Insane stunts and gleeful humor aren't the only things going for this franchise. The hardships of being a spy of the IMF are also there. Just ask Ethan Hunt.
- Ethan's reunion with Jim at a restaurant, after the latter reveals that he is alive. Ethan mentally pieces together what really happened on the botched Prague mission: Jim was responsible for killing all the IMF team members, as he is the mole. What Ethan says afterwards, with concealed, utter disappointment, sells it."Why, Jim? Why?"
- A villainous version—Ambrose is clearly tearing up at the realization of Nyah's betrayal, strongly suggesting that he really does love her, despite being an evil SOB.
- Ethan's anguished pleas to Nyah to "stay alive" as he's forced to abandon her so that he can escape and find a cure for her.
- The interrogation scene at the beginning/climax of the movie, also doubles as Nightmare Fuel. Ethan and Julia are held hostage by Davian, and Davian slowly counts to ten before Julia is eventually executed. As Davian interrogates Ethan about the whereabouts of the Rabbit's Foot, Davian snaps at Ethan and Ethan yells at Davian and swears to kill him. Despite Ethan's pleas, Davian reaches ten and shoots Julia in the head. Thankfully, it's later revealed that it was only his translator that Davian executed, with the real Julia held hostage in a separate building, but still a pretty tense scene.
- Lindsey's death by brain bomb. For a second there, there was a Hope Spot in that the deliberator would activate soon, Ethan would short out the explosive charge, and that it would be a mission well done. But no, the charge explodes just seconds before the deliberator was ready to use.
- The next scene doesn't help, in which Ethan and Musgrave are chewed out by the IMF Secretary, Brassel."Your operation has achieved one thing. You have reminded Davian that he is winning. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go and inform Mr. and Mrs. Farris that their baby girl was killed in a head-on collision on I-95."
- The next scene doesn't help, in which Ethan and Musgrave are chewed out by the IMF Secretary, Brassel.
- As Ethan is captured by Solomon Lane, he can only watch the record shop courier suffering a Boom, Headshot! from behind by Lane himself, all while he futilely tries to escape sleeping gas in the locked room he is in. The significance is that this can easily trigger bad memories of Julia's death, and even if that person was just the main villain's translator in that movie wearing a Julia mask, it was still an innocent person who ended up with the wrong people.
- After the White Widow tells Ethan about the plan to get Solomon Lane, involving the attack of a police convoy and subsequent slaughter of policemen, the scene cuts to that plan happening, with the White Widow's masked henchmen shooting down all of them. The audience then sees that one of the masked people is none other than Ethan itself, who doesn't even fire his gun, and can only watch the henchmen murder innocent lives, all to obtain a prisoner. The slow, somber music, "Should You Choose to Accept...", doesn't help at all. It's hammered home when Ethan finally confronts a wounded officer after the latter was shot fatally. The officer's fear is juxtaposed with Ethan's steely expression, as he, after some pressuring from the henchmen, aims his pistol towards his head, finally pulling the trigger. Luckily, this was an Imagine Spot, but the emotional impact of what could have been still remains.
- Luther's entire talk to Ilsa about Ethan's aversion of The Needs of the Many. Especially when he has tears in his eyes as he talks about the Berlin mission, where he was saved by Ethan even though the plutonium was stolen in the process. At this point, he feels that since he lived, he has been responsible for everything that has happened up to that point, which included Hunley's death, among many things.Luther: In all the years that I've known Ethan he's only been serious about two women. One was his wife.
Ilsa: He's married?
Luther: No, he was.
Ilsa: Was? What happened to her?
Luther: Well, she was taken by some people who wanted to get to Ethan. It's OK. He got her back in one piece. Then he quit the game. They were happy for a while. But every time something bad happened in the world Ethan would think: I should have been there. And she would wonder: Who's watching the world while Ethan is watching me? Deep down they both knew that someday, somehow, something truly terrible was going to happen. All because they were together. So...
Ilsa: Where is she now?
Luther: She's a ghost. Good at it too. Taught her myself. Every now and then she sends up a signal to let Ethan know she's safe. And that keeps him going.
Ilsa: Why are you telling me this?
Luther: (Tears up) We're in this mess because Ethan wouldn't let me die. He's a good man. And he cares about you. More than he can admit. That's one more worry than he can handle right now. If you care about him, you should walk away.