Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 ending explained

Cameron Frew
The ending of Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part 1Paramount Pictures

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 has a pulse-racing final act – so, here’s a breakdown of the ending and what it means for Part 2.

In our review, we called M:I7 a “whooping, stirring bonanza of big-screen magic” and a “year-defining action picture caught in the crossfire of itself… your jaw will drop beneath a twitching eye.”

Forget the Rabbit’s Foot. Never mind the Syndicate. Dead Reckoning revolves around the franchise’s deadliest threat yet: artificial intelligence; more specifically, the Entity, a Skynet-esque AI that went rogue after a disastrous test on a Russian submarine. Every country in the world is following the party line: find the cruciform keys that unlock… something, and destroy it – but they’re all dirty, power-hungry liars.

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There’s only one team for the job: the IMF (not the International Monetary Fund, as one clueless defense bigwig asks), but these keys carry a heavy toll – and a fair bit of head-scratching background. So, we have endeavored to explain the ending of Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1.

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 ending explained

Mission: Impossible 7 ends with Ethan, Benji, Luther, and Grace as the new core IMF team, armed with the keys to the Entity and left to fend for themselves in their mission to find the Sevestapol submarine, which holds the secret to the AI.

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The AI itself is a bit of a mystery – you can read our more detailed explainer here. The US stole it and tested an early prototype in an effort to trick a covert Russian submarine into thinking it had been detected by an enemy, but according to Denlinger, the head of national security, it “overperformed” and caused the Russians’ torpedo to circle back and sink the submarine. Yet, for some reason, the AI’s power source appears to be onboard.

The movie really heats up in Venice. Ethan, Grace, and Ilsa go to see the White Widow – aka Alana Mitsopolis – to negotiate what to do with the keys, but their meeting is hijacked by Gabriel, a “dark messiah” who represents the Entity’s interests. Ethan begs Alana not to sell her side of the key to him; in this case, the key to world domination happens to be a key. The whole idea is that the AI knows everything that could possibly happen and what exactly will happen. “His fate is written, shall we write yours too?” Gabriel asks, and Alana lets him go.

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Gabriel and Paris in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part 1Paramount Pictures

Gabriel then reveals what will happen next: he’ll eventually have possession of both keys, and either Grace or Ilsa will die. “There is no place you or your god can save you,” Ethan threatens, vowing to kill him if either of them is hurt, but he was right: Ilsa is fatally stabbed on a bridge while trying to fight Gabriel with a sword, and Hunt’s speedy running isn’t quick enough to get to her in time. “I was hoping it’d be you,” Gabriel tells Ilsa before they clash blades, making her death all the more personal.

The next day, Grace is devastated over Ilsa’s death, feeling she’s responsible. Luther assures her she’s not, but reminds her that she’s in a lot of trouble and only has one option left: “the choice” to accept a mission and join the team, just as Ethan, Luther, and Benji were all once offered. She hesitantly accepts, and they put together a plan to get on the train where the sale of the keys is taking place – naturally, it involves them assuming the identities of the White Widow and her brother in masks.

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Before they head off, the mission has some setbacks: Luther tells Ethan he needs to go somewhere really off-grid because the Entity may have left scraps of its source code on his hard drive when it took over their comms, and the mask machine stops working when it’s making one for Ethan, so Grace needs to board the train alone. Ethan promises to find a way onto the train, but it won’t be easy.

Mission Impossible 7 ending explained: Strangers on a speeding train

Grace successfully gets onto the train as Alana and hides in a carriage before ambushing the real White Widow. With her knocked out, Grace heads down the train to meet the buyer… and it’s Kittridge, who’s apparently known her and her “nefarious family” since she was a little girl (remember, she’s the daughter of Max from the very first Mission: Impossible). Grace struggles to keep calm, but she tries to secure herself some insurance by getting Kittridge to vow to protect her (even though he doesn’t know it’s her behind the mask) as part of the sale.

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Meanwhile, Gabriel and Paris meet Denlinger, who wants to establish an alliance – mainly because he’s the only one who knows where it is, despite giving up the name of the submarine rather quickly. Gabriel asks if Denlinger wants to “purge” his government of “old think and create a new superstate”, and Denlinger says it’s for the “greater good.” It’s unclear if Kittridge and Denlinger are in cahoots, especially given the villainous undertones of Denlinger’s sentiments.

Gabriel then kills Denlinger by slicing his throat and attacks Paris, believing she’ll eventually betray him and feed everything back to Ethan (it’s not really explained why, other than Ethan letting her live in a brawl in Venice).

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Cary Elwes as Denlinger in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part 1Paramount Pictures

Kittridge agrees to the deal and begins the transfer of $10 million, but after giving him the key, Grace declines the money… and takes the key back again, before fleeing. When the real Alana wakes up, Kittridge realizes what happened and orders her brother to find “the other one.” Just as Grace is surrounded, Ethan comes to the rescue, crashing through the carriage window in his parachute.

Oh, we forgot to mention that Gabriel broke the train’s brakes, meaning Ethan couldn’t hop onto it on his bike. So, instead, he drove up a mountain and off the side of a cliff into a base jump, before making his way to the train through the air.

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In the mayhem, Gabriel manages to grab hold of the completed key, so they split up. Ethan chases Gabriel onto the top of the train, where they duke it out at high speeds and under tunnels, and Grace legs it to the front of the train to find a way to slow it down. Just as Ethan is about to give into temptation and stick a knife into Gabriel’s throat, Jasper stops him, and he comes to his senses. Gabriel escapes by perfectly timing a fall onto a passing truck with a crash mat in the back, but he doesn’t realize Ethan swapped out the key in his pocket for a lighter.

Meanwhile, Grace can’t stop the train, so they come up with another solution: they detach the front carriage, and it plummets off the tracks into the ravine. The problem hasn’t been solved, as the train is still grinding ahead towards the fall, so Ethan and Grace run, skip, and jump along the train in the world’s most hazardous obstacle course. Just as they’re about to fall to their death, Paris grabs Ethan’s hand and gets them both to safety.

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“He told me I would betray him… voila,” she says as her breathing becomes weaker, but she manages to tell Ethan about the submarine before slipping away… into unconsciousness, as Degas later finds her and she still has a pulse, so we can look forward to seeing her again in Dead Reckoning Part 2.

Ethan finds a speed wing that’ll get him off the train before he’s caught… but it’s only designed for one. So, they go through with the original plan: Grace allows herself to be apprehended while Ethan escapes, but she goes straight to Kittridge and says she was told she could trust him, and that she was given “the choice.”

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As the movie draws to a close, Ethan successfully reunites with Benji, and Kittridge gives a rousing monologue about the IMF team having to find the key alone. “The world doesn’t know it, but they’re counting on you,” he says.

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 is in cinemas worldwide now. Check out our other coverage below:

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About The Author

Cameron is Deputy TV and Movies Editor at Dexerto. He's an action movie aficionado, '80s obsessive, Oscars enthusiast, and a staunch Scot. He earned a First-Class Honours Degree in Multimedia Journalism from Glasgow Caledonian University, accredited by the NCTJ and BJTC. He began his career at UNILAD, starting as a Junior Journalist and becoming Entertainment Editor prior to joining Dexerto. You can contact him at cameron.frew@dexerto.com.