Tom Cruise has been front and center in the four Mission: Impossible films, but his team of spy comrades has seen some turnover since the series launched in 1996. Ethan Hunt has worked with a number of IMF agents, leading a different squad of supporting players in each go-around.

While some of his allies have chosen to accept multiple missions (Simon Pegg appeared in Mission: Impossible 3 and Ghost Protocol), the lone constant in Hunt’s social circle has been computer expert Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames). Playing main roles in the first three installments, the actor made a surprise cameo at the very end of Ghost Protocol, joking it up with his old friend over a couple of drinks.

The nature of that scene made it seem that Stickell’s days in the game were over, but apparently, he’s not retiring just yet. Mission: Impossible 5 director Christopher McQuarrie tweeted the following, saying that Rhames is coming back for the December 2015 sequel:

There’s no word yet on how sizable Rhames’ part will be, but it’s plausible that Stickell will be a key figure this time, given that the director is announcing the actor’s involvement. Typically, minor roles like the one Rhames had in Ghost Protocol are not the subject of much fanfare (prior to theatrical release, that is).

The return of Rhames gives M:I 5 a bit of a family reunion vibe, as both Pegg and Jeremy Renner are set to reprise their characters of Benji Dunn and William Brandt, respectively. As McQuarrie sets up his unit, fans can now look forward to Hunt and Stickell continuing their longstanding partnership and adding a new chapter to their history together, while Dunn and Brandt offer more of their friendly banter that gave Ghost Protocol several entertaining moments.

This development is a positive one, as it will give the series a sense of continuity that it has largely lacked to this point. As the franchise looks to maintain the momentum from Ghost Protocol‘s critical and commercial reception (perhaps the best in the series), giving audiences something familiar to hold onto could be good for its prospects. Since M:I 5 will be released just one week after Star Wars: Episode VII, it’ll need all the help it can get in that department.

It’s unknown if Paula Patton will be returning as well, but since Rebecca Ferguson has been cast as the film’s leading lady, we have reason to believe Patton’s spot has been taken by the newcomer – who is described as “Tom Cruise’s right-hand woman.”

Nevertheless, fans of M:I should get excited to see the band mostly come back together, and a cast of favorites fighting a global threat has the potential to be a fun treat for viewers next holiday season. Between this and a return to a galaxy far, far away, December 2015 is shaping up to be a memorable month for moviegoers.

Mission: Impossible 5 will hit theaters on December 25, 2015.

Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisAgar90.

Source: Christopher McQuarrie