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Why an Important Mission: Impossible Character Is Back For Dead Reckoning Part One

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A character from Ethan Hunt’s past is back in Mission: Impossible—Dead Reckoning Part One. Actor Henry Czerny is reprising his role as Eugene Kittridge, director of the Impossible Mission Force, also known as the IMF. Czerny appeared in the very first Mission: Impossible movie in 1996 as Ethan’s boss and foe, if not outright bad guy.

Czerny has been conspicuously missing from the franchise for the past 27 years as several other actors have taken on the role of IMF director. But he’s back now, tracking Ethan’s whereabouts and lecturing our hero about how he’s going to have to “choose a side” in some great battle to come. Here’s everything you need to know about what Kittridge was up to in that first film, where he’s been, and why he’s back for the seventh movie.

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Who is Eugene Kittridge?

Agent Eugene Kittridge is a sort-of antagonist from the first Mission: Impossible movie. The head of the super-secret government organization wrongfully accused Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) of being a mole. Ethan proved him wrong (as he so often does). Presumably, Kittridge left the IMF after the events of that film since by Mission: Impossible III, Lawrence Fishburne’s Theodore Brassel has taken on the role of IMF Director.

Who else has been head of the IMF?

We never find out what happens to Brassel. He probably died considering the fates of future IMF leaders.

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Tom Wilkinson briefly plays the head of the organization in the fourth movie, Mission: ImpossibleGhost Protocol, but dies in a targeted attack by the Russians early in that film. In Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation, Alec Baldwin’s Alan Hunley takes over the IMF, but he tragically dies during a shootout just one movie later in Mission: Impossible—Fallout.

That leaves the position open for Kittridge to make an ignominious return in Mission: Impossible—Dead Reckoning Part One. Typically, misidentifying a mole might mean permanent retirement in the spy business. But the abysmal survival rate for IMF heads might explain why the government had no choice but to bring back an old director like Kittridge.

Is Kittridge a good guy or a bad guy in Dead Reckoning?

It’s hard to say. Kittridge certainly hasn’t changed his world philosophy in the last quarter century. He still sees the world in stark terms, telling Ethan in the trailer for Dead Reckoning Part One that he needs to “pick a side.” Ethan has always put the greater good above allegiance to any one government, so these two will likely clash (again) over their differing viewpoints.

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But it’s Esai Morales’ Gabriel who is being billed as the main antagonist in the film. Maybe Ethan and Kittridge will have to put their differences aside to defeat a greater foe—or maybe Ethan will have to wage a battle on two fronts at once.

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Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com