Director: Brian De Palma
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emilio Estevez, Henry Czerny, Vanessa Redgrave
RED LIGHT! GREEN LIGHT!
Mission: Impossible is a film that hooked me and had me incredibly excited from its trailer and absolutely delivered for me when I saw it in the summer of 1996. The film brought with it a ton of excitement, adventure, mystery, surprise, action and incredibly nail biting suspense. Its one of the greatest spy movies to grace the silver screen of all time. It was a step in a different direction for Tom Cruise and turned him into an even bigger movie star. Watching that trailer, hearing the modernized theme, just gets me all excited again. I was a casual fan of watching reruns of the series, so I was looking forward to this movie with all my hopes and dreams haha.
One of the trends of the 1990s seemed to be taking televisions series of yesteryear and updating or retelling them for the big screen. These were one of the factions of blockbusters we could count on every year. You could make a parody of what the show was like The Brady Bunch Move or The Addams Family (though it's sequel is better in terms of quality). Some of them stayed serious and featured some incredible success like The Fugitive. There were probably more failures, like The Flintstones, that came and went but this was a "thing".
Mission: Impossible went for something that was more true to what the show was than trying to be all jokey about it. The film featured some great espionage without ever feeling like some 007 knock off and incredibly its own thing. Its also a film that has some incredible stand out action and suspense sequences. The iconography of this film is off the charts. More than just the hanging in the white room sequence, we also have Cruise running from the fish tank exploding and the helicopter in the subway tunnel sequence to rave about years later. And it frankly, this film holds up outstandingly well and probably would be more well received to fresh eyes audiences than the ones who saw it back in the day.
I speak of that because the film is one that definitely is legendary among Hollywood summer blockbusters. Maybe not for its quality, but for the film being much smarter than people realized when munching on their popcorn. For me, I thought the film was quite terrific, but as soon as I exited the theater I noticed my parents didn't seem to "get it" and a lot of people I talked to were quite confused. And its absolutely baffling that this happened. The movie even goes out of its way to spell out what happened and how the diabolical scheme "worked". If had to watch the "Oh Ethan" POV shot of Jon Voight's bloody hands again...my oh my. But people were baffled, they didn't expect to have to think at an action blockbuster.
Why is this? Because first and foremost this is a Brian De Palma film. His touches, his excellence is all over it. The reason this movie works and succeeds as it does is because he's taking the reigns with probably little compromise. Its obvious the majority of De Palma's catalog is a love letter to the works of Alfred Hitchcock and this film is no different. Mission: Impossible is De Palma's version of The 39 Steps or North By Northwest. I take no issue with who De Palma cribs from, why not crib from the best? De Palma carefully plots out even just the minimal conversation scene with a great precision. Its a master at work, and its one thing I'm not sure people fully appreciated at the time of release. I'll admit I was drawn in and it wasn't til years later I really appreciated what De Palma is doing here. Its one of my favorites of his films.
The first act of the film really drew me in. We start in the middle of a mission and are introduced to what we believe is our team. It features recognizable faces like Kristin Scott Thomas and Emilio Estevez who are bumped off before the mission ends. I remember in theaters when I saw Emilio's name in the credits and was like "Woah, why wasn't he in the trailer" (He was, but I didn't recognize bearded Emilio) and had my question answered quickly. It was a terrific set up that led to a great "man on the run" film. This one will be 20 years old next summer, and I truly think, while the tech may be a little older (you should watch the movie and give its era, hipsters), it holds up remarkably well.
NEXT TIME: Cuz doves make you look like a badass