hunt on horseback?

From the very first frame of the trailer, we are on uneven ground. While this is not the first time we have been in the desert for a "Mission: Impossible" film, it is not overly common. Even less so is the presence of a person on horseback. Cars, planes, helicopters, motorcycles, trains ... these are familiar forms of transportation to us, as urban environments tend to be the domain of this brand of spycraft. Riding a living animal out into a desolate landscape is a whole new thing for "Mission: Impossible."

Who is on horseback? Based on who we see in clips of the desert sequence later in the trailer, it is either Ethan Hunt or Rebecca Ferguson's Ilsa Faust. They aren't just riding either. They are getting chased out into the desert by a huge swarm of people on their own horses. Considering so much of the rest of the trailer takes place within familiar European city streets, I wonder what brings the IMF crew out to this kind of location and who is hunting them down. I know I am eager to find out.

The return of Kittridge

The thing that gets real "Mission" heads excited is the return of Henry Czerny as former IMF director Eugene Kittridge. We last saw him in the very first "Mission: Impossible" movie. At first, he suspected Ethan of being a mole when he ends up being the only survivor of his crew in a job that went south. Of course, Ethan proves his innocence and exposes that it was Jon Voight's Jim Phelps who sabotaged everything. Since Czerny, Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Fishburne, Tom Wilkinson, and Alec Baldwin have all become the head of the IMF (so much for job security), I wonder what brings Kittridge back into the fold. 

Based on Kittridge's dialogue in the trailer, he is there for some fairly nefarious purposes, saying lines like, "Your days of fighting for the so-called greater good are over," and, "This is our chance to control the truth, the concepts of right and wrong, for everyone for centuries to come." These are not the reassuring words of an old friend. Clearly, Kittridge is trying to recruit Ethan into something quite sinister, possibly the Syndicate, the villainous organization of the last couple of movies. However, I can't imagine them bringing back the Syndicate yet again for a movie, so my guess is this is a new order of criminals, perhaps a splinter group like The Apostles in "Fallout." Whatever the case may be, I am glad to be seeing some connections back to that first film, and Kittridge is not the only one.

The key to the film

In all of these movies, the IMF is on a quest to get some MacGuffin. You have the NOC List in the first film, the rabbit's foot in the third, and the bombs in "Fallout." Here, it looks like keys play an important part in the story. Back out in the desert, we see here Ilsa Faust with a key on a chain around her neck. What does this key unlock? A safe? A door? Ethan Hunt's heart?

And this is not the only key we see in the trailer. We will get to one in a minute that involves something that harkens back to the original "Mission: Impossible" film. As the trailer progresses, keep your eyes on these keys. They mean something.

Meet the bad guy

Here, we get our first look at Esai Morales as the film's main villain. We still do not have word on what this character's name is, his affiliations, or background. The character was obviously malleable enough, as Nicholas Hoult was originally cast to play the part before being recast with Morales. The two are very different actors in every way, and how much the character shifted between the two actors we will never know. What we do know is that this is a very handsome man with a stern look on his face who means trouble.

We also see him stalking in the cargo cars of a train, which is the location of the beginning of Ethan Hunt and Jim Phelps' final stand-off in the first film. We see a lot more mirroring of that sequence later on in the trailer, but here we get the first taste of it. Frankly, Esai Morales is much more of a physical threat than Jon Voight could ever have been.

Luther's hat is not tilted

While not an important detail by any means, fans of the series are very familiar with the various pieces of headwear Ving Rhames wears as Luther. Seemingly every movie finds a way to get a hat on his head, and every subsequent movie manages to tilt that hat just a little further down to the left. However, in "Dead Reckoning Part One," we have a Luther beanie that is just straight on his head. If anything, it is actually tilted down a little on the right side. This is almost as shocking as anything that could have been in this trailer.

Ilsa's got an eyepatch

At some point in the film, Ilsa requires the use of an eyepatch. Most of the shots in the trailer of her do not have her sporting the patch, but in the desert sequence, she needs one. This could be because she sustains some kind of eye injury where a patch would be a necessity. It could also strictly be for the purpose of shooting this particular rifle in a desert setting, where sand could willingly fly into your eye as you are trying to aim. She puts on the eyepatch just a precautionary measure to help her aim and take down the riders heading after her and Ethan. Whatever the practical purpose of the eyepatch turns out to be, what we do know is that Rebecca Ferguson looks absolutely rad when she is wearing one. "Mission: Impossible" always finds a way to explain why people do what they do, but for this occasion, her looking badass is enough for me.

