The following post contains facial-hair-related SPOILERS for Mission: Impossible — Fallout.

I want to clarify something. There is a narrative out there that Henry Cavill’s mustache in Mission: Impossible — Fallout was somehow not necessary to his character, CIA Agent August Walker. During the shooting of Mission: Impossible, Cavill had to return to the set of Justice League for extensive reshoots and his character there, Superman, is generally not known for his mouth brow. Warner Bros. wanted Cavill to shave and offered to pay for the CGI to add upper lipholstery to Mission: Impossible. Cavill and his bosses at Paramount refused. So special-effects wizards had to digitally shave Cavill’s flavor saver every single time he appeared in the Justice League reshoots. They did their jobs somewhat poorly.

Prior to Mission: Impossible’s release, Cavill insisted an authentic double hamster was vital to the film. “As you will see when [Mission] comes out,” he told Empire, “to have a fake mustache on would not have been a possibility.” But Fallout director Christopher McQuarrie recently tweeted that Cavill’s bro-merang was undertaken “on a whim” that had no “no specific reason.”

Now that the film is out, and it does not involve a scene where Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt yanks on Cavill’s face furniture while screaming “This is definitely real!” some people, particularly DC fans who believe erasing Superman’s grass grin compromised an otherwise unimpeachable masterpiece, are upset. Over the weekend, Heroic Hollywood even posted an article titled “There Wasn’t Any Need For Henry Cavill’s Justice League Ruining Mustache” in which they take McQuarrie, Cavill, and Paramount to task for an act of superhero sabotage:

Because of [Cavill’s Fallout lip luggage], the people in the Justice League effects department were forced to completely reconstruct Henry Cavill’s face using CG with disastrous results. The story was first leaked and gained wider circulation when someone who worked in the effects department shared the story. And based on what the director is saying, it was a simple aesthetic choice that caused more problems then anyone could have imagined. It’s a shame how these things sometimes work out.

Actually, it is not a shame. Nor was Cavill’s mustache a “simple aesthetic choice”: Even if the decision to grow it had been made impulsively, the Cavill pushbroom became the lynchpin that tied the entire film together. Eliminating it — or even faking it for brief periods during the film — would have utterly ruined the entire experience.

First of all, Cavill’s mouth mane is one of the only clues from his introduction that August Walker is not on the level. In Fallout, Cruise is on the trail of a group of rogue spies known as the Acolytes, who are working on behalf of a mysterious nuclear zealout named John Lark. Hunt and his Impossible Mission Force are tasked with retrieving stole nuclear materials; Walker is placed on his team to keep tabs on him on behalf of the CIA. But it later turns out that Walker is Lark, and he has been manipulating Hunt and the IMF to get what he wants.

The audience realizes Walker is not who he says he is during a meeting with his boss, CIA director Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett). But smart viewers will know Walker’s a bad dude from his very first appearance because of his prominent tea strainer. Movie heroes almost never have mustaches, while a long and pronounced snot catcher has, for generations, stood as a symbolic representation of pure evil in both movies and televisions. Consider these two characters side-by side:

Dick Dastardly (left) and Henry Cavill (right)
Dick Dastardly (left) and Henry Cavill (right)

Look closely: What do these characters have in common? That’s right, they’re both very bad dudes who want to destroy their enemies through merciless deceit, underhanded trickery, and abject cruelty. Also,they have pronounced lip foliage. It cannot be a coincidence.

To those who believe Cavill should have shaved his mustache for Justice League and either worn a mustache toupée or gotten digital facial Rogaine on Fallout: You are wrong. Why should Cavill have sacrificed the integrity of a great movie to try to minimally improve a bad one? If Cavill had shaved his face, Mission: Impossible — Fallout would have been a slightly-less-great masterpiece with occasionally distracting shots of Henry Cavill’s face, while Justice League would have still been a disaster with a slightly-less-insane-looking Superman. No amount of preemptive crumb catcher removal would have saved that sinking ship. Cavill and whoever else was involved in the decision correctly assessed the situation and intuited that the true work of art worth focusing on was Mission: Impossible — Fallout.

Shaving for Justice League wouldn’t have just been a matter of throwing good money after bad, though; it would also have been a complete breach of Mission: Impossible’s ethos. Everything in Mission: Impossible is built on authenticity. Stunts are done as realistically as possible. Tom Cruise really did fly that helicopter; he really did hang off that cliff. If Tom Cruise is going to jump from one London rooftop to another, breaking his ankle in the process, Henry Cavill better damn well have a genuine mustache. To do otherwise would be a betrayal of everything Mission: Impossible stands for. Had Cavill committed such an act, he would be as much of a traitor as John Lark is to his country.

Therefore, I applaud Henry Cavill and his unflagging commitment to follicle legitimacy. He was absolutely right when he said a fake mustache would not have been a possibility, because nothing in Mission: Impossible is allowed to be fake. History will look upon him kindly when it remembers Mission: Impossible — Fallout as one of the great action films of this era, with one of the finest nose neighbors ever recorded.

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