What Mission: Impossible 7’s ‘Dead Reckoning’ Subtitle Means For Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt

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Starting with 2011’s Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, the Mission: Impossible movies have adopted subtitles rather than straightforward numerical ordering. That said, while the reasoning behind using Ghost Protocol, Rogue Nation and Fallout was rather vague, that’s not the case with Dead Reckoning. Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie has explained why this subtitle, which is being used for the next two Mission: Impossible movies, means something specific for Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt.

Christopher McQuarrie chatted a bit about Mission: Impossible: Dead Reckoning in the latest issue of Empire, which also features the first full look at Harrison Ford back as Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones 5. As you’ll read below, “dead reckoning” is a term that spells a peculiar kind of danger for Ethan Hunt and his allies at the IMF:

There are many things emerging from Ethan’s past. ‘Dead reckoning’ is a navigational term. It means you’re picking a course based solely on your last known position and that becomes quite the metaphor not only for Ethan, but several characters.

Ethan Hunt has thrived on danger for more than two and a half decades now, and there have been plenty of instances in the Mission: Impossible film series where he’s had to improvise a plan on the spot. So to learn that Mission: Impossible: Dead Reckoning will see Tom Cruise’s character and the other protagonists doing this on a larger scale isn’t terribly shocking, though it begs the question of what kind of situation they’ll find themselves that qualifies as a metaphorical “dead reckoning.” While the first Dead Reckoning trailer was packed with action and enticing visuals, it didn’t shed a lot of light on the story.

With the first part of Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One not due out until next summer, no doubt we’ll have to wait a while for any specific plot details about the 2023 movie release. As for why the next two Mission: Impossible movies share the same subtitle, Christopher McQuarrie explained that it had everything to do with scope:

The first thing we knew was that if it’s gonna be a big two-part adventure, it’s got to be epic. It’s going to have to be the installment that swallows the rest of the franchise whole. There’s just not another way to do it.

Back in February, it was reported that Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One and Part Two are meant to “serve as a sendoff for Cruise’s Ethan Hunt character.” If this is indeed the case, then these movies being anything less than epic would be disappointing. This isn’t to say that the Mission: Impossible franchise couldn’t continue by focusing on another character, but with Cruise having brought Ethan Hunt to life since 1996, he deserves an explosive sendoff, whenever that ends up happening. But for now, McQuarrie is still putting this two-part tale together, and the filmmaker recently acknowledged that his more difficult days of shooting are coming up.

Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One hits theaters on July 14, 2023, and Part Two will follow on June 28, 2024. If you’re in the mood for some Mission: Impossible action now, stream Fallout with a Hulu subscription.