There’s a moment near the beginning of Mission: Impossible: Fallout — when can-do American agent Ethan Hunt is receiving the recorded details of his impossible mission via reel-to-reel video embedded in a copy of Homer’s Odyssey and activated by blood sample, because hey wouldn’t it be cool if — when the attention is caught and the interest roused in altogether unexpected fashion. Rogue agent…terror for hire…evil network…nuclear bomb…mad scientist…extreme anti-religious views…wait, what? Is Mission: Impossible going to serve up a bad guy on a crusade against religion? A truly militant atheist, dedicated to the belief that belief is what’s poisoning the world, that faith is what must be expunged if civilization is to be saved? Is Tom Cruise, whose religious beliefs are the one thing that keeps him from being utterly anodyne (my companion at the screening called him “The McDonald’s hamburger of movie stars — nobody wants to admit they like him, but every now and then, you just want one”), going to have to fight on the side of the angels — literally? Will the villain get his chance to make true believers squirm as he pontificates (heh) about the Crusades, the Inquisition, honor killings, and the many instances of man’s inhumanity to man in the name of his gods? How…invigorating. Original, even — given the context.
Mission: Impossible - Fallout
Alas. The anti-religious aspect is done away with before the opening credits — though not before an arresting news montage showing the aftermath of nuclear attacks on the Vatican, Jerusalem, and Mecca, and the mad scientist’s mad claim that, having suffered mutual catastrophes, adherents of Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam will finally be at peace with one another. It’s a pity, because without it, all we’re left with is formula, however proven. The McDonald’s hamburger of action movies.
Well, maybe that’s not entirely fair. Maybe the Wendy’s. Everything was exactly as expected — the switcheroos, the goofy tech, the acrobatic punch-ups, the motorized mayhem, the subdued romantic longing, and oh yes, the bloated indulgence within nearly every set piece — but there were some darn tasty aspects. I swooned as Cruise plummeted through the sky toward the lights of Paris. I grinned like an idiot when he started running, running, running across the rooftops, face rigid with determination as he simultaneously pursued his quarry and eluded the ravages of time. I gasped in awe at the deadly splendor of his cliffside struggle with the big baddie.
In short, I had a pretty good time, wincing only when loyal friend Ving Rhames was forced to manipulate heartstrings instead of bomb wires and when various higher ups were forced to comment on the tricky ethics of choosing one life over a million. Hrm — maybe it’s a good thing they steered clear of religion.