Saturday, February 10, 2018

Contract vs Covenant: Mission Impossible 6 Fallout

This poster is amazing. We know the silhouette is Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), and we know the poor fool dangling for life at the end of that rope held by the helicopter is also Ethan; what the image manifests is that Ethan Hunt literally embodies the man who can do anything and everything required of him. Why is this important? Isn't this just the traditional cardboard copy of a "hero?" Well, being a white, heterosexual male was never been so controversial, so much so, that to be masculine is automatically attributed to having "toxic masculinity," and that is being labeled as the enemy of humanity by liberals, even to the point of colleges and universities having seminars to discuss it and offering classes to young white men to overcome their masculinity. But it obviously hasn't stopped on campuses: 90% of teenage boys have been found to have gender-bending chemicals in their bodies, in other words, plastics are being laced with chemicals to make teenage boys feel less masculine, so they don't grow up identifying with men like Ethan Hunt, rather, they grow up identifying with women like Hillary Clinton. So, Ethan Hunt is being put forward as, literally, the man embodying what it means to be a man.
If you haven't seen the trailer yet, please watch it and then jump back to read this part, otherwise, this isn't going to make sense. When Solomon Lane tells Ethan about the "fallout of all your good intentions," Lane doesn't say that to Hunt; Lane says that to every single white, heterosexual male alive, because it's happening to every single one of them right now: the nuclear explosion of what they thought they were doing to make the world a better, safer place for the greatest possible number of people, is, instead, going to explode and there is going to be bloodshed (as in, civil war) because the very people for whom these white men have had their good intentions geared towards, are the ones who hate and despise them for it, namely, feminists and poor minorities. Fallout, then, serves as a rallying for men to remember who they are, what they are about, and why they do what they do. And God bless them, each and every one.
The biggest and most expensive showcasing of new movie trailers has come and gone with the Superbowl, but it's not without purpose: studios put money where their profits are--or where their profits will be, or where they think their profits will be--and what potential audiences to know that. Of the numerous trailers paraded around, the first for Mission Impossible 6: Fallout definitely stands out.
"Your mission, should you choose to accept it," is arguably the most famous line of the MI6 franchise; hearing the mocking tone of deliciously-evil baddie Solomon Lane (Sean Harris, who is coming back from Rogue Nation) taunting Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) provides the thesis of the film. Now, in Rogue Nation, it was the slightly obnoxious boss Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) accusing Ethan and team of just "being lucky" which separated the film into the dramatic dichotomy of "luck" vs "skill" (please see Desperate, Times Desperate Measures: MI5 for more). With this introductory trailer, we appear to be given a new dichotomy to explore: the free will to say yes, and the free will to say no. Lane asks Hunt if he ever said, "No, I don't accept this mission," and understanding why Ethan would never say no is a great place to start.
Mirror, Mirror, on the wall,... A shot like this guarantees this film has a exceedingly high level of artistry and encoding going on. Why? Mirrors symbolize "reflection," (bet you didn't see that one coming, eh?) but it's reflection on a deeper, interior level, the ability to meditate upon what one is doing and who one truly is. We have no idea what's happening in this scene, however, Ilsa and Ethan looking at each other thusly, surrounded by mirrors, suggests this is an important scene for them both in terms of their characters and the relationship their characters have with the other (both of them saved each others' lives numerous times in Rogue Nation, so they have an important connection and past). I'm not ready to discuss Ilsa at this point: we simply don't know enough about her role in the film, however, we can make three comments regarding this scene with Ethan (top image). First, looking each eye-to-eye, they are equals; second, Ilsa wears a brown suit, brown symbolizes humility (brown is the color of dirt, so either one humbles their self to the level of dirt--no one is beneath me--or this person is literally dirty, like dirt, they have dirtied their character in some way) and, thirdly, Ilsa's hair is pulled back in a pony tail, not a style we have seen her character wear. The hair, as we know, symbolizes our thoughts, because our thoughts originate within our head, so hair or anything on our head manifests what type of thoughts that character has; her hair pulled back suggests Ilsa is disciplining her thoughts, keeping them in check; this suggests she's having to trust Ethan instead of, perhaps, her own understanding of the situation.