The White Widow returns

In every "Mission: Impossible" film, the IMF crew always encounters some supporting character out in the field that acts as some sort of middleman in the mission. "Mission: Impossible – Fallout" had a bit of a special treat in that character type. First of all, Alanna Mitsopolis, aka The White Widow, was played by Vanessa Kirby, someone just crying out to become a movie star. Second, the character ended up having a rather intriguing backstory. She is the daughter of Max, another connection to the first film in the series. Max was an arms dealer, played by Vanessa Redgrave, who is after the NOC List. The White Widow has seemingly taken over her mother's operation and remains in a space where she forges relationships with people based purely on her own benefit. Having her return again in "Dead Reckoning Part One" throws an exciting monkey wrench into the proceedings, and I look forward to seeing whose side she is on this time around. 

A very happy Ethan and Ilsa

In "Mission: Impossible – Fallout," Christopher McQuarrie did not want to see Ethan Hunt smile until the final seconds of the film. We do not have to wait for that for the next film, as a smiling Ethan and Ilsa are presented in the trailer. I am very happy that they get a nice moment in the film, as their relationship over the course of the last two movies has left little room for smiling.

What has always been intriguing about their connection is the ambiguity of romance. Ilsa has never been part of this series purely as a love interest for Ethan. She has always been a woman on her own journey, writing her own story. The two have been platonic equals up until this point. But the closeness in this brief shot intrigues me. Will they actually be taking a romantic step forward now that Ethan's wife (Michelle Monaghan) is firmly out of the picture after "Fallout"? Is this not a romantic gesture and merely a moment of love between friends? Or, better yet, is this a fantasy sequence of Ethan imagining a life beyond the IMF with Ilsa? "Fallout" did introduce the notion of dream sequences, and this could be one. Visually, it looks different than most of the shots in the trailer, so I would not be surprised by it. My money is on option three, and we shall see if I cash out.

Pom Klementieff going berserk

Even more so than Esai Morales, the person it does not look like you want to mess with in "Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One" is Pom Klementieff. She plays a heavy of some sort, and whether she is taking her cues from Morales' character or the White Widow, with whom she appears with in one shot, she looks like she is on a mission to destroy. We see her driving like a maniac through the streets of Venice, wailing on Ethan Hunt in an alleyway fight, and running across the top of a speeding train. Oftentimes, the henchperson in these movies is played by some bruiser guy, so seeing Klementieff in that role here gives it a lot of new possibilities. The fighting style and energy will be very different. She is a very talented, accomplished actor, and I doubt that she will just be signing on as a body to throw at Ethan Hunt. Plus, she gets two outfits in the trailer: this military jacket look and a slick, black suit on the train. Can't wait to see what kind of chaos she brings.

Bringer of green smoke bombs

While the headline stuff about the "Mission: Impossible" series is all the crazy action set pieces, there typically is some nefarious stuff going on in office settings. The corporate, bureaucratic side of spycraft gets its day in the sun, and here, we get a brief glimpse of this. We get a glimpse of this man, who looks to be working for Kittridge, unleashing green smoke bombs in this office setting. Amongst those affected are characters played by Cary Elwes and, I believe, Rob Delaney, who is dressed in military blues. Also, one woman gets absolutely wrecked when one of these smoke bombs blows up close to her face. You also see Kittridge hastily applying a gas mask. My assumption is that this is part of an IMF takeover or maybe another government branch, considering the military presence.

This guy is also just scary-looking. Wear your masks, y'all!

Hayley Atwell accepts the mission

Among the new cast members joining the "Mission: Impossible" franchise, the one I am perhaps most excited about is Hayley Atwell. Her character is said to be a "destructive force of nature" with questionable allegiances. Whenever that kind of character gets that kind of character description in a "Mission" film, I get amped. You could use that to describe Ilsa in "Rogue Nation" and August Walker/John Lark in "Fallout." Bringing on someone as rad as Hayley Atwell to play that part sounds like it can't miss, and she is all over this trailer. She looks to be working with Ethan in some capacity on the mission, even involved in a giant car chase and the train sequence. She does look quite panicked in a lot of her shots, so I wonder how experienced she is in this kind of work. I expect her to be the breakout character, and I cannot wait to see how she figures into everything.

