Over the years, Tom Cruise has performed a huge number of his own stunts for the Mission Impossible franchise, defying the laws of physics time and time again. Unfortunately for him though, the one obstacle he still can’t overcome is the rumor mill that surrounds his sexuality.
Given that the star has even sued people who have publicly labeled him as gay on more than one occasion, it might be surprising to hear that Cruise deliberately plays around with notions of queerness in one of the most memorable scenes from Mission Impossible: Fallout. Unfortunately, the end result raises more questions than answers.
The moment in question takes place early on when Ethan Hunt and his new partner, Agent Walker (Henry Cavill), clash with one of their enemies in a men’s bathroom. Seeing Cavill’s pornstache and impressive build in such a setting is plenty gay already, especially when he puts both of his giant “guns” into action and starts to get physical with Liang Yang’s character.
Infused with a strapping masculinity, the fight is intensely intimate, teasing at homoerotic undertones as the men grunt and slam each other down onto the floor. If Fallout wasn’t part of a Hollywood blockbuster franchise, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the scene might erupt into a full-blown hookup at any given moment… except it actually kind of does.
Instead of leaving the subtle queerness of the scene well alone, director and screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie then goes a step further and includes an awkward joke that explicitly alludes to the inherent gay connotations that arise when men wrestle with each other vigorously on screen.
After their opponent is taken care of, Hunt and Walker are suddenly forced to hide the body of Lark Decoy in a bathroom stall to avoid being discovered. While this ploy does successfully hide the fact that the pair are secret agents, a group of men who subsequently walk into the room then mistake them for something else entirely.
Upon seeing three sets of feet from under the bathroom stall, the men in question then assume that they’ve walked in on a surprisingly public ménage à trois. Laughing among themselves, a few of them come closer to the door and one even calls out “Don’t be shy. The more the merrier.”
The moment is glossed over soon after when Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) comes to our hero’s aid, but what exactly was McQuarrie trying to achieve with this scene in the first place? Were the men genuinely interested in joining this gay three-way or were they poking fun at this public display of queer affection? The former reason would arguably be far better, but it also seems much less likely given how the men are laughing amongst themselves as they approach the stall. Instead, it seems clear that they found it hilarious to accidentally encounter men having sex in the bathroom.
Sure, it’s true that most people would be surprised and even amused to come across people getting it on in a bathroom stall. The problem with this though is that these onlookers weren’t the only ones who were supposed to think it’s funny.
By lingering on a shot of the stall and tangle of feet spotted from underneath, McQuarrie also invites the audience to laugh at this awkward situation. Of course, there is something mildly amusing about this mix-up, but the joke also plays on the kind of “gay panic” humor that mostly died out by the end of the noughties. The few remaining films that still tap into this immature brand of comedy are usually met with derision now, including the likes of Get Hard and CHiPS: Law and Disorder.
It’s extremely unlikely that McQuarrie ever intended for this scene to portray homosexuality in a negative light. Perhaps the aim was to show that Cruise is more comfortable now with people mistaking him for gay, playing the whole thing off as a joke? Or maybe those involved just didn’t realize that this situation awkwardly positions homosexuality as something to be laughed at. Nonetheless, this bizarre interlude remains a rather subtle and yet no less offensive moment in what’s otherwise an impressive action movie.
Hollywood, you have a new mission now and it’s one that shouldn’t be impossible to achieve. Just stop using homosexuality as the butt of your jokes. Such practice has dated even worse than the original Mission Impossible TV show and given how progressive the world is slowly becoming, you’d be fools not to accept it.