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Ethan Hunt, Sexism and “Mission: Impossible – Fallout”

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Even For A Fan, I Found Mission: Impossible - Fallout Underwhelming
Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible - Fallout | Image credit: Paramount Pictures

No, I am not a Tom Cruise fan. He overacts whenever he can get away with it and that he is too full of himself gets projected on the screen even when the character he’s playing demands a more low-key performance.

Still and all, I did enjoy some of his movies while I vehemently hated others. My favorite Tom Cruise film remains Edge of Tomorrow and the most hatable is The Mummy followed closely by War of the Worlds. And there are films that I enjoyed tremendously despite Cruise’s over-the-top oozing-with-machismo performance. Interview with the Vampire and Minority Report, for instance. And I am a fan of four of the five Mission: Impossible films before Fallout (the first film was bleh).

I mention all that because I have a feeling that many of the critics that heaped praises on Mission: Impossible — Fallout are Tom Cruise fans and they assessed the movie not for its substance but because they are awed by Cruise. He’s 56 and still able to do stunts that even men half his age might not be willing, or might not be able, to pull off. And with that in mind, they found Fallout impressive — so impressive that it currently holds a 98% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, the highest among all six Mission: Impossible films.

The truth is, it doesn’t matter whether or not Cruise did all or none of the stunts. The only issue is whether the action scenes were shot and edited well enough to look impressive on screen. If they were, then, the action scenes are all plus points when reviewing the film. But, no, many of the critics just go on and on about Tom Cruise doing the stunts as though what appeared on screen would be less impressive had the stunts been executed by a double. Sigh.

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in "Mission: Impossible - Fallout"

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” | Image credit: Paramount Pictures

If Fallout were viewed by someone who does not know about Tom Cruise’s penchant for doing his stunts, would he have found the film impressive? If he did, then, that’s the time to say it really is a good film.

I tried hard not to fall asleep during the first half of Fallout. That’s a first in all my Mission: Impossible experiences. Even the first film did not bore me that badly. I found it tiresome that they had to make it a sequel of Rogue Nation when the story of Solomon Lane had effectively ended with Rogue Nation‘s end credits.

And I found it even more tiresome that someone (the director, the writers or Cruise himself?) thought it a good idea to humanize Ethan Hunt by presenting him with moral dilemmas (just like what the James Bond people did when Daniel Craig took over the role in Casino Royale) while, at the same time, make him physically even more of a killing machine a la Jason Bourne. You know, less scenes with impossibly high-tech gadgets and more rough and tumble.

That made me ponder Ethan Hunt for two days. Ethan Hunt is not a character from the old TV series in which the Mission: Impossible films were based. The only character carried over from the TV series was Jim Phelps and he was turned into a villain and killed off in the first film. Ethan Hunt was created for Tom Cruise who has served as producer in all the Mission: Impossible films.

Scene from "Mission: Impossible - Fallout"

Scene from “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” | Image credit: Paramount Pictures

What was Ethan Hunt meant to be from the start? An American James Bond to soothe the ego of Tom Cruise because, not bring British, he could never hope to play the MI6 spy?

Because… looking back at the older Mission: Impossible films, they all followed the James Bond formula. Even the sexism. In every film, there is always a beautiful woman who either betrays him or, worse, who is made to use her sexuality to accomplish the mission.

In the first film, Claire Phelps (Emmanuelle Béart), wife and puppet of Jim Phelps, betrayed Hunt and the IMF team. And she died for what she did. Just like Vesper Lynd who did what she did because of a man and died for it.

In Mission: Impossible 2, Hunt asked Nyah Nordoff-Hall (played by Thandie Newton) to whore her way back into Sean Ambrose’s (Dougray Scott) bed to provide him with the information he needed.

In Mission: Impossible III, Zhen Lei (played by Maggie Q) donned a femme fatale attire for her encounter with Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

And who can forget that scene in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol when Jane Carter (Paula Patton) seduced Indian telecommunications entrepreneur Brij Nath to get the satellite override code?

I wonder if Sabine Moreau (Léa Seydoux) needed to show all that cleavage or if Ilsa Faust’s (Rebecca Fergusson) yellow evening dress in the Vienna Opera House scene needed to expose so much thigh.

Given all that… Am I looking forward to a seventh Mission: Impossible film?

No — not if, again, it’s going to be another vehicle for an aging Tom Cruise to showcase just how fit he still is. If Tom Cruise is the savvy producer and actor that many say he is, he should know how to quit while he’s ahead.