a critiQal film review Mission: Impossible (1996)

Plot: Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is the point man for an Impossible Missions Force. Their latest job: to infiltrate a party and find the stolen NOC list, which details the real names of every agent in Eastern Europe. The catch: the whole operation is a ruse, a mole hunt for someone deep within IMF. Now, with IMF after him, Ethan must find the real traitor and expose him...before IMF puts Ethan away for a crime he didn't commit.

833 words (Est. Reading Time 4m 9s)
  • ...the translation to the big screen is so good viewers will wonder 'why wasn't the TV series like this?'

I remember seeing “Mission: Impossible” (TV) years ago (during the 80’s), starring George Peppard (of “The A-Team” (TV) fame). It was pretty good, and I got hooked for a little while. When I heard that it was going to be made into a film years later, I was a little doubtful. Would Tom Cruise be able to bring his large amount of star power to turn this into a worthy remake, or is making a movie version of Mission: Impossible an impossible mission?

Director Brian De Palma really knew what he was doing when he picked the actors for this film. He had a set vision from the get-go of the film he was going to make, and it’s evident right from the start. He added a couple big stars (Tom Cruise, Jon Voight), a couple of newly popular actors (Jean Reno, Ving Rhames), and even threw in an 80’s star (Emilio Estevez)! It’s a nice mix, and all the actors perform their roles exceedingly well.

Tom Cruise is excellent as Ethan Hunt, with his mixture of suave bravado and boyish charm. He uses both to the hilt in Mission: Impossible, and the role is nicely complex for him as well. He really shows why he gets paid the big bucks here. The movie hinges on the viewer’s ability to relate to Ethan Hunt, and Tom Cruise has always done an excellent job of bringing the audience along with him in every film.

Jean Reno brings a bit of a sinister presence to the film, and doesn’t really shine as he did in The Professional (1994). Ving Rhames is a huge surprise, and really keeps up with Tom here. Even though he’s not in as many scenes, he really plays his role so well it’s surprising this level of acting hadn’t really been seen before from Ving (it shows up again in Quentin’s Pulp Fiction (1994)).

The plot is very well put together, another piece of the puzzle that Brian De Palma carefully worked out in this film. With it’s surprising twists and turns, almost relentless action, but with more thought in it than one might originally suspect, Brian De Palma has brought the “M:I” TV show into the present with perfection. From the now classic lines (from Emilio’s “Hasta lasagna, don’t get any on ya” to Hunt’s “Kittridge, you’ve never seen me very upset”), to it’s kicking soundtrack (featuring an updated “Mission Impossible Theme” by U2), to it’s great homage to the TV series’ introduction collage, to it’s impressively shot, well thought out scenes, it’s no wonder that the film has spawned a sequel (Mission: Impossible II (2000)) and another is on the way.

It is a bit darker than the TV series was, but it’s done so well most people will just wonder “why wasn’t the TV series more like this film?” rather than the other way around, as people usually do when a remake is done.

The special effects team put everything together very well for Mission: Impossible, also. From the classic scene of Ethan running away as a water-themed restaurant floods it’s contents out behind him, to the realistic masks that are shown throughout the film, to the break-in at CIA headquarters, the special effects are all put together very convincingly, and with utmost concern to continuing the storyline smoothly. The effects are there to help move the plot along, rather than the plot being there just to have some filler between huge effects. The effects only contribute to the film’s great quality.

Having said all that, however, there is one point in Mission: Impossible where Brian De Palma seems to have overreached just a bit- the end. With a spectacular stunt sequence at the finale of the film, it almost detracts from the more calm, somewhat realistic approach the rest of the film tried to take.

It’s as if someone had been pestering Mr. De Palma to throw in something big and flashy, and he kept protesting throughout – maybe giving a little (the water-themed restaurant) – but trying to stick to his original vision. Then, at the last moment, he gives in, and they get their big flashy finale. It’s almost a disappointment, since it turns the film into only another action flick in the eyes of most viewers, simply because when they leave the theaters, that big flashy finale is what sticks in their heads.

Over all, Mission: Impossible is the best start to a series of films since, well, Dr. No (1962) or Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). It’s got an obvious story continuation (will IMF ever run out of missions? I don’t think so), it’s even got the ability to switch characters in and out if it needs to (after all, maybe Ethan isn’t on that mission…).

With all that in mind, the first film in the series should be something so impressive that people will want to come back for more again and again. And Mission: Impossible does just that.

Not so Impossible a Mission after all, eh Mr. De Palma?

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