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Small Details You Missed In Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One

Contains spoilers for "Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One"

"Mission: Impossible" could teach other franchises a vital lesson. It's almost hard to believe that the series turned a TV show from the 1960s into one of the most successful action franchises of all time. Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt has been secretly protecting the globe for decades, and with each new mission, the stakes get higher. "Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One" is the biggest story yet, and it's only just getting started.

The movie is jam-packed with characters, setpieces, and MacGuffins. There's no shortage of confusing moments throughout the story, but every time a question pops up in your mind, another exhilarating action scene carries it away. As Ethan Hunt and his team trot the globe battling Gabriel (Esai Morales) and the mysterious evil A.I. known as the Entity, the movie sneaks in a surprising amount of small details and quiet references to the storied franchise's history. Of course, most people probably missed all the Easter eggs because they were too distracted by Cruise actually BASE-jumping off a cliff. But worry not! We've captured all the details here, so the next time you sit down to watch the movie you can lose yourself in the action all over again.

Name dropping

Not every movie references its own title at some point in the script, and even fewer manage to pull off this name-dropping in a way that doesn't feel clunky. "Dead Reckoning," on the other hand, slips its title into the dialogue so smoothly that you might not have even noticed.

The movie opens by following the crew of the Sevastopol on their journey home. The submarine's captain narrates that they're navigating via "dead reckoning," which isn't just a cool-sounding phrase fit for a movie title. "Dead reckoning" is a real navigational technique where ships figure out their position without any help from traditional tools like the stars or GPS. Instead, they rely on known variables, like where the journey started, where it's heading, and how much of the distance has already been traveled.

Dead reckoning also happens to have some massive thematic tie-ins to the movie itself. In his fight against Gabriel and the Entity, Ethan doesn't have any outside help to guide his way. He's using dead reckoning to figure out what his next move should be. At the same time, the Entity itself doesn't have any guides. It's a new kind of being, and it's navigating toward its own goal without an exact idea of where it is.

The IMF has perfected self-destruction

The IMF is supposed to be the most secretive organization in the entire world. Few people, even within the United States intelligence community, know about its existence. The IMF has to work multiple angles to maintain its secrecy, but one of the organization's top priorities is erasing any trace of the work it does.

To that end, the IMF has perfected the art of destroying the clandestine instructions it sends to its agents. In the early days, exploding sunglasses might have seemed like the perfect undetectable delivery method, but since then the IMF has refined its technology. In "Dead Reckoning," Ethan gets his instructions dropped off in a specialized food delivery bag. After he's gotten the instructions for his mission, he zips the bag up, and it carefully incinerates the evidence, leaving just a wisp of smoke.

That's more-or-less the same self-destruction method that the IMF has been using for the past several movies. It definitely seems more covert than the sunglasses, but the tech isn't as new as some people might think. Before betraying the IMF in "Mission: Impossible," Jim Phelps received instructions on an airplane that self-destructed in a very similar fashion. Maybe the IMF had the perfect method from the very beginning, but no one is going to fault them for giving something flashier a try.

The real reason behind Ilsa's eyepatch

Rebecca Ferguson's Ilsa has been part of the "Mission: Impossible" franchise since 2015's "Rogue Nation." She's an MI6 agent whose motives are always difficult to fully pin down, but on more than one occasion she's been a valuable asset to the IMF team. Over the years, she and Ethan have a warm relationship that's always bordering on romance, though saving the world usually keeps them too busy to actually talk about their feelings.

Ilsa shows up very early on in "Dead Reckoning," and when she first appears she's under attack from a group of assassins who want to kill her to obtain one of the Entity's keys. As Ilsa prepares to defend herself, she grabs a long rifle and slides an eyepatch over her left eye before taking shots at her attackers.

The eyepatch probably caught a number of viewers off guard, but because it never comes back, the movie doesn't spend any time explaining why Ilsa is using it. There could be any number of cool in-world explanations, but the truth is much more mundane and quite a bit funnier than anything we could imagine. Ferguson explained in an interview with HeyUGuys that she can't wink. That wasn't a problem until she tried to film her sniping scene, and the first solution the crew came up with to smooth over her awkward shooting style was to cover one of her eyes with an eyepatch.

