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Our mission, that we chose to accept: Watching Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt become a cult leader

Once again Luke Y. Thompson (AV Club) has given us an exclusive film review you’ll find only here at the Bunker. Our association with Luke goes back more than 20 years, to a now defunct publication, New Times Los Angeles, where he was one of the very few reviewers in the country who actually liked John Travolta’s Battlefield Earth. In other words, Luke calls them the way he sees them. He last provided us with what we still consider the best and most truthful review of Top Gun: Maverick that you’ll find anywhere. (Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One opens in US theaters on July 12.)

Both Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One feature key action sequences set on moving trains. Indy’s is drenched in layers of CG and shot in front of obvious bluescreen; Ethan Hunt’s has Tom Cruise and Esai Morales actually running and crouching atop a real train (though the grand finale, with carriages falling off a bridge one by one, is almost certainly studio-shot and computer abetted). M:I’s train sequence is the better one, but not as exponentially better as perhaps one might think. “Realness” may seem super-important to stunt people, but it’s hardly the primary narrative concern – cartoons are as unreal as it gets, yet you’ve probably shed tears over the fates of Pixar characters.

Involvement in the story is what really makes or breaks the action, and Indiana Jones is a reliable old friend who screws up sometimes, and shows his age. Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, meanwhile, becomes a progressively more saintlike and less human character each film, though his frequent bouts with anxiety in this film sure beat the actor’s certainty of perfection in Top Gun: Maverick. He seems pretty good at acting, too, because isn’t Dianetics supposed to cure you of all of the reactive mind panic attacks or whatever in real life?

I called the Maverick character Narcissistic Navy Jesus, and while Hunt ditches the narcissism, he’s still a savior, but now the “For I so love the world I will give my only begotten personal life” type. More than ever, his Impossible Mission Force feels like a cult out to recruit people at their lowest moments, when their lives have become too dangerous and hunted to survive. Join the team, accept Tom Cruise as your savior…or you could go home and have someone blow your brains out. When Ethan makes the pitch to sexy pickpocket Grace (Hayley Atwell), he tells her, “Your life will always matter more to me than my own.”

“You don’t even know me,” she responds. “What difference does that make?” he replies, as inspirational music swells. Several action sequences later, he’s sending her across a railroad bridge to (a sort of) total freedom that still involves her following orders for the rest of her life.


For someone who used to be such a sex symbol and is clearly in denial about his own aging, Cruise remains awfully chaste in this movie too – he wants to save all the pretty ladies but never shtup them. Moreover, his tragic backstory with women gets retconned into even more tragedy this time out, as new villain Gabriel (Esai Morales), in addition to being practically a super-villain in the present, gets digitally de-aged into some of Hunt’s traumatic flashbacks. It seems he has a penchant for killing women Hunt likes – perhaps his code-name should be “Fridge,” and not just because the normally life-preserving Hunt would love to nuke him.

Gabriel, for reasons that will presumably be better explained in Part Two, given that everything else is over explained in this one, is the servant of a dangerous AI that’s basically a social media troll-bot which evolved sentience. Visually, it resembles a digital display of Everything Everywhere All at Once’s everything bagel, and every nation in the world wants it as their own personal WMD; Ethan Hunt is apparently the only one in this reality to have watched the Terminator movies. The MacGuffin of the movie is a set of two keys that access something connected to the AI, but nobody’s really quite sure what. So rather than simply taking the keys, various interests keep following the key holders around hoping to be led somewhere of significance and not get killed by the other folks with the same idea.

The Mission: Impossible movies began while Cruise was still in his “work with all the great directors” phase, as auteurs like Brian de Palma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams, and Brad Bird took their installments in wildly different directions. Starting with the fifth film, though, they’ve all been directed by Christopher McQuarrie, a Cruise-Whisperer extraordinaire, who, aside from his feature directorial debut The Way of the Gun, has only ever directed Tom Cruise movies. With him now guiding the franchise, and the different directorial visions idea scrapped, the M:I movies have veered in more of the Fast and Furious/Saw direction of adding new characters and story convolutions each time out that nobody with a life remembers the intricacies of. At one point in the new film, Simon Pegg has to remind us what his character’s surname is, just so we’ll all understand a pun based on it. (Perhaps notably, the sequence involves him taking a combination lie-detector/riddle solving personality test conducted by the AI under potential penalty of death.)

