In “But How Gay Is It?”, we seek to answer the biggest questions you have about a new movie release in theaters now — including, most crucially, the titular question. Does the movie have any queer characters? Are there stories involving same-sex lovers? Which gay icons star in the film? We’re bringing you all that and more.
What is Mission: Impossible — Fallout? You know how the first couple Fast and the Furious movies were seen as decent, even pretty good, but otherwise unremarkable action films? Followed by a third installment that felt odd and out of place at first, but actually served as the launch of a whole new tone and vibe for the franchise? And now it’s an international phenomenon hailed as one of the greatest action series ever?
Mission: Impossible did basically the same thing while no one was looking. After the personal and moody Mission: Impossible 3, the series took a five-year break — not unusual, since the first three installments had come out roughly the same number of years apart. But when the series came back with Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, something about the series had inextricably changed. Director Brad Bird brought an elasticity to the series, a sense of gonzo fun and a “can you top this?!” manic energy that the Tom Cruise-led franchise needed. Since then, the series has been on fire, with 2015’s Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation doubling down and finding a new directorial voice in Christopher McQuarrie.
McQuarrie is back for Fallout, a film that takes the absurd stakes-heightening of the last two films and marries it to a remarkably strong character study of Cruise’s wild IMF agent Ethan Hunt. It’s a film that asks: Can you be an action hero who prioritizes saving the one over saving the many?
Who’s in it? Cruise, of course, returns as Hunt, and I’ll pause here to note that the same question of whether it’s responsible to support art so heavily featuring and produced by Scientologists that hangs over The Handmaid’s Tale hangs over this series. I admit I don’t really know what to say about this; I personally am horrified by the abuses committed by the Church of Scientology, but also know that Cruise is one of many artists who worked on Fallout. It’s a difficult conversation, and one that is becoming increasingly unavoidable.
Beyond Cruise, Fallout boasts a packed supporting cast of both franchise veterans (Rebecca Ferguson as femme fatale Ilsa Faust; Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg as Hunt’s best buds Luther Stickell and Benji Dunn; Alec Baldwin as recently installed IMF secretary Alan Hunley) and newbies to the series. It’s the newcomers who provide the biggest delights in this film, from Henry Cavill as on-the-edge-of-rogue CIA assassin August Walker, to Angela Bassett as no-nonsense CIA director Erica Sloane, to The Crown‘s Vanessa Kirby as a black market empress known only as the White Widow. There’s even a face from the series’ far past who returns: Michelle Monaghan as Hunt’s former wife, Julia Meade.
Why should I see it? Put simply, it is one of the most propulsive, batshit, edge-of-your-seat thrilling movies of the decade. Fallout is drawing comparisons to Mad Max: Fury Road, and for good reason. I keep worrying I’m overhyping it, but every new crowd of people who sees it pre-release comes out agog all on their own. It’s the most exciting thrill ride this side of Six Flags, and it demands your eager attention.
But how gay is it? There’s nothing explicitly gay about the film, but I don’t know many gay men who will be turned off by Cavill pumping his arms as if he’s reloading guns. Or by Bassett’s Erica Sloane forcefully and dutifully informing us that “that’s the job.” And don’t even get me started on Kirby’s White Widow, who is so turned on by villainy that she actually spontaneously kisses a character because of something particularly evil he’s saying. I felt deeply seen.
For an action film that still mostly runs on testosterone, there are enough delights to keep queer audiences thrilled. (It certainly thrilled this queer, that’s for sure.)
Is Henry Cavill shirtless in this film? I’m going to break the news to you now so you won’t be disappointed later: No. But he does look damn good in suit pants and a tailored shirt.
Do you want 10 spin-off films just about the White Widow? I sure do! We need more characters who are plainly horny for villainy in our world. She’s an absurd anti-Bond Girl stereotype, and Kirby plays her to the hilt of insanity.
Mission: Impossible — Fallout is in theaters now.