8 Easter Eggs, References, and Callbacks in ‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning’
Jul 13, 2023   •   Mikhail Lecaros
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Jul 13, 2023   •   Mikhail Lecaros
As the foremost product of the ‘90s trend of adapting ‘60s TV shows for the big screen, the Mission: Impossible series has come a long way since director Brian De Palma launched the movie franchise in 1996 with star Tom Cruise. 27 years later, we’re up to the seventh film, Dead Reckoning, and it looks like they’ll continue to make these for as long as Cruise is willing to risk life and limb to perform Ethan Hunt’s signature stunts.
Of course, with six previous films over three decades, it’s easy to get confused by all the names, references, and faces that pop up, so here’s your guide to 8 Easter eggs, references, and callbacks in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1!
While it was inevitable that someone in these movies would call out the Impossible Mission Force for sharing an acronym with the International Monetary Fund, who would have guessed it’d be national security boss Denlinger played by Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride, Saw)? Sure, it’s a little weird that someone in his position wouldn’t know about the CIA’s covert missions team, especially with the Senate deliberation over their activities in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, but his scoffing at their name isn’t the first time the series has poked fun at itself: At the end of Mission: Impossible III, Ethan’s wife Julie (Michelle Monaghan, Eagle Eye) has pretty much the same reaction to the name when he finally reveals his superspy life to her.
This would be far from the last time that the franchise would deconstruct its own tropes, as the very next film, Rogue Nation, from director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles) would strip the heroes of all the gadgets they’d come to rely on, including the machine that makes their lifelike masks! So when Denlinger asks what kind of an outfit has the right to refuse missions, we know exactly where he’s coming from.
At one point, IMF tech-turned-field agent Benji (Simon Pegg, Shaun of the Dead, Star Trek) points out that going against the orders of their government to save the world is pretty much a regular day for the IMF, and he’s not wrong. Out of the seven Mission: Impossible movies released, Ethan and his crew have gone rogue in pretty much each and every one of them.
In fact, Benji is one half of Ethan’s constant support system, with the other being Luther Stickel (Ving Rhames, Pulp Fiction, Lilo & Stitch). While they may have joined up at different times (Benji in the third film, and Luther in the first), the circumstances were the same: Ethan was, yup, going against the orders of their government to save the world — just another day in the IMF!
If CIA Director Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny, Scream VI) looks familiar, that’s because he was Ethan’s boss all the way back in 1996’s Mission: Impossible, where he infamously noted, “I understand you’re very upset.” He gives a variation on that line here because the existence of a malevolent artificial intelligence known as The Entity makes Ethan very, very upset. While we’ve seen a number of CIA Directors come and go, including Alec Baldwin (The Boss Baby) and Angela Bassett (Black Panther), this is the first time we’ve had one come back who wasn’t immediately murdered (sorry, Alec).
In Dead Reckoning, Kittridge is up to his old tricks and remains ever-willing to deal with whichever side helps him achieve his goals, even if it means negotiating with the daughter of an old frenemy.
In Dead Reckoning, we learn that The White Widow (Vanessa Kirby, Hobbes, and Shaw) and her brother/bodyguard Zola (Frederick Schmidt, Angel Has Fallen) remain unaware of Ethan’s true identity, believing him to be Henry Cavill’s mercenary John Larque from Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Introduced in that film, it was revealed that the siblings’ roots go back to the beginning of the film series, as their mother, Max (Vanessa Redgrave, Girl, Interrupted) played a key role in the first Mission: Impossible movie. Here, we’re told that Kittridge himself kept Max out of prison, in exchange for the notorious arms dealer never going against the interests of the CIA. It’s an arrangement that the siblings have maintained, which leads to them meeting with the CIA Director on a train and engaging in a crucial digital transfer, just as their mother did, all those years ago.
Speaking of which…
Dead Reckoning finds Ethan in a one-on-one fight against the villainous Gabriel (Esai Morales) atop the Orient Express. Shades of déjà vu – the last time Ethan was on top of a moving train, he was trying to stop his mentor, Jim Phelps (Jon Voight, Tomb Raider) back in 1996! Where that film threw a tunnel and a helicopter into the mix, Dead Reckoning goes for a finale that draws inspiration from the opening of the blockbuster video game Uncharted 2!
Dead Reckoning introduces the character of Grace (Haley Atwell, Captain America) to the world of Mission: Impossible. A gifted thief, Grace crosses paths with the IMF on their mission to retrieve a key that can either control or destroy The Entity. Using pickpocketing techniques and sleight of hand, she impresses Ethan, who wins her over with some moves of his own. Ethan first showed off his ability to palm objects in plain sight in 1996’s Mission: Impossible, when Franz Krieger (Jean Reno, The Professional) attempts to intimidate him over a disk containing secret CIA information.
Ok, this one’s a bit more specific than some of these other entries. In M:I-2 back in 2000, a female thief is so overcome by having fallen in love with Ethan Hunt, it causes her to turn switch sides against the people who hired her. In Dead Reckoning, this happens not just to a thief, but to a psychotic mass murderer! Amusingly, even the CIA operatives (led by Kong: Skull Island’s Shea Whigham) who are on Hunt’s trail take every chance to call out how amazing he is in dialogue.
What can we say? Tom Cruise looks good for 61.
A huge chase scene breaks out in Rome when Ethan catches up to Grace – the only trouble is, the Italian police, the CIA, and Gabriel’s murderous associate Paris (Pom Klementieff, Guardians of the Galaxy) are hot on their trail. Literally handcuffed together, Ethan and Grace make off with the only car they can get their hands on – a tiny, yellow Fiat 500. It’s ironic that they’re being chased by an assassin named Paris – the previous film, Mission: Impossible – Fallout featured a similar chase that took place in the City of Lights!
Finally, given that the original Mission: Impossible TV series was inspired by the ‘60s spy craze kicked off by the James Bond movies, it’s entirely appropriate that the Rome chase sequence has shades of two classic 007 chases, namely the time Bond (Roger Moore, Spice World) commandeered a tiny, yellow Citroen in 1981’s For Your Eyes Only, and the time when Pierce Brosnan’s (Mamma Mia!) incarnation was handcuffed to Michelle Yeoh (Everything, Everywhere, All At Once) in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies.
Of course, an argument could also be made for Lupin the III, who’s driven his own yellow Fiat 500 in numerous adventures over the years – Fiat’s even released Lupin editions of the car!
Watch Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning in cinemas near you.
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