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Mission: Impossible Could Bring Back a Secretly Crucial Character

Here's how you make impossible missions seem plausible.

Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, Tom Cruise and Jeremy Renner in "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.'
Paramount Pictures

The longevity of the Mission: Impossible film series defies conventional wisdom about franchise-building, partly because when you look at all seven movies, it feels like several franchises at once. Yes, agents Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) appear in every single one of the movies, but, interestingly, they’re the only characters that share that distinction. In a way, since it launched in 1996 as a reimagining of the popular 1966 TV series of the same name, Mission: Impossible’s most consistent key ingredient is that it changes its premise and basic set-up about every two movies or so.

Right smack-dab in the middle of all of that are two stand-out installments, Mission: Impossible –Ghost Protocol (2011), and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015); films that have a more cohesive ensemble than some of the other entries. And, arguably, one key ingredient to those films is a deeply underrated Impossible character: William Brandt, as played by Jeremey Renner. This character hasn’t been in an M: I movie since Rogue Nation, but the actor has expressed interest in coming back. Here’s why he should, and why Renner’s Brandt was the secret glue holding this franchise together.

Speaking to Collider, Renner confirmed that he left the Impossible franchise under good conditions, and didn’t appear in Fallout or Dead Reckoning simply because he wanted to spend more time with his family. “It requires a lot of time away. It’s all in London,” Renner explained. “I had to go be a dad. It just wasn't gonna work out then.” But Renner’s kid is older, and the Mayor of Kingstown actor says he’s ready to return to the franchise at any time. “Maybe now that my daughter is older that could happen. I'd always jump into a Mission: Impossible anytime and back into Brandt,” he said.

While casual fans of Mission: Impossible might shrug their shoulders, the truth is, that having Brandt back for a future film in the franchise would be fantastic, for one simple reason — he grounds the franchise.

Mission: Impossible’s most realistic character?

Renner and Cruise in 2011.

Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

While Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt defies believability basically on purpose, and Simon Pegg’s Benji Dunn is a nerdy, relatable everyman, what the Mission: Impossible movies often lack is something that all good spy flicks need — a boss. In the James Bond films, the figure of M (Bernard Lee, Judi Dench, et al.) serves this purpose; a person who tells the secret agents what to do and why.

Since 1996, the Mission: Impossible movies have had, in essence, no consistent authority figure like this. In fact, nearly half the movies seem to focus on the IMF agents, and Hunt specifically, going rogue, including the most recent film, Dead Reckoning. But what made Brandt so great in Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation is that he was basically a working stiff within the CIA and IMF, who became an ally, but also a kind of faux-administrator. Within those two movies, the bureaucracy behind the IMF helps to make the outlandish plans of the bad guys seem more realistic because the logistics of the good guys seem somewhat grounded.

As Brandt, Renner got to be a kick-ass action hero, but also a down-to-earth counterpoint to the kind of braggadocios energy of Ethan Hunt. All the Mission: Impossible movies have their charms, but the two that are the best have Brandt. He’s not the most interesting character in the entire series, but in terms of making these impossible adventures seem real, he’s sneakily crucial.

So if Renner does return as Brandt either for the eight M:I film, or beyond, then that hypothetical movie will automatically be better than it could have been otherwise. And if you think otherwise, the secretary will disavow all knowledge of you reading this article.

Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning is streaming on Paramount+.

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