Henry Cavill Explains That Incredible Arm-Cocking Moment From Mission: Impossible – Fallout

In Christopher McQuarrie's 2018 action spectacular "Mission: Impossible – Fallout," Henry Cavill plays a Special Activities Division agent named August Walker who is assigned to aid Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) in the retrieval of weaponized plutonium that had fallen into the wrong hands. Walker is a sour, exasperated, towering bruiser who sports impeccable hair, an amazing mustache, and biceps like pomelos. Needless to say, Hunt and Walker do not get along, as Hunt was the one who lost the aforementioned plutonium to begin with, and Walker suspects that something more nefarious may be going on. Hunt, likewise, suspects Walker. 

Luckily, both of them are handy in a fight. In a film full of notable action and stunt sequences, one of the most memorable takes place in a public restroom with Walker fistfighting a cadre of potential weapons dealers. Cavill's fists are like anvils in this scene, and he lands punches with brutal precision. People are thrown through the air, sinks are smashed into shards, and the entire room is generally ruined for public use. 

In a single beloved shot, Cavill approaches a foe and quickly flexes his elbows, throwing two downward practice punches into the air before putting up his dukes. It looks as if he's "cocking" his arms, loading them as if they were actual guns. "Cavill cocking his arms" became widely disseminated in .gif form, and many were eager to point out that men rarely look as damn sexy as Cavill did in that moment. While Cavill's arm flex seemed natural in the moment, however, brief reflection might have one asking why he did it. It is, after all, not a typical maneuver for fighters.

The three-week fight

In a recent interview on the podcast Happy Sad Confused, Cavill was asked about the arm cocking move, and he was forthcoming about why he did it. It seems that the fight scene took so long to film that the actor's arms became fatigued. With sore biceps, Cavill needed to do something to warm himself back up, as it were. For however cool it looked, it was not part of McQuarrie's direction. Well, until it was. When the hosts asked if it was a choreographed maneuver, Cavill explained: 

"No, no, there was nothing like that. It was actually because — it was a rather intense fight scene, and we'd been shooting it for about three weeks at that stage, which is a long time in comparison to things like 'The Witcher,' where you get a day. Everything starts to get quite sore after a while, because it's a lot of repetitive motion. And the connected tendons in my biceps were getting sore, so I had to warm them up before I threw punches."

In "The Witcher," a fantasy series currently running on Netflix based on a series of novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, Cavill plays a magical monster hunter in an imaginary kingdom only referred to as The Continent, and his character frequently gets into scrapes. Seeing as "The Witcher" is produced on a tight TV schedule, Cavill certainly has a lot less time to prepare for the action. Where by contrast the fight scene in "Mission: Impossible – Fallout" is elaborate and lasts about two full minutes. 

'I can't believe I did that'

When Cavill initially "cocked" his arms, he was embarrassed. It was a way to get a second wind. but he ended up hating the way it looked. On the following take, McQuarrie had realized something was missing and asked the actor to do the move deliberately. The rest, as they say, is history. Cavill related the conversation he had with his director: 

"I'd literally do that to warm them up, and I did it once, and I thought, 'Oh, God, that probably looked really stupid. I can't believe I did that.' I said, 'Sorry, McQ. I won't do that again.' And he's like, 'Do what? OK, whatever. Let's go again.' Then I did another take without doing it, and he's like, 'Why didn't you do that thing? That was really good.' I was like, 'That was good?!' And he said, 'Yes! Definitely do that. Do that.' So we did."

And what they did was glorious. 

The arm-cock, even robbed from its context, spread like wildfire, and the public began over-examining it. If one sees a small repeating loop of the moment, one can see Cavill moving underneath a different lighting setup, and it briefly looks like his facial hair suddenly becomes bushier. Additionally, an previously unseen shirt pocket appears to spontaneously generate on his chest. The change of Cavill's appearance mid-shot led some to believe that it was meticulously edited together from two shots that were somehow "blended." Even Tom Cruise was asked about the beard, and he too was baffled. 

The logical explanation is that it was a mere change of lighting. Or that Cavill became so unerringly manly in that moment, that he grew the beard himself. I choose to believe the latter.