Tom Cruise as ethan hunt: Virtuous masculinity and ageing heroes in geriaction cinema

Kelvin Ke Jinde*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book or Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The presence of mature masculinity is slowly reshaping contemporary action cinema in the twenty-first century. It is a phenomenon that rejects the unrealistic view that action heroes are embodiments of Apollo and Ares in human flesh. Instead, action heroes are viewed as flawed characters who cannot escape the realities of their corporeality, mortality and humanity. The following chapter is an examination of a particular type of action hero archetype that combines ageing with virtuous and mature masculinity. Here I use Tom Cruise's development and portrayal of Ethan Hunt in the Mission: Impossible series as a lens through which to highlight the presence of the virtuous and mature hero archetype in action cinema. Cruise's representation of heroic masculinity is significant because it achieves three separate goals. First, Cruise's mature masculinity repudiates the hardbody model by showing its deficiencies as a male archetype. Second, it introduces a version of an action hero that emphasises the benefits of ageing and mature masculinity. Lastly, Cruise's onscreen presence redoubles the idea that heroic masculinity is motivated by a deep sense of morality, duty and a desire to serve the greater good. As the model of the mature and virtuous hero becomes more prevalent, as I argue, it not only reshapes action cinema but also produces cinematic representations of heroic masculinity that are more positive in terms of showing the importance of maturity, virtue, and public service.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGender and Action Films 2000 and Beyond
Subtitle of host publicationTransformations
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781801175180
ISBN (Print)9781801175197
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2022


  • Action cinema
  • Ageing
  • Geriaction heroes
  • Mature masculinity
  • Tom Cruise
  • Virtuous masculinity


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