It’s all very serious even as it gets silly. Ethan Hunt is extraordinarily humorless as action heroes go, with only one moment of being deliberately funny when he pretends to be an Italian lawyer by putting on glasses and speaking a few words of Italian. To the extent that he gets any other laughs, it’s at the moments when he realizes he has to do an insane stunt, and basically has a big WTF moment. Again, considering Cruise loves to do that stuff and it’s the main reason these movies even get made, this is some decent acting, because he’s briefly persuasive as a person who definitely does not want to do the thing. For what it’s worth, the much-hyped motorcycle jump off a mountain is over pretty quickly and you’ve likely seen most of it in trailers. The better action beats involve Grace being in jeopardy, because she’s more likable and funny, and there’s an actual chance she won’t survive. I’ve no idea if Atwell did her stunts for real, and I don’t care.

Perhaps the movie’s best joke is an unintentional one of timing – the film opens with a Russian submarine armed with what we’re told is “the state of the art of war.” The actual Russian army these days would seem to require significantly less than an AI weapon to befuddle.

Obligatory series moments: those latex faces, Cruise on a motorcycle, and lots of Tom Cruise running, even when it doesn’t advance the plot. At one point, after a long run, the story simply cuts away and doesn’t show where he went; at another, a key fight between two major players that’s tense and genuinely well-choreographed keeps getting cut away from to show Cruise running toward it, even as the score essentially spoils the fact that he won’t be getting there on time. Pretty efficient to make your daily aerobic exercise part of the movie, I suppose.

I’ll say this for McQuarrie: he’s learned the lesson of J.J. Abrams’ third film in the franchise, a mostly decent mix of action with domestic drama that sputtered to a terrible ending and left moviegoers walking out with a bad feeling. This writer-director makes sure to put his big action setpiece at the very end, and consistently up the stakes right to the point of ridiculousness, stopping just short of utter absurdity (for actual utter absurdity, check out John Woo’s mostly maligned second film in the series, complete with limp bizkit theme song). McQuarrie did it with the Henry Cavill cliffside fight last movie, and he does it again with the falling train carriages here. If only he weren’t so full of it when he claims there was somehow too much story to tell for one movie. This one takes forever to get to the good stuff, and leaves us with the knowledge that there’s a whole second film to get through to complete the plot. Again, it’ll probably be a bunch of setpieces glued together by a lot of hasty exposition that still all boils down to: “There’s a bad thing that Tom Cruise has to stop.”

One day, the actor might realize that “aging gracefully” isn’t one of those things. Cruise’s best phase was when he realized people perceived him as a shallow pretty boy, and made a string of movies that subverted and twisted that image, from Rain Man to Born on the Fourth of July. The day he makes a movie that depicts him as an aging adrenaline junkie control freak – but in a destructive way – he might become interesting again. For now, that’s probably too much of a risk to the paycheck.

Roger Moore, who was derided as too old to play James Bond at age 57 in A View to a Kill, is surely too gentlemanly to shake his fist in the afterlife.

— Luke Y. Thompson


Technology Cocktail

“Since Scientology is a very precise science based on proven data, axioms, and precise procedures, it must be used exactly as stated in order to gain the results which have been obtained. By using it with understanding the student can observe for himself its workability. When you have applied it as it should be, and applied as it is taught at the school, and still find it unworkable, it is your privilege to question it and, if you like, reject it. But it is a very funny thing, in the history of Scientology the only people who have shouted out against Scientology are those people who know little or nothing about it or they have been given some erroneous data about it and had used a very bad perversion of Scientology and said, ‘This is the way it is.'” — L. Ron Hubbard, 1959




We first broke the news of the LAPD’s investigation of Scientology celebrity Danny Masterson on rape allegations in 2017, and we’ve been covering the story every step of the way since then. At this page we’ve collected our most important links as Danny faces a potential sentence of 45 years to life in prison. NOW WITH TRIAL INDEX.


