The sixth installment in the blockbuster franchise, Mission: Impossible — Fallout builds on a previous bad guy by adding an unsettling twist. Sean Harris from Rogue Nation returns as former MI6 agent-turned-anarchist Solomon Lane, but instead of leading a multinational villainous Syndicate, this time he's hooked up with a terrorist group called The Apostles. They plan to hit the Vatican, Mecca, and Jerusalem in a simultaneous nuclear attack, believing the resulting chaos and terror will unite humanity in fear and lead to a New World Order. Ethan Hunt's mission, should he choose to accept it: stop Lark and The Apostles from acquiring three loads of weapons-grade plutonium to pull off their apocalyptic scheme. But are The Apostles from Mission: Impossible — Fallout real, or just a Hollywood mash-up of headline fears?
Unfortunately for all of us, there's some real-world inspiration for The Apostles' disturbing ideas. The idea of uniting humanity through a global apocalypse isn't new — in fact it's come up in fiction as recently as Alan Moore's late-'80s graphic novel The Watchmen, where it's a key plot point. But there are plenty of real-life groups who believe the only way to bring the world together is with global-scale calamity, and frighteningly enough, they welcome it as a harbinger of change.
Apocalypse-Sooners, Rapture Christians, End-Time Heralds; whatever they're dubbed, this particular strain of the religious right follow the twisted logic that with Biblical end-times comes the return of Christ on Earth, fulfilling prophecy and heralding a new era under God. Therefore, the sooner end-times come, the better. Where it gets particularly creepy is when believers take the next step — if the apocalypse means Christ's return, why not hasten it?
While Mission: Impossible relegates this to a religious terrorist cell, fact is that current U.S. policy is created by the likes of vice president Mike Pence and secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Pence is on record as saying Jesus speaks directly to him, and Pompeo headlined a rally where he described politics as "a never-ending struggle...until the rapture" and said “To worship our lord and celebrate our nation at the same place is not only our right, it is our duty.” Apocalypse Christians believe in several portents of Christ's return, including the emergence of an Antichrist, the revival of the Roman Empire, the Rapture, and key to the beginning of the end, the renewal of the Covenant of Israel. Making potentially catastrophic decisions based on hastening a religious prophecy is exactly what The Apostles are all about.
Interestingly one of history's most notorious cults has an apocalypse tinge most aren't aware of. Charles Manson and his "family"'s brutal murders at the Tate and LaBianca homes made news the world over, but the reason behind them is less-known. As the Miami Herald reports, "Helter Skelter" was Manson's term for the coming race war he predicted would wipe out the white population of America, leaving him and the Family members to lead the remaining population, as they'd be incapable of organizing themselves (it shouldn't surprise you that the hippie death cult leader was also wildly racist). When the race war didn't happen on its own, Manson decided they should help incite it with the murder of wealthy whites pointing to black nationalists, leading to the infamous crimes.
Though Mission:T Impossible posits a worldwide chase and intercepting dangerous, volatile materials to stop them, the most frightening part of a group like The Apostles is they don't need anything more than conviction and determination to push terror on the world.