Latest Mission: Impossible Elevates Heroic Character — With Faint Echoes of Advent
The latest Mission: Impossible entry highlights human dignity, with whispers of Homer’s The Odyssey... and the Christmas story.
Since 1996, the Mission: Impossible film franchise has featured Tom Cruise as Impossible Mission Force (IMF) agent Ethan Hunt. Full of plot twists and mistaken identities, Mission: Impossible Fallout released Tuesday on home media.
Action films not intended for children, the M:I series examines the ethical quandaries of spy craft. Of course, the franchise is known more for its creative tech and impressive stunts performed by Cruise himself with little CG trickery involved. The most successful entry so far, Fallout lit up the box office this summer.
Advancing Previous Plot
Since Mission: Impossible III, these films have become an inter-connected series of adventures. In ways large and small, through characters, references, and direct plot points, they seem to be telling a larger story. This latest entry in the series continues this trend.
The story picks up after the events of Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation. A familiar cast emerges in Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther Stickle (Ving Rhames). IMF Director Hunley (Alec Baldwin) and Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) also return.
Opening with a dream sequence of past events, Ethan awakens in a safe house. He is awaiting a new mission. Soon, it arrives in a weathered copy of Homer’s The Odyssey.
The mission involves preventing plutonium from falling into the hands of The Apostles. They are comprised of the remnants of Solomon Lane’s (Sean Harris) “Syndicate” from Rogue Nation. Led by the mysterious John Lark, they seek to disrupt holy sites around the world.
Character and Collateral Damage
Enter CIA agent August Walker (Henry Cavill). Walker joins Hunt to unmask the identity of Lark and recover the plutonium. CIA Director Sloane (Angela Bassett) believes Hunt cares more about individual lives and preventing collateral damage than the mission. IMF Director Hunley sees Hunt’s character as strength, not weakness.
While on mission, Ethan and Walker encounter Ilsa Faust. This sets various characters on paths where loyalty and identities are questioned. Meanwhile, lives hang in the balance.
In Forbes, Scott Mendelson writes: “Ethan Hunt is a character that is so unquestionably good, and lacking in cynicism, as a reflection of how Americans wish to see themselves. He has been defined by his unwillingness to sacrifice innocents or trade lives for the greater good. This is looked at not as a weakness but strength.”
Mendelson echoes the in-film assessment of Hunt’s character. It’s an understanding that Director Sloane comes to appreciate. She eventually sees Ethan view as valuable.
Leveraging Larger Stories
Fallout refers even to the first film. When a new character mentions someone named “Max” as being “something of a paradox” it’s a callback to Mission: Impossible.
In fact, Fallout may actually be going as far back as to echo Homer’s The Odyssey. The ancient tale opens in the middle of things. Odysseus has been absent from Ithaca for 20 years. In that time he fought the Trojan War and started for home. Meanwhile, his wife and son attempt to rebuff 100 suitors who desire marriage.
Odysseus is enroute to Ithaca, returning to his life before the war. This journey languished thanks to antagonists like the dreaded Cyclops. Odysseus confronts, deceives, and subsequently blinds him.
Throughout this journey, Odysseus is often commended for his cleverness; such as when he deceives the Cyclops about his identity. Odysseus declares himself “No Man” so that when the Cyclops cried out “no man is killing me”, no one believes.
Odysseus arrives home, disguised. His wife suspects him and arranges a contest. She will marry whoever shoots an arrow through ten axes. Disguised, he does this; identity confirmed. A husband, wife, and son are reunited.
Ancient Epic Echoes True Story of Advent
The hero of Homer’s epic symbolizes loyalty, cleverness and, ultimately, an unmasked identity. Things are hardly what they seem at first. These elements are present in recent Mission: Impossible films, including Fallout.
Each film begins “in the middle of things” and features a clever hero in Ethan Hunt. He attempts to complete critical missions while minimizing collateral damage. Frequent uses of disguises and voice tricks mask true identities while on missions.
Ethan’s story includes leaving his wife to go on a rescue mission. This endangers his wife whom he has to rescue. A prolonged separation between husband and wife, for reasons of safety and security, transpires over three films. Their reunion highlights the power of loyalty and love.
Often we find tales in our time are trying to impart something transcendent, from times long past. The higher truth is seen here in Hunt’s heroic moral compass, which keeps him selflessly focused on others.
Indeed, the season of Advent reveals the ultimate story of separation, sacrifice, masked identity and reunification. We would do well to listen to these lessons; otherwise, the mission of living and learning might be near impossible.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and brief strong language, Mission: Impossible Fallout releases today on home media. Watch below to learn about the film’s most ambitious scene. Explore The Stream’s complete films coverage, and sign up to receive top stories every week.