THE PODCAST: How many have you heard?

[1] Marc Headley [2] Claire Headley [3] Jeffrey Augustine [4] Bruce Hines [5] Sunny Pereira [6] Pete Griffiths [7] Geoff Levin [8] Patty Moher [9] Marc Headley [10] Jefferson Hawkins [11] Michelle ‘Emma’ Ryan [12] Paulette Cooper [13] Jesse Prince [14] Mark Bunker [15] Jon Atack [16] Mirriam Francis [17] Bruce Hines on MSH

— SPECIAL: The best TV show on Scientology you never got to see

[1] Phil Jones [2] Derek Bloch [3] Carol Nyburg [4] Katrina Reyes [5] Jamie DeWolf

— The first Danny Masterson trial and beyond

[18] Trial special with Chris Shelton [19] Trial week one [20] Marc Headley on the spy in the hallway [21] Trial week two [22] Trial week three [23] Trial week four [24] Leah Remini on LAPD Corruption [25] Mike Rinder 2022 Thanksgiving Special [26] Jane Doe 4 (Tricia Vessey), Part One [27] Jane Doe 4 (Tricia Vessey), Part Two [28] Claire Headley on the trial [29] Tory Christman [30] Bruce Hines on spying [31] Karen de la Carriere [32] Ron Miscavige on Shelly Miscavige [33] Karen de la Carriere on the L’s [34] Mark Bunker on Miscavige hiding [35] Mark Plummer [36] Mark Ebner [37] Karen Pressley [38] Steve Cannane [39] Fredrick Brennan [40] Clarissa Adams [41] Louise Shekter [42] John Sweeney



Source Code

“Let’s take the smaller goal of what to eat. The person will sit down and look at a menu. What he himself wants to eat is very definitely modified by engrams concerning food, what he should eat and so on. You will find people who would become very upset indeed if you mentioned pickles and ice cream to them. ‘You can’t eat pickles and ice cream. It will make you sick.’ Actually pickles and ice cream mix, but there is a social aberration to the effect that they don’t. So he gets into a state of confusion. He has the goal of wanting to eat pickles and ice cream, but the engram says, ‘No, pickles and ice cream will make you sick,’ so he goes down the line and sees sauerbraten. Sauerbraten is one of those foreign foods, according to the engram in the bank, and ‘You shouldn’t eat this fancy foreign food stuff.’ He can get very confused on this whole line. He is trying to make a minor decision and his mind will go around, and finally rather unhappily he will say, ‘Bring me ham and eggs.’ He doesn’t want ham and eggs, but the engrams don’t forbid ham and eggs so he has got a compromise solution.” — L. Ron Hubbard, July 6, 1950


Avast, Ye Mateys

“Hey that Rockefeller sure got plastered in Latin America. His foundation finances these ‘National’ (which are private but only use the name) mental ‘health’ groups. He is some of the money back of attacks on us. Wish I knew what groups roughed up his visits to Latin America. They’re our pals! Our enemies don’t have very good luck lately.” — The Commodore, July 6, 1969


Overheard in the FreeZone

“What is on my mind is getting OTs auditing. I consider it essential that every solo auditor on this planet should be auditing, because that is what it will take to change the planet’s condition around. Not every OT has the ability yet to audit the planet directly, but every step on the way helps…I just recently cognited that if a solo auditor isn’t auditing, his Ethics are out! Plain as the nose on my face, and why does Ethics exist, to get tech in! Why do we have to get tech in? Because it is the theta way, the theta approach to improving conditions on this planet…There are few that have the original Ron Hubbard’s ability to look. He did all that work of running implants, with all their commands and phrases in sequences. That is one heck of a lot of knowingness. We struggle, most of us, to keep up. So it is very essential that we don’t quit and rest on our laurels, we need to apply what we know.”


