Your mission, should you choose to accept it.
Mission: Impossible is directed by Brian De Palma and is based on the TV series of the same name that ran from 1967-1973. The film is produced by and stars Tom Cruise, and also stars Jon Voight, Henry Czerny, Emmanuelle Beart, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Vanessa Redgrave. It is the first film in the successful Mission: Impossible film series.
For many years, Paramount Pictures, who owned the rights to the original Mission: Impossible television series, did everything in their power to try and create a film version of the show's core ideas, but in the end were unable to think up anything that would work. Tom Cruise, a fan of the show, liked the idea of making a Mission: Impossible movie, and decided along with his production partner, Paula Wagner, that a Mission: Impossible film was to be the first film for the two's new production company: Cruise/Wagner Productions. Cruise helped bring in director Brian De Palma and after a few drafts of the screenplay, everything was in place to make Mission: Impossible: The Movie happen.
The making of the movie was not good news for long-time fans of the TV show: Brian De Palma desired to make the movie nothing like the TV show, even going as far to invite Reza Badiyi, the man who directed more episodes of the TV show than anyone else, onto the set and explain to him what was going to happen and that the two would be best not to be on set together. In addition, only one character from the original series was to make an appearance in the film. I myself haven't seen any of the TV show (airing way way way before I was of this Earth) to do fully accurate comparisons. But for those of you readers out there who may have been fans of the TV show, I encourage any and all comparisons and contrasts.
The Mission: Impossible film series has ended up being a rather strange one: the series has gotten better with each new installment and not worse, worse being the norm for film series that love to overstay their welcome. That being said, I find Mission: Impossible to be the worst installment in the series, though I'm quite sure that there are lots of folks out there clamoring for Mission: Impossible II to be the worst Mission: Impossible film. Each film has its strengths and its flaws, and Mission: Impossible has a fairly balanced mixture of both.
Let's move on to the plot before we get down to brass tacks: The movie opens with the one character from the original series, Jim Phelps (Jon Voight), who is preparing with his team, the Impossible Missions Force (IMF), to retrieve the CIA non-official cover or NOC list which is located at the American embassy in Prague. Some members of Phelps' team are Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and Phelps' wife, Claire (Emmanuelle Beart). The mission to recover the list fails, with Ethan being the only survivor. Ethan meets with IMF director Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny), who reveals to Ethan that the mission was a setup in order to draw out a mole within IMF. The mole is believed to be working with an arms dealer named "Max" as part of something called "Job 314". Kittridge accuses Ethan of being the mole, as he is the only survivor of the mission. Ethan flees and sets out on a mission to discover who is really the mole and who framed him for murdering his entire IMF team.
I hesitate to label this Mission: Impossible film as any sort of action movie, because the movie is actually pretty light with the amount of showy, action set pieces that it presents to you. In fact, there is only one major action set piece in the entire film, which occurs right near the end (and it is freaking fantastic and one of the best in the entire series). Even though Brian De Palma intended for this film to not be at all like the TV show, it's hard for me to not think that it is in some ways like the TV show. The movie is much heavier than its successors on the pure spy elements, the script requiring the viewer to stay alert and not think that they can just sit back and take everything in like popcorn-style escapism. It really does try to be a smart, layered espionage film, though with limited success.
- No one in 1996 envisioned Tom Cruise going on to be the huge action star that he is today. The guy had starred in a series of drama films during the 80's and early 90's, with Top Gun being about the closest Cruise came to starring in an appropriately labeled action movie. Here, Cruise shows he truly had what it took to be in the kind of movie that required serious stunt work and a certain level of charisma. Cruise performed a lot of his own stunts, all the while carrying a level of charisma that helped him mold Ethan Hunt into a memorable and convincing character.
- That final scene on the train. Awesome stuff. That's all I'll say on that topic.
- Danny Elfman's score is rock solid, featuring the right kinds of exciting tunes that enhance the adrenaline one should feel during the film's most exciting scenes.
- Mission: Impossible's writing is where the movie falters the most, the plot being a little too complicated for its own good. As the movie progresses, you start to lose track of who exactly is a good guy or a bad guy and what is motivating certain characters to think and act in one of those two ways. I suppose the plot's complexity is secretly the movie's way of making sure you're always paying attention, but I've read through the film's plot summary several times and have watched the film in its entirety twice now, and I still find it extremely difficult to keep up with. It's one thing to have a smart plot that features a lot of twists and turns. It's another to communicate and explain all of the plot points effectively. Mission: Impossible struggles quite a bit with that second part.
I can promise though, that the cumbersome writing shouldn't totally prevent you from having an enjoyable time with this film. Tom Cruise's charismatic performance and the film's final action set piece (yes, I WILL recommend that you see certain movies just for one or two particular scenes) are enough to carry the load, with the film also having plenty of pure espionage material to keep you interested. Mission: Impossible is a perfectly fine film on its own, but when compared to its sequels, it leaves quite a bit more to be desired.
Recommend? Yes, and even if you didn't like it, don't let that stop you from watching the later films.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: