MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 5: Christopher McQuarrie Reveals How He Figured out the Ending

     August 4, 2015


[WARNING: There are major plot spoilers in this article. Do not read this if you haven’t seen Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation!]

Now that Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation opened strong taking $56 million domestically and $121 million worldwide, let’s talk about that ending. If you’re still reading this article you know that Rogue Nation had an unexpected ending. Rather than wrapping up the movie with an action-packed finale that topped the plane bit, the opera house scene and the underwater/car/motorcycle sequence, McQuarrie went with something much more dialogue-driven, a sit-down conversation that leads to Ethan (Tom Cruise) capturing Lane (Sean Harris) rather than fighting and killing him.

I was part of a roundtable interview in New York City last week during which McQuarrie discussed the challenge of coming up with the right ending, especially in terms of Lane’s fate:

“One of the reasons why the ending was so hard is we kept writing endings in which Ethan killed Lane, and a version where Ilsa killed Lane and Ethan killed Vinter (Jens Hultén), and I was writing numerous endings and Tom and I were just inherently dissatisfied.”


Image via Paramount

From there McQuarrie touched on Harris’ apprehension about joining the project and why he insisted that Lane die by the end of the film:

“The funny thing was that Sean Harris did not wanna be in this movie. He didn’t want to be in a franchise movie. He’s just not that kind of guy at all. And when I finally convinced him to be in it, the first thing he said to me was, ‘Promise me you’ll kill me. So just don’t bring me back because I don’t want to be in five of these movies.’ And I said to Sean, ‘Sean, I’ve got bad news for you. It’s not really up to you, and it isn’t up to me, and if the audience likes you … I’ll kill you. I could kill you right now.’ On the last night of the shoot, he was like, ‘Is there any way you can kill me?’ I said, ‘Yes, I’ll kill you right now. With the stroke of a pen, you’re a dead man. If the audience likes you, you’ve got a twin brother you don’t know about, or a clone or a prequel, you’re coming back, whether you like it or not. We’ve got you, man.’ [Laughs]”

mission-impossible-5-poster-sean-harris-laneHere’s how they finally settled on what to do with Lane:

“So Tom and I were really struggling with this idea and I came to him one night, very late at night and said, ‘I think the reason why we can’t resolve this movie is because I don’t feel the need to kill Lane. I don’t have the event in the movie that makes me want Ethan to kill him. He didn’t kill Goose. You know what I mean? I never saw him blow up these planes, I never saw him do these things. Yeah, he blew up the Chancellor, but we all know we never gave a shit about whether the Chancellor lived or died in the movie. He’s a figurehead in a scene. There’s not an emotional attachment to a politician. I’m not done with this character. I’m not resolved with this guy, and more importantly, you, Ethan Hunt, are not a killer for killing’s sake. You haven’t been given the reason to kill him.’ And Tom, who really wanted that confrontation with the villain, is the first person in the world that when you present to him the internal organs of his own movie, he thought about it for a minute and he said, ‘You’re absolutely right.’ And on my way home from that meeting, I got a text from Sean Harris and he said, ‘The more I think about this …,’ because he knew we were writing these scenes, he goes, ‘I don’t see a version of this movie where Ethan kills Lane and I don’t see Lane chasing Ethan at the end of the movie and I don’t see Ethan chasing Lane.’ And I said, ‘You’re right and we’ve just come to the same conclusion.’ And he just responded, ‘What have I done?’ Because at that moment we knew we weren’t gonna kill him.”

We know that Cruise and co. are working on Mission: Impossible 6 with hopes to shoot next summer, so does that mean Harris could be back for more? Anything is possible, especially because Ethan doesn’t kill him in M:I 5, but considering the franchise has never brought back a villain and many seem to really dig Rebecca Ferguson‘s work in the movie, I think it’s far more likely that the writers will focus on incorporating Isla Faust in the next installment rather than Solomon Lane.


Image via Paramount


Image via Paramount Pictures

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