Mission Impossible 6 Fallout : Ethan Hunt's Contradiction (900 words)
There’s a few weird things in the new Mission Impossible : Fallout. I had nearly written an article about Rogue One when I saw it a few years ago because Solomon Lane was so clearly "Ethan Hunt’s Joker."
Hunt has something to hide and Lane knows what it is. The villain actually says it at the beginning of the movie: “Do you Ethan take Julia to be your lawful wedded wife, […] to protect her, to shield her from terrors known and unknown, to lie, to deceive, to live a double life, to fail to prevent her abduction, to erase her identity, to force her into hiding, to take away all she has known, in a selfish, futile, fleeting attempt at escaping your own true self.”
Of course it’s Solomon Lane -the bad guy- who is talking, and we can thus dismiss this accusation as being gratuitous because motivated by hate and contempt. The thing is, this conversation takes place in a dream and Lane’s words emerge from Ethan’s subconscious. The subconscious doesn’t lie and he tells us that Ethan’s decisions result from a strong desire to run away from whom he truly is. That’s quite a statement to make about your main character.
So ? What is Ethan running away from ?
I have no idea. I tend to forget the content of the movies of this franchise very quickly so I don’t remember much about the characters. I’d say that as the dream ends with a nuclear explosion (the end of everything), I suppose Ethan could be an orphan who is partly responsible for his parents’ death, hence being responsible for the “end of the world” and that like a serial killer, he is stuck in a loop, condemned to endlessly endanger the ones he loves in order to conjure up the trauma, something like that. I’m not writing the article about this, I only wanted to underline that it is suggested very early that we should question Ethan's choices and behaviour.
The movie problematizes the idea of sacrificing the life of innocent people in order to save even more innocent people and Ethan Hunt stands out as the guy who isn’t ready to sacrifice anybody.
Even though Mission Impossible : Fallout is far from being light-hearted, it could be perceived as some sort of funny reductio ad absurdum of this idea that no one should ever be sacrificed because Ethan seriously bends over backwards and takes monumental, ridiculous, unforgivable risks in order not to have to get blood on his hands. Nuclear bomb diffusion, super long car chases, shootouts, extreme hand-to-hand fights, super long helicopter chase, learning how to fly an helicopter on the spot etc… all of these things happen only because Ethan didn’t kill Luther Sitckell at the beginning, or Ilsa Faust when she attacked them, or that courageous lady cop, or Solomon Lane’s police escort etc…
The movie even goes as far as making you believe that Ethan does kill an innocent person, this just before recanting itself. But what it also shows us is the destruction of three cities by nuclear explosions, so that we are well aware of the scale of the tragic catastrophy that awaits the world if they don't succeed in their mission.
It might sound cold to suggest that Ethan should actually accept to sacrifice innocents, but we are talking about spies (and cops) and of three nuclear bombs. The scale of the threat is not the one of a Die Hard or Lethal Weapon movie. What’s the point of saving a Paris police officer’s life, if Paris is nuked on the next day ? Moreover, all these characters are, by definition, ready to die for the greater good, it’s the life they’ve chosen. It doesn’t mean that they want to die, but that they understand that sometimes lives have to be sacrificed in order to protect more lives as well as the structure of society.
In this context, Ethan Hunt’s considerations, decisions and approach look dangerously naive.
And so, the funny thing I wanted to point out is that every single ally he has proves him/herself ready to die for the cause at any moment and this without holding a grudge towards anybody (if they surprisingly survive obviously).
- Ethan shoots Luther in the chest. The guy is totally fine with it. It’s the job.
- Ilsa Faust blocks the way on her motorbikes when Ethan is fleeing with Lane. He runs over her. She won’t even bring the subject when they see each other again. Her feelings aren’t altered in the least. She totally accepts that he has a mission that is more important than her life.
- August Walker jumps from a plane into a storm for the sake of their mission. From the very start, he shows himself ready to put his life on the line.
- Alec Baldwin gets stabbed in the chest and dies. His last words are “go.” He doesn’t express any regrets. He doesn’t even say “get the nuclear bombs back.” It would have meant that he didn’t want to die “for nothing.” But he doesn’t say it because he is dying on the job and he is fine with it, nuclear bombs or not. It is the humble death of a soldier.
- The fight opposing Benji and Ilsa to Solomon Lane is a subtle example of this sacrificial philosophy. And it’s really important actually. Ilsa makes the huge mistake of trying to capture Lane and gets captured herself. In this context it means that she deprives her team of a help they would need to diffuse two nuclear bombs. That’s a very big mistake. Benji looks for her, finds her tied on a chair, is attacked by Lane who hangs him to a rope. Ilsa frees herself and fights Lane on her own. During this fight Benji, whose life is hanging by a thread, kicks Lane in order to help Ilsa, and endangers his own life even more. Eventually, Ilsa manages to choke Lane unconscious while at the same time Benji is himself falling unconscious. So, in this scene Benji nearly dies several times because of Ilsa’s mistake and he still accepts that she shouldn’t make “saving him” her priority. The mission remains the priority. If he had had to die while she was strangling Lane, so be it. It’s very important because, because of this tendency they all have to accept their own deaths as collateral damage, Benji doesn’t realise that she’s just risked the worst. He is the sole guy who can diffuse the bombs. His life was actually the most important thing at that moment, and the fact that Ilsa nearly does not save him should have made him suspicious… (We’ll talk about this in another article).
- Before the final mission, Ilsa states that their attempt at diffusing the nuclear bombs is technically a suicide mission. They still all go.
- Even the bad guy, Solomon Lane, doesn’t plan on surviving the final explosion. He calmly accepts his death and is even disappointed to see Ethan’s team succeeding into diffusing the bombs (saving his life).
It is really strange that the main character of the movie, the hero, should abide by rules that actually make no sense in the context of the story and which nobody expects him to follow. And by "really strange" I mean that it is meaningful and serves a purpose but this we'll see in another article.