Mission Impossible (1996)
Directed By Brian De Palma
Produced By Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner
Starring Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Henry Czerny, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Vanessa Redgrave and Kristin Scott Thomas.
I always knew I had seen the first Mission Impossible film, but it was around ten years ago and I found it boring and confusing. Please forgive me for that; I was young and my tastes have since changed quite a bit. With the new film in the series being released this summer and discovering that Netflix UK has all but the third film I thought I should check it out again to see what I missed on my first viewing.
To sum up the plot – a mole in the IMF/CIA is discovered when Ethan Hunt's (Tom Cruise) team is all murdered whilst carrying out a mission in Prague. Being a top suspect as the lone survivor means Ethan has to prove his innocence (along with the help of those previously blacklisted by the CIA).
Firstly, I would like to apologise for my previous comment saying that this film is boring and confusing. I was an eejit. I really enjoyed this film when watching it again recently. There is always a danger with action films where there has to be huge punch up or shoot out scenes and this film doesn't really contain much in the way of that. Instead; the film relies on the build up in tension. Showing Hunt as a sort of lone-wolf style fugitive who doesn't have time to sleep and has little idea of who to trust is something this film does perfectly. This is done so well by Cruise who is starring in his first real action role, the fantastic soundtrack by Danny Elfman and the brilliant cinematography. Wide shots allow us to see all the important people or aspects of a scene; and these are mixed with close-ups of Hunt when the pressure mounts. Both are employed exactly when they are needed.
The scene in the computer vault is amazing. Few films, especially those wanting to be a summer action blockbuster, would have one of the key scenes in almost complete silence. It is a very brave move – and one that I loved. Not only did it really build up the tension (I swear even I didn't want to make any sound), but I can't think of any other film that has been brave enough to try that technique and so it really stands out. Another reason it stands out is that it really is Cruise hanging from a rope. It is hardly an incredibly technical stunt, but not all actors would have the courage to do it themselves and it all adds to the realism.
Another thing Mission Impossible does well are the scenes where the characters explain what is about to happen. This is a really tricky part in films as of course the film makers don't want the film to be too confusing, but they also don't want the audience to feel like there is a suggestion that they are stupid and will not be able to follow the plot otherwise. Being a spy film, these scenes are actually enjoyable and feel necessary as they depict the characters planing their next move. It also helps build the tension as the task in hand is described in such a way that the audience really do feel like the mission is impossible! Hunt smiles as the job gets explained, and this lets us know he feels up to the task and is actually looking forward to the challenge.
This film is almost 20 years old, but it only shows in the scenes centred around computer hacking and the internet. The rest of the film has aged perfectly. Goldeneye, another spy/action/thriller that came out only eight months before looks a lot older in comparison.
Whilst researching this film, I noticed it is often listed under 'action'. I don't think I would agree that is the key genre here, to me it is more a thriller spy film. If you really enjoyed The Bourne Identity, but wished for more tension and a few less fight scenes then you will really enjoy Mission Impossible. On a scale of Scott Pilgrim to Pans Labyrinth, I would give this film a 9. I really enjoy spy films and I am incredibly annoyed at myself that I let this film become almost 20 years old before I sat down to give it a proper viewing, this just proves that maybe films deserve a second chance. Well – not Scott Pilgrim.
Oh, and Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell is quite possibly the coolest computer hacker ever.