Kittridge is an old frenemy

After seven installments and five directors, the "Mission: Impossible" franchise isn't the same as it was in the '90s, but sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same. At the beginning of "Dead Reckoning Part One" Ethan Hunt comes face to face with IMF director Eugene Kittridge, played by Henry Czerny. The two of them might work on the same side, in theory, but they find themselves at odds on this particular mission because they disagree on the best way to handle the Entity. Kittridge spends the rest of the movie sending agents to track down Ethan.

Longtime fans of the franchise might have thought that Kittridge looked a little familiar when he first stepped on screen. This actually isn't the first time that he's found himself in the unenviable position of fighting against Ethan. Way back in the first "Mission: Impossible" movie, Kittridge was also in charge of the IMF, and he thought Ethan had turned rogue after killing his own team.

Who knows what Kittridge has been up to all these years? Presumably, the President asked him to step back into his role as IMF director after Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) died in "Mission: Impossible – Fallout." No wonder Ethan doesn't hesitate to turn against the organization: He already knows that he's beaten Kittridge before.

Spies and their sleight of hand skills

Hayley Atwell's Grace may be the newcomer in this movie, but even before she officially joins the team, she fits right in with everyone. Like any good spy-to-be, Grace has a complicated past that's left her with multiple criminal records under a variety of names all across the globe. She's a skilled thief, but she really shines as a professional pickpocket. In Abu Dhabi, Grace manages to steal one of the Entity's keys from the pocket of a shady businessman who was supposed to meet with Ethan. While trying to keep the key away from Ethan, Grace pulls off some impressive sleight-of-hand techniques that would make her a star magician in any other context.

Grace's smooth key handling probably reminded Ethan of his younger self. In the first "Mission: Impossible," he pulled off similar maneuvers when he needed to keep the CIA's NOC list out of dangerous hands. Apparently, everyone involved in criminal underworlds does close-up magic as a hobby in their spare time.

As "Dead Reckoning" progresses, Grace and Ethan both get a few opportunities to call back to the old "Mission: Impossible" days with their unbelievable sleight of hand. We'd love to know whether the two of them really are impossibly dextrous or if camera cuts did some of the heavy lifting, but since magicians never reveal their secrets, who's to say?

Luther hacks the facial recognition tech he built

Ethan and his team have a fairly straightforward goal when they get to the Abu Dhabi International Airport. They just need to meet with Ethan's buyer to sell him half of the Entity's key, but going in they know that there are bound to be complications. They couldn't anticipate Grace or Gabriel's involvement, but at the very least, they showed up more than prepared to get in the way of CIA agents Briggs (Shea Wigham) and Degas (Greg Tarzan Davis).

The CIA uses facial recognition software to track Ethan as he moves through the airport, but not long after they arrive, they realize something is wrong. The software keeps seeing Ethan everywhere it looks, which has them chasing down the wrong people. The CIA doesn't realize it, but Luther is actively hacking the program and inserting Ethan's face onto random people in the airport.

Hacking CIA software might seem like a tall order, but this particular kind of facial recognition is actually Luther's invention. Back in "Ghost Protocol," Ethan needed help tracking Ilsa, and Luther created a piece of software that could do the job. It's good to see that Luther's invention has been useful for the wider intelligence community, and it just goes to show that Ethan's luck can never run out.

Paris's makeup

Pom Klementieff's assassin Paris might be the most mysterious new character in "Dead Reckoning." Paris works with Gabriel, presumably helping the Entity achieve whatever its goals are. She's a woman of few words, but she clearly has a passion for violence. Paris looks positively delighted when she's chasing Ethan through the streets of Rome, and even though he ultimately comes out on top, she puts up an incredible fight.

Paris resurfaces in Venice, but this time around she's gone through a costume change. Her face is painted white with a single black tear stuck onto her cheek. It'd be hard not to notice the makeup she's wearing, but most audience members probably have no idea what the look is referencing.

Klementieff told Global Grind that she came up with Paris's signature look all on her own. "It was inspired by Pierrot Lunaire, which is a character from the commedia dell'art," she said. Klementieff wanted to add some extra depth to her character and referencing a clown from the 16th century definitely did the trick. Paris's makeup comes across as a bit intimidating, but it also shows that all her violent rage comes from some kind of internal sadness.

What happens when masks go wrong?