On a different level, this is one of at least two references to John Wick Chapter 2: the art exhibit, Reflections On the Soul, where John performs some incredible gun work, was filled with hallways and mirrors, meant to illustrate that the gunmen he was killing in that sequence were actually John's own demons (please see John Wick Chapter 2 for more). We have no idea, at this point, we happens, or who is involved, however, a ton will be going on in this scene, and I can't wait for the chance to decode it! What we can say is, this is a hallway (bottom image) and we know hallways symbolize a journey, a passage from one state of being/thought to another (again, we see this used with great skill in John Wick Chapter 2, as well as Spectre). 
The majority of readers at this blog are Christians, so let's use that example. When God asks us to say yes to Him in carrying a cross or accepting some burden, we say yes to God, but we are the ones who benefit because we are rid of sin which blots out our identity, gifts and destiny to be who and what God created us for. Ethan Hunt is the same way: if Ethan says "no" to a mission, he doesn't get a chance to be Ethan Hunt, Ethan Hunt IS Ethan Hunt because Ethan dangled from the outside of an airplane, he climbed up the glass of a skyscraper in Dubai, etc., etc., etc.,..... If he had said no to any of his missions, he would not have become who he was meant to be, so saying yes to a mission is, in fact, saying "yes" to being Ethan Hunt. Why does Solomon Lane think Ethan should have said no to those missions?
Several reasons.
What is the point of referencing other films? When one film intentionally invokes in the audience an image or sequence reminding them of something similar they would have seen in another film, the film makers want the audience to know that they agree with what that referenced film is saying, they want to reference that thesis and idea, the energy of the hero, the villainy of the villain and even the political undertones. In this particular scene (again, we have no idea what's actually happening), we see the team traveling on boats in a way that, to me, invokes Skyfall, after MI6 has been blown up (yes, the British Intelligence office, and the title of this sixth installment of Mission Impossible) and Bond is transported via boat to the new, underground offices used by Churchill during World War II. Likewise, the night club scene we see in the trailer, invokes the scene in John Wick Chapter 2 when Wick goes to kill Gianna at her coronation; again, we have no idea at this point the context, however, pinpointing certain reference points now will help us when we watch the film and get caught up in the action, it will be easier to remember, "Oh, yea, I was supposed to be paying attention to this."
First of all, Lane is selfish. He's a villain, after all, and greed/selfishness are the typical trademarks of typical villains (so we won't become selfish/greedy ourselves because we see in the movies where those dark sins lead). Lane is the type that thinks you say yes to yourself by saying "yes" to your appetites: sex, money, power, global nuclear domination, and hobbies such as that. To Solomon Lane, people such as Ethan Hunt are selfless-suckers, i.e., naive and weak. This is the reason his name is "Solomon Lane," because Lane's character refuses to walk the path (Lane) of wisdom (Solomon). So, Ethan Hunt always says yes to doing his missions because he wouldn't be Ethan Hunt if he said no; there is, however, another reason to say yes: Julia.
Again, we have another wonderful reference to John Wick Chapter 2, when Wick stands at the top of the stairs down to his basement, and he goes down to bury his guns, gold coins and "work clothes." Here's the thing: when we see characters going up, like up stairs, that means the character and we the audience, are meant to ascend to a higher level of consciousness about the upcoming scene: maybe it's more abstract, or we will have to do some work to figure out what's really going on, but the film makers give us that visual clue. When a character descends, as in going down stairs in this scene, they are going deeper into their unconscious, the--literally--darker area of their own psyche they don't visit very often. We have no idea what takes place in this scene (the trailer leads us to believe Hunt talks to Solomon Lane in this sequence, but that probably isn't accurate), but what we can say is that Ethan Hunt finds something undesirable, something he hasn't wanted to think about or face, but has to now, something, even, that may threaten his life (since he has his gun drawn).
The name of Angela Basset's character has not yet been released, however, let's just refer to her as Loretta Lynch. When Hunley mentions that Ethan and his team would be dead, she replies, "That's the job," in other words, we have a contract with them to be willing to pay that price. This is what makes "Lynch's" character a socialist: Ethan and his team have no value to her apart from their functions, they have no individuality or inherent worth as humans, only as expendable government commodities.
Angela Basset's character is not yet named, so this "Loretta Lynch" is probably someone I am being a bit hard on; why? Well, she does wear all black: black allows symbolizes death, but there is good death (dying to the temptations of the world so the spirit can be alive with virtue, as when Ethan wears all black) or, dead to virtues and alive to things of this world; my guess, that she disregards the lives of others so quickly, is the later, however, she wears pearls around her neck. The neck, we know, symbolizes what leads/guides us in life, and pearls always symbolize wisdom: there is wisdom we readily recognize and take up as our own, but there is also the wisdom we disregard, the pearls before swine, those who fail to recognize the wisdom of a situation or the path of wisdom (as in Solomon Lane). So, it's possible that, just as Alan Hunley was "converted" to Ethan's side in Ghost Protocol, "Lynch" will be converted as well.
It's awesome to see Henry Cavill as August Walker, he did a fabulous job in The Man From UNCLE and I'm so excited to see him in this. "August Walker" is a rather odd name: does he like to take walks in hot weather? Probably not. "August," however, might refer to "Augustus," a leader--just as Solomon was a king--and "Walker," just as with Solomon Lane's last name, implies the will of his character (because we walk with our feet and feet symbolize our will because feet take us where we want to go and we go where we will to go). So, "August Walker" might denote a character who walks in the footsteps of a leader, a man who restores order. Given the subtitle of the film, Fallout, there will probably be a lot for August Walker to do. HOWEVER, I would like to add this disclosure just in case I'm wrong: at 2:20 in the trailer, when I first watched it, I assumed Walker and Hunt were in the same helicopter and Walker was firing on the bad guys; the helicopter Hunt controls is so small, it doesn't look like there is room for Walker in it, so this suggests that Walker turns--or was a double for Solomon Lane the whole time--and instead of helping Hunt, ends by trying to kill him (at 2:23, Hunt appears to definitely be alone in his helicopter, with no room for Walker, unless Walker fell out). If this is the case, then the name August Walker links to Solomon Lane being that they were both meant and destined to be great men, but they chose to walk a different path instead.
In the image above, Walker makes an interesting gesture: he looks at his watch. How many people still wear watches today? Mostly, people will look at their phones to tell them the time, so this is a bit of an unusual gesture in a high-tech film such as Mission Impossible, but it's a heavily symbolic gesture. Time usually symbolizes history, the past, so Walker looking at the watch as he walks (what his name is, hence, the action with which we are so associate with his character) means he's someone mindful of what has happened in the past and it's effects on the current situation, which figures perfectly with the line we here from Walker: how many times has Hunt been abandoned and disavowed? This is someone familiar with Hunt's past, and someone who understands that history is going to have a role to play in Ethan's future. 
Then, there is Ethan's wife, Julia, who we saw briefly in Ghost Protocol. "How is he?" she asks Luther, "Oh, you know, the same old Ethan." Lynch's character illustrates what America has become the last eight or nine years under Obama, the liberals and Democrats; Julia, however, symbolizes America the motherland (because she's of child-bearing age) with whom Ethan has a covenant, that of marriage, whereas he only has a contract with the government. Everything Ethan does is to protect Julia (as the motherland who gave birth to him and loves him) and it's Julia who now comes to the aid of her patriotic husband ("son" of the motherland) who has been disavowed and shamed. In other words, when Ethan feels he doesn't want to be Ethan Hunt anymore (Ethan's about to attack a man handcuffed to the hospital bed and Luther says, "That's not who we are," and Ethan replies, "Maybe we should reconsider that,") Julia is going to remind Ethan that what he and his team do, they do to protect America and the world out of love. In still other words, Ethan Hunt should be wearing a red cape.