Past is Prologue

1998: The Jacksonville Times-Union reported that Scientologist John Travolta was confronted by actor Woody Harrelson concerning Scientology. “Travolta and co-star Woody Harrelson verbally jousted about Scientology while making their upcoming movie, Thin Red Line, insiders claim. ‘Woody has a problem with Scientology and he went up and told John what he thought,’ says a source close to the production. ‘John and he got into some heated arguments. They never came to blows, but it got pretty tense on the set.'”



Random Howdy

“I went ‘exterior’ after I’d been up for four days on meth. I’m sure that was a genuine paranormal experience.”


Full Court Press: What we’re watching at the Underground Bunker

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Found guilty on two counts on May 31, remanded to custody. Sentencing on Aug 4.
‘Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’ (a/k/a Justin Craig), aggravated assault, plus drug charges: Grand jury indictments include charges from an assault while in custody. Trial scheduled for August 15.
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud.

Civil litigation:
Baxter, Baxter, and Paris v. Scientology, alleging labor trafficking: Forced to arbitration. Plaintiffs allowed interlocutory appeal to Eleventh Circuit.
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Appellate court removes requirement of arbitration on January 19, case remanded back to Superior Court. Stay in place at least through sentencing of Masterson on Aug 4.
Jane Doe 1 v. Scientology, David Miscavige, and Gavin Potter: Case unsealed and second amended complaint filed. Next hearing August 1.
Author Steve Cannane defamation trial: New trial ordered after appeals court overturned prior ruling.
Chiropractors Steve Peyroux and Brent Detelich, stem cell fraud: Lawsuit filed by the FTC and state of Georgia in August, now in discovery phase.



After the success of their double-Emmy-winning, three-season A&E series ‘Scientology and the Aftermath,’ Leah Remini and Mike Rinder continue the conversation on their podcast, ‘Scientology: Fair Game.’ We’ve created a landing page where you can hear all of the episodes so far.


An episode-by-episode guide to Leah Remini’s three-season, double-Emmy winning series that changed everything for Scientology watching. Originally aired from 2016 to 2019 on the A&E network, and now on Netflix.


Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Other links: SCIENTOLOGY BLACK OPS: Tom Cruise and dirty tricks. Scientology’s Ideal Orgs, from one end of the planet to the other. Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society. Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in a weekly series. How many have you read?


[ONE year ago] In court today: Scientology responds to Valerie Haney naming Elisabeth Moss as an arbitrator
[TWO years ago] Scientology’s cruise ship isn’t going anywhere, but the new hype video is here anyway!
[THREE years ago] Brian Statler’s sister reveals new details in shooting death at Scientology org
[FOUR years ago] Scientology’s ‘disconnection’ policy plays out in unbelievable scenes in a Florida hospital
[FIVE years ago] Scientology’s homophobia and its disconnection policy — still producing refugees today
[SIX years ago] Jon Atack: Scientology has a history of flip-floppers, including the founder’s son
[SEVEN years ago] What happened when one of our readers got into a Scientology ‘Flag World Tour’ event
[EIGHT years ago] Scientology’s trophy problem: Did David Miscavige lie, or did the IAS?
[NINE years ago] Sunday Funnies: Scientology finally starts making its members superheroes!
[TEN years ago] Best Account of Life in Scientology? Jon Atack Makes the Case for Counterfeit Dreams
[ELEVEN years ago] SCIENTOLOGY CRUMBLING: An Entire Church Mission Defects as David Miscavige Faces Leadership Crisis
[TWELVE years ago] Out-of-Work Journalists: Want to do Scientology’s Dirty Work?


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley (1952-2019) did not see his daughter Stephanie in his final 5,667 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 3,082 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,597 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 3,147 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 2,137 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 2,018 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 5,322 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 3,193 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 2,298 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,745 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 4,087 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,653 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,572 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,739 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 4,321 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,582 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,618 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 3,334 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,898 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 1,213 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 2,388 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,939 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 4,070 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,408 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 9,263 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 4,382 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,738 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 7,041 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 3,147 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,545 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,421 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 3,004 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,499 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,753 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,862 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on July 6, 2023 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2022 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2022), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists | GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice | SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts | Shelly Miscavige, 15 years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele


Tony Ortega at The Daily Beast


Tony Ortega at Rolling Stone


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