Monday, July 26, 2010

Mission: Impossible (1996)

Director: Brian De Palma
Notable Cast: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Henry Czerny, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames

The first "Mission: Impossible" film holds a pretty special balance in its wake. Although Tom Cruise might be bat shit crazy now with his hijinks, Scientology rants, and criticisms of morning hosts, it's films like "Mission: Impossible" that make his career the flavorful catalog it is. With all of the talent incorporated with this film version of the cheesy 60s and 70s television show, its not surprising that it's updated admirably and is one of the most memorable (and spoofed) films of the 90s.

Ethan Hunt (Cruise) works for a mysterious agency known as IMF. They track down and complete tasks considered practically impossible on a daily basis. When his team, lead by Jim Phelps (Voight) is basically slaughtered on a mission to recover a stolen list of secret agents called the NOC list, Hunt is blamed for being a mole in the organization. Hunt then goes rogue vows to uncover the true mole that slaughtered his team. He builds a new team of rogue agents (Rhames and Reno) to steal the real NOC list and uncover the dire deeds behind his accusation.

The balance of "Mission: Impossible" is truly what makes this film a fun and intense watch. It somehow balances the 60s and somewhat cheesy vibe of the original TV series and updates it adequately with modern style and technology into a spy film that fringes onto an action film more than once. Considering that at the time it started filming there wasn't even a finished script, the smart and quickly moving plot engages you 100% of the time and never really lets go until the final climax of a helicopter and train chase. Its in these regards with its fun dialogue, smartly cast group (we do love us some Voight at Blood Brothers here), cheesy but somehow effect plot, and great balances that "Mission: Impossible" works so well.

If there were any hiccups on this film, it would have to be its almost arrogant and over thought plot twists. Half the time the film is too smart for its own good and has trouble conveying its own surprises to the audiences. Half the time it has to use a fairly cheesy voice over to remind us what we should know and at other times it just rolls with its twists making the audience just go with it for the sake of pacing. The ending on the train with all of its unveiling and double agent 'oh hell no!' moments gets almost overwhelming for about 10 solid minutes and still to this day I wonder about some of the details of it. The script that was being worked on before filming started does show its problems in this regard, but overall it's pretty minute in comparison to the rest of the film's execution. Fortunately the film charms its way through those holes and having a great moment with Cruise on the front of a helicopter yelling "Red light! Green light!" smooths over my confusion nicely.

Although it may not always work out logically, "Mission: Impossible" does too many things right to criticize it too much. Its fun. Its intense. Its a great 90s ride of spy nostalgia and charm. It works for me.

BONUS RANT: Now, Emilio Estevez has a short role as the first IMF team's tech guy in the beginning of this film. I love his character and I love that actor. He is not in it enough. Period. The more Emilio, the better I say. If I thought that was a legit reason I would knock off half a star on this film for killing him. But alas, its not really legit. And it was nice to see him once more before his career fell off the face of the Earth. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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