"Mission: Impossible" has gotten more mileage out of masks than any franchise in history — and we're including "Halloween" here. For decades, sophisticated masks have allowed Ethan and his team to impersonate political figures and infiltrate terrorist organizations with ease. In more recent installments, the tech that builds Ethan's mask has gotten a few upgrades, but even without those, the masks have always worked flawlessly.

In the past, there have been some mishaps that caused Ethan and his teammates to go on a mission maskless, but "Dead Reckoning" marks the first time that one of Ethan's enemies has directly sabotaged his mask tech. As the gang is putting together a plan to impersonate Alanna and her brother, the Entity accesses their mask machine and shuts it down. Because of that, Grace has to impersonate Alanna on her own.

Luckily, Grace's mask is almost perfect, but it doesn't change Grace's eye color. In theory, that should make it easy for anyone to identify her as an impersonator, but strangely no one in the movie seems to notice that her eyes don't really look like Alanna's. The franchise has never spent much time delving into the logistics of the IMF's masks, so it's hard to say if the Entity also sabotaged Grace's eyes, or if someone just forgot to hand her colored contacts.

The train fight is also a callback

"Dead Reckoning" has no shortage of epic set pieces and jaw-dropping stunts, but as mesmerizing as all the action is, some of the biggest moments in the movie feel like things we've seen before. In the movie's climax, Ethan and Gabriel square off on top of a speeding train. As tense as the fight becomes, we've all seen at least one hero make their way through a similar battle. He probably didn't have any time to really think about it in the moment, but even Ethan must have been feeling some déjà vu as he traded blows with his nemesis.

The original "Mission: Impossible" also saw Ethan engaged in hand-to-hand combat on top of a train. On that particular mission, Ethan and IMF traitor Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) were both fighting for control of the CIA's NOC list while on a train to Paris. Phelps tried to escape from the train via helicopter, but Ethan managed to stop him and destroy the helicopter after a fight that threw the laws of physics right out the window.

Ethan's fight with Gabriel might not be as over-the-top as his train-to-helicopter battle at the end of the first movie, but the stakes are undeniably higher. This time around the bad guy escapes and the train derails, but at the end of the day, Ethan still comes out on top.

Shoutout for the score

More than anything else, "Dead Reckoning" is a spectacle. The movie takes audiences to stunning locations all across the globe and dizzies them with action from beginning to end. From epic dives off cliffs to trains plummeting off blown bridges, the movie is a feast for the eyes, and amidst all the sensory overload it's easy to lose track of just how much the score supports everything that's happening on the screen.

Composer Lorne Balfe returned to the franchise after writing the score for 2018's "Mission: Impossible – Fallout." It's easy to hear that Balfe massively stepped up his game for this latest installment, but a peek behind the scenes reveals just how dedicated he was to going above and beyond for the music in this movie.

Balfe told Variety that he recorded over 14 hours of music to get the perfect tracks for the score. What's even more surprising is how the recording process mimicked Ethan's path through the movie. Balfe used local musicians from the film's many locations, and he even got some high-profile performers like the Top Secret Drum Corps to flesh out the movie's sound. Balfe gave a special shoutout to music editor Cécile Tournesac. "What I'd written for one scene, that scene could get removed and she would make that music cue work in a different scene by reducing elements of it." Much like Ethan's mission in the movie, creating the score was a team effort.

Where's the fuse?

There are plenty of details in "Dead Reckoning" that you might have missed, but there's also a tiny "Mission: Impossible" franchise staple that you might not have noticed is actually missing from the movie. The series has always understood that bombs and countdowns are just an everyday part of spy life, and that's why the credits of so many past "Mission: Impossible" movies have featured a burning fuse.

The first movie started the fuse motif with its opening credit sequence. Since then, installment after installment has spiced up the credits with a burning fuse leading to a dramatic explosion. The fuse theme became so prevalent that it even got a nod in the score of "Ghost Protocol."

The iconic burning fuse has been such a key part of "Mission: Impossible" that its absence in "Dead Reckoning" might seem strange, but really it plays right into what the movie is all about. This is only the first part of the story, so we were never going to get to the end of that fuse this time around. There's every chance that the fuse will return in "Part Two" to carry us to the epic conclusion of Ethan's battle against the Entity.