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Mission: Impossible: Who Is Kittridge, And Why Is He So Important To The Series?

Contains major spoilers for "Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One"

One of the original members of the so-called Impossible Mission Force (IMF) is back for this year's "Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One."

CIA director Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny) is a former IMF director and adversary of Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) whose last appearance in the franchise was the first "Mission: Impossible" film in 1996. In "Dead Reckoning," his primary objective is to retrieve the cruciform key that unlocks a supercomputer located on the sunken Russian submarine Sevastopol on behalf of the American government, going so far as to purchase it from black market arms dealer Alana Mitsopolis (also known as the White Widow, played by Vanessa Kirby). Though he was ultimately unsuccessful thanks in large part to some classic shenanigans with the IMF's standard-issue face masks, he is currently slated to return for "Dead Reckoning Part Two."

Kittridge and Czerny's return to the "Mission: Impossible" franchise feels especially impactful, considering not only how major of a role he played in the first installment but how that connects to an era almost three decades removed from where the franchise is now. The largely standalone films have played lightly with the idea of creating something more closely resembling an overarching, semi-serialized plot in the form of the Syndicate. Kittridge's return may be signaling that "Dead Reckoning" is working to establish a firm continuity, and possibly even twist and/or retcon that will tie all seven films together once and for all. As such, now is the perfect time to familiarize ourselves with the role he played in 1996's "Mission: Impossible."

How Eugene Kittridge almost got Ethan Hunt killed

In the original "Mission: Impossible" film, Eugene Kittridge is actually working as a member of the IMF — in fact, for the majority of the story, it appears as though he's the director.

The plot revolves around the IMF's attempts to secure the Non-Official Covers (NOC) List from a mole within their own ranks that aims to sell it to Alana Mitsopolis' mother, Max (Vanessa Redgrave). In the wrong hands, the NOC List could (and most likely would) be used to assassinate every deep-cover agent and asset in the IMF's ranks.

Throughout the film, Kittridge is obviously keen to make sure the list is safe in his care, a fact that only becomes suspicious after Ethan Hunt learns that the director of the IMF plans to sell the NOC List to Max himself. Unfortunately for Ethan, he was excommunicated from the IMF and forced to go on the run after he was framed for the murder of his team during one of the film's earliest sequences.

However, it is eventually uncovered that Kittridge is not the director of the IMF, the title instead having secretly reverted to former director Jim Phelps (Jon Voight). It was actually he — not Kittridge — who framed Ethan and arranged the sale of the NOC List. Even so, Kittridge's ruthless and naturally dubious personality made him the perfect fall guy for Phelps' schemes. Given that those questionable traits are still on display in "Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One," it's fair to assume that he'll continue to be a thorn in Ethan's side regardless of what side of the law he's on.