Mission: Impossible is a slapdash effort that might not make complete sense, but always has something interesting and fun going on. It’s a thrilling affair, one that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and I have to say that I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would. It’s not a complete winner, in large part because of its convoluted plot, but with director Brian De Palma’s visual flourish, and some of the fantastic sequences, this is a film I easily have to recommend.
The basic idea here is that Tom Cruise plays an American James Bond named Ethan Hunt who works for an agency that puts him in some ridiculous situations. A job goes wrong, the agency believes he’s a mole, and he finds himself hiding and on the run from his former employer. Now, he has to bring the real mole to justice, coincidentally by stealing the thing that the mole wanted to steal in the first place. Some twists and turns happen — the man you think is the villain isn’t actually, characters you thought were dead aren’t, and so on — but that’s the gist of it.
You know how many heist movies lead up to a big job at the end, and spend large portions of the time early on devoted to the characters and the preparation? Mission: Impossible thinks that’s a silly idea, and instead gives us several heists separated only by minor exposition. There’s no time for characters here; there’s a sense of urgency. Lives are on the line, after all, as the big ticket item here is a list of agents undercover all over the world, all of whom could be executed if the list is released.
It’s amazing what silence can do to increase tension. You watch one scene in this movie — it involves breaking into Langley to steal the NOC list I mentioned earlier, kept in a room where an increase in temperature, a single drop of sweat on the floor, or a single sound will trigger an alarm — and it becomes apparent how important silence can be. You sit there, watching, holding your breath, feeling like if you make a sound, the alarm will go off. Obviously, you can’t, but it feels that way given the situation in the film.
It’s very immersive, is what I’m saying, which thrillers often aren’t. You become involved in this movie. While you might not necessarily always be able to follow its plot, you’ll always be thinking or thrilled, one of the two. I’m not sure if the ending action scene, which I will not spoil, has ever been done before Mission: Impossible. There’s something to be said about the film’s originality, and yes, I say this even thought this is a movie that is based on a television show that was around in the ’60s and ’70s (and briefly in 1988-1990, but nobody’s counting those).
If you’re a fan of the television series, you’re not going to notice a great deal of similarities here. There are a few references scattered throughout, but they’re different bodies of work. Ethan Hunt wants to be James Bond, not anyone from the older series. That’s just fine, and Cruise is charismatic enough to pull it off, but if you’re expecting a faithful retelling, you’re going to be disappointed.
There are some fun supporting performances coming from some relatively well-known actors. Jon Voight and Emmanuelle Béart play two of the people on the team of the job that goes wrong, while Ving Rhames and Jean Reno play the men that Hunt recruits for the mission at Langley. Vanessa Redgrave plays the buyer — the person who employs Hunt and tasks him with stealing the list. None of them are memorable in the film, but it’s nice to see such talent involved, even if Cruise (who also produced the film), is the star attraction.
Brian De Palma is a director who rarely makes a boring film, even if they don’t happen to be very good. Here, he brings with him several camera angles and cinematography choices that you wouldn’t initially think would work with an action film of this ilk, but it turns out to be tremendously effective once you adjust. After the confrontation scene where Hunt learns that his agency thinks he’s the mole, I was sold on this shooting style. It’s not something that should be used all the time, but sparingly, and for this one film, it worked.
A special mention should be made for the score, which is incredibly catchy, and you’ll find yourself humming it after the film ends. Sure, it’s a reworked version of the original theme of the film, but it’s a good version of it and I don’t know if I could get tired of listening to it. There’s a school of thought — to which I subscribe most of the time — that a noticeable score is a bad one, but in this case I think it adds to the experience.
Mission: Impossible is a whole lot of fun. It has a great deal of memorable sequences, a fantastic score, a strong cast, and a director who brings a non-traditional shooting style to this action film and makes it work. Tom Cruise is charismatic enough to make his constantly grinning character endearing, a couple of points are absolutely fantastic, and the film saves its best moment for last, with an idea that I don’t believe has ever been done on film previously. The plot is a mess, but this is still and engaging film and I wholeheartedly recommend it.