Seeing Solomon Lane die like this means there is all ready a happy ending! Talk about poetic justice! (If Lane survives this scene, it's probably Ethan who saves him). In the image in the top of the three, Solomon Lane now has reddish hair; if you will recall, he had blonde hair in MI5 when we first met him (please see the very last image in this post for reference). Again, hair helps to manifest the thoughts of a character, so in MI5, when he had really blonde hair (almost white), so white symbolizes death, a soul without the virtues of faith, hope, charity, and that fits a villain well; what about the move to red hair? We know red symbolizes our blood, because that is the most valuable thing we have, so we are only willing to spend our blood on what we truly want in life (our appetites): either we love someone so much we are willing to spill our (red) blood to save them, or we hate them so much, we are willing to spill their (red) blood to appease our wrath, so it appears Solomon Lane has been filled with thoughts of wrath and vengeance against Ethan. What about that shaggy beard? Men's facial hair can be a bit tricky to analyze--the meaning often changes with the context--however, we can say that, generally speaking, a man with a clean shaven face is one who has overcome his appetites, while a man with a beard (especially one as un-kept as Solomon's) is a sign of the appetites and a barbarian (remember, guys, this is art, not a personal statement about you and how you wear your hair). This observation is based on the difference between the clean-shaven Romans and their "barbarian" slaves. So, since MI5, Solomon has undergone some big changes, specifically, he appears by his hair and beard, to have become less cold-blooded and precise (as in the image at the bottom of this post) and become more blood-thirsty and personally driven to vengeance (but these are just speculations).
What else? The syringe held to his neck in the top image reminds me of Suicide Squad:  when the baddies of the Suicide Squad were given a choice between being a benefit to society or just being evil, they went ahead and decided to do good and help save the world (partly because they had that death-syringe which injected them so they would die instantly if they disobeyed). Solomon, on the other hand, wants the world to end, so he doesn't even have a clue what's in his own best interest (because then he, too, dies) which means Harley Quinn is a step up on him, because at least she had that much common sense. What about that white strait jacket? For some perverse reason, I always enjoy a villain in a strait jacket: it's so appropriate. Why? The jacket secures the arms; the arms symbolize strength; so the villain used their strength to harm others rather than to help others; the white color of the strait jacket (they seem to be nearly always white) refers to death. When a corpse decomposes, it turns white (without the aid of modern embalming technology) but white usually refers to the virtues of innocence, purity, faith, hope, charity, etc.; a villain then, in a white strait jacket, has none of those virtues, they are a corpse, a person whose soul has died because that soul doesn't have any of the virtues.
The middle and bottom image we see above show Solomon being crushed by a wall of water against a glass window; why is this totally, unbelievably awesome? We know the glass window behind his head symbolizes "reflection" and meditation on the self; the back of a person's head can symbolize their thinking about their own history (the way August Walker reflects on Ethan's history above). So, Solomon hitting his head against the window means, at this moment, he thinks about what he's done, i.e., his "life flashes before his eyes," but more so than that is the wall of water about to crush him. Water takes on the form of liquid, vapor (fog, clouds) and solid (ice, snow); when water is in its liquid state, like the water above, it means the person is in the first stage of "reflecting" on their soul, on who they are and what they have done; so, Solomon is literally being crushed by the meditation of who he has become with his life and what he has done. Now, it appears that, in the bottom image, there is blood (possibly from his head being crushed against the glass behind him) and if this is so--I could be wrong--then it's not so much his own blood, rather, all the blood he has shed which is on his mind at this moment of his death. Again, he's in this strait jacket so he can't save himself; this is important because our arms symbolize our strength (the strength of our character, the strength of your gift/talent, etc.) and the hands (which are also bound in the jacket) symbolize our honor, our integrity; because Solomon spent his talents and gifts in shedding blood, he's not able now to use his arms/hands/gifts/talents to save himself. In other words, Solomon Lane is the official "Anti-Ethan Hunt," because Ethan has spent his whole life using his skills to save others, when death comes for Ethan, he won't be "washed out" like Solomon Lane. 
People complain about franchises: "Can't Hollywood come up with any good stories anymore, instead of rehashing the same old stories over and over?" but to be perfectly honest, I think continuing one hero's journey through six different films develops that character more than a "new story" (if such a thing even exists) because the more we see that individual hero in action, the deeper their actions have to be to ring true, to be genuine, to make audiences believe, "Yea, this is a hero." Anyone can pull off being a hero in one situation, one crisis, one story line, but to continue being a hero every single time you are called upon offer your talents and skills for the greater good, that's inspiring.

By the way, that amazing stunt Tom Cruise was training two years to do for MI6? Flying the helicopter himself in those amazing sequences! Here is a special feature:
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
The only image I was able to quickly find of Solomon Lane with blonde hair from MI5: Rogue Nation.