As discussed previously as well, being topical is one of the strengths of the Mission Impossible franchise, and returning director Christopher McQuarrie understands that pretty well. In the age of post-truth, where information, artificial intelligence, and global surveillance turn out to be playing the role of kingmakers, human efficiency is reduced to null. Therefore, for Ethan Hunt, gone are the days of chasing evil terrorists hell-bent on launching a global pandemic, ruthless arms dealers, or genius criminal masterminds, as in his thirty-year espionage career, the most overpowered enemy he faces in Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning is a sentient AI named ‘Entity.’ This new enemy of Ethan is omnipresent, near-omniscient, and almost intangible, yet it has the potential to send the earth back to the Stone Age. We will discuss more about the Entity, its connection with the key that initiates Ethan’s latest mission, and how it might impact the direct sequel Dead Reckoning Part 2.
A Faceless Enemy: How Is The Entity Connected With The Key?
The seventh chapter of the MI franchise begins with the introduction of the Entity, which highlights its disastrous capabilities even with a glimpse of its action. The Russian state-of-the-art submarine Sevastopol, which was supposedly inimitable in its stealth tech and defense, had its mainframe access locked in a chamber that had to be opened by combining two halves of a particular cruciform key. As the naval officers prepare to go through their defense drills, the mainframe gets almost ‘possessed’ by the Entity, which manipulates the digital interface in such a way that, on the sub’s radar, an enemy naval vessel is displayed, along with its inbound torpedo attacks. Panicked, the Marines trigger a tracking torpedo directed at the vessel, and to their utter shock, they see both the enemy vessel and its artillery disappearing off of the radar. Breathing a sigh of relief, the officers command to turn off the torpedoes only to find out their own torpedo is now headed back towards the sub itself. The entire mainframe is compromised at that point, and there is nothing to do except wait for imminent death.
Later, during the conversation between Gabriel and the corrupt DNI Denlinger, it is revealed that the AI was created by the U.S. in the first place. In their effort to empower it by hacking through several international encrypted defense databases and feeding it information, they created this digital god of sorts—an all-powerful artificial intelligence that gained sentience without their knowing. As a result, when the intelligence officials tried to test its capabilities by trying to bypass the stealth mechanism of the Sevastopol, it sought out a chance to break free, transferred its own source code into the security mainframe of the submarine, and tried to make itself inaccessible by sinking the submarine. This was only the beginning; as soon as the Entity gained freedom it started feeding from the entire digital landscape, leaving its footprints through every sector like finance, defense, media, and education, basically on any interface that is not analog or depends on physical copies.
It goes without saying how much of a threat a mechanism like this poses, which can initiate a World War on a whim, decimate entire countries overnight, agitate masses, cripple the world economy, or even cause the extinction of the entire human race. It is not the first time AI gaining sentience and acting evil has threatened global catastrophe; the Terminator franchise was ahead of its time in showing the implication of an overly tech-dependent world, and in the MCU’s Age of Ultron, Tony Stark created sentient AI Ultron, who saw the horrors of human and superhuman kind and tried to create a new world order. What the MI franchise does with its evil AI entity is a little less complex, more straightforward, and in total sync with the franchise’s tone itself. Even though it has all the chance to strike and decimate humanity, the Entity seeks primarily to preserve itself, and its algorithm has detected the magnificent super-spy Ethan Hunt as its ultimate adversary, even before Ethan knew it.
While greedy, power-hungry world governments lunge at the opportunity to take control of the AI, obviously underestimating its potential yet again, Ethan soon realizes there’s no stopping or controlling this digital menace—only getting rid of it by purging its very existence. Knowing Ethan’s weakness, the Entity chooses its human conduit carefully—it’s Gabriel, with whom Ethan shares a sordid past. The Entity knows that choosing Gabriel to go after the key and secure it will not allow Ethan to operate at his full mental capacity, which will either result in Ethan’s demise or Ethan acting hastily and killing Gabriel, which will ensure the safety of the AI forever. Luther, the genius techie, warns Ethan of this, as he has to essentially play 4D chess with this enemy, making decisions that are calculative and cold, trying to stay one step ahead. Luther himself goes into seclusion by the end of the movie to learn more about the Entity’s true form and get rid of it once and for all.
What Does Ethan Possessing The Key Imply For The Future?
By the end of the movie, Ethan successfully manages to take the combined key to the Sevastopol mainframe from Gabriel, escapes the authorities, and reunites with Benji. The easier part of the job is done: assembling the key and possessing it. Now he has to prepare himself for the toughest phase. Learning the name of the related object that gets unlocked by the key, ‘Sevastopol,’ Ethan will inevitably try to reach the submarine, but in his path, not only are a vengeful AI and his human conduit going to become a blockade, but also all the world’s governments and powerful dregs of the underworld like White Widow are going to have a hand in the game. Taking up the job, Ethan might as well have signed his own death warrant, as bypassing the entire world’s intelligence network and destroying the all-seeing, all-knowing menace while keeping his own identity hidden is an impossible task, to begin with. But then again, that’s the kind of job Ethan Hunt usually undertakes.