Mission: Impossible (1996)

Rates: * * * 1/2

Why Did I Watch It? The Blank Check podcast are doing the M:I franchise on Patreon. (Note: this is my fave movie podcast, highly recommended).

Cast, crew, etc.

Trailer

The Impossible Mission Force is like the ultra CIA; they get the jobs that are too tough for the regular spooks, and have the very best operatives and tech. But while on assignment in Prague, a crack IMF team is rumbled and agents assassinated. Now it is up to Ethan Hunt to sift through the debris, work out what went wrong, and generally save the day. And, not for the last time, all this while he is: DISAVOWED.

Returning to the very first M:I movie, in the shadow of the giant sized recent entries, is quite a trip. Here are some things that feature in this film, that will never recur in the franchise:

  • Hunt as just a member of the team, rather than the leader
  • Mention of Hunt’s parents and family
  • A mystery! That has to be solved (the rest are all manhunts)
  • A villain who is an older woman
  • Tom Cruise NOT hanging out of an airplane/building

I mean one of the key scenes in the movie, is the hacking of a sophisticated computer, done with ropes and pulleys, in total silence! An icnonic scene form the era, that you would never see now. This film does have an M:I appropriate train/helicopter showdown/set piece, but the later entries have about 8 of these, each.

Brian De Palma was an unusual choice for a movie like this, having never made big action films, but his fondness for classic Hollywood and flamboyant visual style give this a distinctive tone. The camera slides silkily through the cobblestoned streets of different European cities, and there is plentiful use of atypical angles and split screen imagery: both De Palma trademarks. This provides a lot of atmosphere, which suits the plot; playing like a classic noir whodunnit, with Hunt as the gumshoe, following the clues.

At the peak of his fame by this time, Tom Cruise is terrific in the lead; his energy and confidence, and determination, all to the fore. A winning and charismatic movie star performance. My favourite TC bit is when he messes with accomplice Jean Reno, pulling off a series of slight of hand magic tricks to wind him up. His first meeting with Vanessa Redgrave, a wonderful bit of casting, is also tops, crackling with chemistry (as noted above, in later films this part would 100% be played by an actress half Redgrave’s age)

While this was a huge hit, it is funny to think that it spawned such a durable franchise. The TV show is not as well remembered as some, and there were any number of Bond adjacent actioners in the 1990s. But, in a way similar to the Fast and Furious series, this has just gotten bigger as the years have passed. It is bigger now than Cruise himself, and M:I remains the one thing that keeps him on the A list (a little sad to think about).

Watched as part of the Blank Check series on the M:I films. This was a blast, looking forward to the rest.

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