Warning: This article contains spoilers for Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One.
The most shocking event which occurs in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is arguably not the sight of Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt riding a motorbike off a cliff, but rather the death of Hunt's friend and fellow spy Ilsa Faust, a major part of the franchise since 2015's Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Portrayed by Rebecca Ferguson, Faust is killed on a Venice bridge by Esai Morales' villainous Gabriel while Hunt runs (of course!) through the Italian city, arriving too late to help her.
In a new podcast interview with Empire, the film's director and co-writer Christopher McQuarrie discusses why he and Cruise, who produced the movie with McQuarrie, felt the need to kill off Ferguson's character.
Paramount Pictures and Skydance Rebecca Ferguson in 'Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One'
"It was one of the earliest conversations. We were on the set of Top Gun, we were already talking about it," says the filmmaker, referring to last year's Joseph Kosinski-directed Top Gun: Maverick, which McQuarrie co-wrote. "We knew that that emotional arc was of a certain emotional tone... Ilsa is a wonderful character, and a character of which I am enormously proud, and Rebecca is an actor of such unmitigated power and presence."
He continued, "And yet, where we had gone with the character from Rogue to Fallout...[the] place you took that character would either make less of her, it would suddenly become frivolous... or she would just become a romantic interest, and it was never about creating a character who was defined by her love story with Ethan Hunt. Their relationship transcends a traditional loving story... They're doomed to be together and yet doomed never to be together... It felt like that story was looking for its resolution and so we said this has got to happen."
McQuarrie goes on to explain that his and Cruise's decision to conclude Faust's story dovetailed with their desire to give a sense of genuine stakes to the movie.
"What really needs to happen in the story is the stakes have to be real, they can't be implied," says the director. "We have to have the courage to let [Ethan] fail and it has to cost, the mission has to cost, and without that, the villain simply will not have a threat…what you're seeing in the escalation of the story is what it costs Ethan personally in Venice."
When asked if the pair had considered the possibility of killing off Simon Pegg's Benji Dunn or Ving Rhames' Luther Stickell, the director said "we explored them all" before ominously pointing out that the recent film is, after all, just Part One of the tale.