Ilsa's got a sword now

In all the ways people fight in "Mission: Impossible" films, I honestly did not think that a sword fight was in our future. This is a modern series, and the only way I could see a sword entering the picture is that somehow they end up in an antique shop or museum. So, not only does an eyepatch-less Ilsa get a sword at some point in "Dead Reckoning Part One," but it happens out on a Venetian bridge where she looks to square off against Esai Morales' character, who has a sizable knife of his own. I don't know why she has a sword, how she gets a sword. All I know is Ilsa has a sword, and I am fist-pumping into the air.

You better believe Tom Cruise runs

Figuring out new ways to shoot Tom Cruise running presents a lot of challenges. He runs. A LOT. He's run towards the camera, away from the camera, camera left, camera right, diagonally. They've used handheld cameras, dollies, cranes, trucks. You name it. We get a number of shots of Cruise running in the new trailer, but none stand out quite as much as this one shot (which immediately follows the "Tom Cruise" credit) where Ethan Hunt is hauling ass down a path lined on both sides by dozens upon dozens of candles. Occasionally, a column will pass by the frame, and giving that point of reference for distance makes it look like he is running faster than anyone has ever run before. It is a truly beautiful moment, and aside from the final shot, I think it is the longest-held shot in the quick-cutting trailer. They want to make sure you truly see how glorious this running is. And it is glorious.

Ethan the magician returns

One of the things we learn about Ethan Hunt in the first "Mission: Impossible" film is he has a knack for sleight of hand, making the disc that contains the NOC List disappear and reappear to taunt Jean Reno's character. We get to see a glimmer of that sleight of hand return when he makes a key appear out of nowhere in a scene with Hayley Atwell's character. This is a fun nod to the fans of the series to show Ethan's still got that wonderful flair he had 26 years ago.

More importantly, we have another instance of a key. Is this the same key we saw around Ilsa's neck earlier in the trailer but removed from some sort of case? Or is this an entirely different key, and we will just be drowning in keys over the course of "Dead Reckoning Part One?" It has to be more than just a magician's prop. Keys must unlock something.

What's going on underwater?

One big question I have about "Dead Reckoning Part One" is about what is happening underneath the surface of the water. We only see a couple of underwater shots, but they look to be rather consequential. In one, we see an underwater explosion looking to take out a submarine or some other kind of subsurface vessel. We also get this shot of someone in some heavy-duty scuba gear looking for something. In the full, widescreen frame, you do see someone's bare hand in the top left corner, presumably of a dead person. I doubt that the person in this suit is Ethan or anyone in his crew. It is probably a villainous figure, but who exactly? I have no idea.

Mirroring the first climax

In a trailer that contains many shoutouts to the first "Mission: Impossible" film, none stand out quite as much as a fight atop a speeding train. This was where Ethan Hunt and Jim Phelps had their big climactic fight, and we look to be having an echo of that confrontation in "Dead Reckoning Part One" between Ethan Hunt and Esai Morales' villain character. We do also see Pom Klementieff running across the cars and Ethan holding onto Hayley Atwell's character for dear life off the back as well, so they will factor in someplace as well (along with the White Widow).

Of course, the big difference between the sequences from the first film and this one is that much of that first action scene was done with green screens and effects work that has not exactly held up the greatest. Jon Voight was not going to be crawling around the top of the train car for real. Tom Cruise, now, can do whatever he wants, and these people are really going to be on top of a speeding train. The action sequence in the first film is still a lot of fun, especially when the helicopter gets involved, but with Tom Cruise's emphasis on the real for these last several movies, I expect this to be visceral on a whole other level.

Jesus F***ing Christ, Tom

What else needs to be said? Tom Cruise jumped a motorcycle off a cliff into a free fall. Jesus f***ing Christ, Tom.

"Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One" opens in theaters on July 14, 2023.