Readers Explain M:I-2’s Political Message

How can you explain the political agenda of a movie that has a villain named John McCloy (also the name of a real-life, though now-deceased, high commissioner to occupied Germany; president of the World Bank; and chairman to both the Ford Foundation and the Council on Foreign Relations) but whose hero belongs to a fictional accountable-to-no-government international agency called the “Impossible Mission Force” (whose initials, “IMF,” conjure the real-life International Monetary Fund)? This was the challenge Chatterbox issued to his readers in an earlier item about Mission: Impossible 2. Internationalism Good or Internationalism Bad? Which message did screenwriter Robert Towne mean to convey?

Chatterbox is impressed, and also a little appalled, by the quantity of effort his readers obviously put into puzzling this out. Be warned: What follows will not be understandable to those who haven’t seen the film (and, in a couple of instances, may not be understandable even to those who have). In any case, here are the most glittering entries:

1) An “Economic Nihilism” award goes to “G.C.” for the following:

The politics of M:I-2 are simple. There are none. It’s really all a cunningly-disguised tourist promotion for Sydney, Australia, where it was shot. It is also an opportunity for Sydney-born Nicole Kidman to generate some Australian tax credits … 125% of whatever she (and presumably husband Tom) invested in the movie in the first place.

Shortcoming: This doesn’t explain the McCloy and IMF business.

2) A “There Are No Heroes in This Movie” award goes to Nick Carbone for the following:

The real McCloy did take part in ruling conspiracies of a kind. He did make some decisions that history judges were wrong, perhaps even evil. In the writer’s imagination, converting unintended evil and malfeasance into deliberate machinations that can only be stopped by a conspiracy and power of equal strength makes perfect sense. In real life, McCloy stood with the good guys, defined simply as us. He conspired with others to fight evil, and in so doing, compromised the principles he sought to defend. In the movie, Cruise’s Hunt operates with as much ambiguity as McCloy in real life ever did. He kills. He manipulates. He concocts a plan where the woman he loves must prostitute herself for the cause. But because it pains him, he never becomes, quite, what he fights …

Shortcoming: The Cruise character, Hunt, has his morally ambiguous side, but this analysis overstates it. Mostly the audience cheers Cruise/Hunt on with wild enthusiasm. Cruise did produce this picture, after all.

3) A “You Give Hollywood Way Too Much Credit” award goes to Tom Garvey for the following:

If you’re looking for some sort of coherent worldview … just don’t go there. These sorts of details constitute the death rattle of the Hollywood left and are just stitched into the woof and warp of pop culture’s grand tapestry for a kind of pathetic secret gratification. In the end it’s really just a reference, not a statement–a pointer, if you will, in programming terms, to various past “sites”. Perhaps you should even be happy for … McCloy. Millions have heard of him now, rather than just the clutch of “students of postwar American History” who’d read of him before. Perhaps being remembered for the wrong thing is better than being forgotten entirely.Or maybe not.

Shortcoming: This analysis, while extremely persuasive, isn’t much fun.

4) A “Chatterbox Missed What Really Made No Sense in This Movie” award goes to Donald A. Coffin, associate professor of economics at Indiana University Northwest, for the following:

Unless Australian rules for granting stock options are remarkably unlike U.S. rules, then the bad guys could get nothing the way they went about it–and, in any event, would be hard pressed to disappear with their ill-gotten gains (stock ownership, after all, being somewhat public).

Shortcoming: Though interesting, this has nothing to do with the movie’s politics.

5.)     A “Paranoia Can Be Fun” award goes to Jacob Stohler for the following:

Look, it’s all very simple: Towne knows that ever since the Trilateral Commission approved the use of fluoride in the water system, the war in Angola has needed greater support from the Alien Invasion Assistance Force currently station in Norway. That has left the (old) IMF with the responsibility of hoarding Kruggerands while the (new) IMF bails out the Freemasons after their failed attempt to corner the silver market. John McCloy’s presence in the movie simply signifies Towne’s belief that Ruby Ridge was Clinton and the United Nation’s way of repaying the Wackenhut for its silence about the CIA. Duh!

Shortcoming: This is very funny, but a little too Dada.

6) The “Database Searches Can Be Fun” award goes to Josh Kamensky for the following:

Not only a leading light of the American Century, John McCloy is also the name of a) a renegade member of the Independents on the Tewkesbury Borough Council who participated in the recent purge of Count Derek Davies, and who is concerned about burgeoning traffic in the Gloucester area; b) a Scots businessman located in Hong Kong who has helped raise money to buy back vacation island Ben Nevis for Scotland; and c) an IRA victim whose remains were recently uncovered.Composited in the movie’s Australian drug-merchant villain, John J. McCloy, these four “real McCloys” suggest a story of the self-destruction of the Anglo-American world in the wake of globalization. The pathogenic plotline represents the diseased remains of Empire, clawing over scraps via trade agreements. Anthony Hopkins’ crappy lines represent how boring those trade agreements are when you really sit down and read them. And as Tom Cruise hangs over those red cliffs in the opening sequence, who can help but think of sorry London Bridge in Lake Havasu, Ariz.?

Shortcoming: Too U.K.-centric.

7) And the winner is … this breathtakingly intricate analysis by Kevin Carey, assistant professor of economics at American University:

Mission: Impossible 2 is a propaganda statement on behalf of the new post-Asian financial crisis IMF. The IMF (represented by the same acronym in the movie) is presented as an organization that successfully dealt with a contagious virus spawned by its own past work. The analogies are as follows:Ethan Hunt = New IMF policiesJohn McCloy = Old IMF/World Bank Washington Consensus, pre-Asian crisis (McCloy was president of the World Bank)Chimera Virus = Financial Crisis (we always hear about financial crisis spreading like contagion).Sean Ambrose = Hedge fund/speculators like Soros (his whole scheme is motivated by speculation, after all)Virus Cure = Larry Summers/Stanley Fischer model of dealing with financial crisisNyah = Brazil, especially Arminio Fraga, president of Brazilian Central Bank (used to work for Soros/Ambrose), now with good guys but infected with virusThe Plot: McCloy represents the old orthodoxy in favor of complete market liberalization. This seemed to cure underdevelopment for some countries but then led to something much worse, the financial collapse of 1997-98. He stands to gain from the disaster from offering yet another IMF/Bank “cure.” But the same greed motivates the even more evil hedge funds (Ambrose) to spread the disease even wider. Ethan must save the day. He needs the help of someone who knows Ambrose/Soros from the inside–Nyah/Fraga. But then she/Brazil becomes the next victim of the virus. Ethan must find a cure for her as well. At the end of the movie the virus is destroyed, the old system that produced it (McCloy) is dead–although the new IMF (Hopkins) seems a bit perturbed about the virus being gone.

Shortcoming: This seems a little hard on George Soros. But, basically, brilliant. Bravo, Kevin!