Mission: Impossibly Bad HR Judgment, The Luther Stickell Story


If you're a fan of the Mission: Impossible film franchise, as I am, you'll recognize tech genius Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) as the only character aside from Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt to appear in every M:I movie. He's also the only person who absolutely should not be there. Let me explain.

Stickell is introduced in the first M:I film in 1996 as someone on the Impossible Mission Force's "Disavowed" list. The audience is never told what Stickell did to get on the list, but it had to have been pretty bad.

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It gets way worse. In that first film Stickell is recruited by Hunt, who was wrongly disavowed, to break into CIA headquarters to steal something from a computer terminal there. Stickell is hesitant and asks Hunt what they're stealing. Hunt keeps his cards close and only says they're after "profitable" information -- nothing more. Stickell is then assured that he can keep the technical equipment when the heist is over and -- boom -- he's "all out of excuses."

But let's remember: Stickell has no idea who Hunt is and definitely doesn't know that he's the hero in this story. All he knows is that a shady character has asked him to help break into the CIA to steal some mysterious piece of information to sell. And Stickell agrees within a couple minutes.

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I'm sorry to tell you all, but Luther Stickell is a traitor, plain and simple.

Only later, presumably, is the full plan explained, and Stickell goes along with it because, well, why not? There's no indication that he knew that the heist was for the greater good -- mostly because he didn't know what was going on. Actually Hunt later entrusts the NOC List, the MacGuffin they were after at the CIA, to Stickell because he says that if Stickell knew what he was getting into, he never would've done it.

Wait, what? That means Hunt thinks Stickell would be totally cool with hacking the CIA and betraying his country, but would not have been cool with being a good guy?

When the film closes, Stickell is reinstated in IMF, apparently with no questions asked, and goes on to have a now-two-decade-long career in the secret organization.

Again, this is a guy who just days before helped break into the CIA to steal information for profit. You'd think that might come up in the job interview process before he was allowed back in the building. 

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