When Ethan Hunt’s team of secret agent’s are all betrayed he is the only one left for his superiors to blame and to track down the real traitor.
One Small Step
"Mission: Impossible" is one of the few franchises that has maintained my interest from beginning to current. I was the right age when the first one came out to actually buy it on VHS and watch enough times that it joins “Hunt for Red October” and "Jurassic Park” in that special category of movie that I can quote almost front to back.
So, it will come as no surprise to anyone reading that I love this movie. Ethan Hunt is my James Bond. I’ve always looked forward to the new ones and I’ve seen them way more times. It certainly isn’t flawless but it is a solid first run at rebooting a franchise. It kicked off Tom Cruise’s producing career, is his landmark franchise, and one of the better ones out there.
Unique Among the Franchise
By today’s standards “Mission: Impossible” is a bit slower that the other entries into the series. It is more of a psychological thriller or a spy noir. Sure it has amazing action set pieces, setting the bar for the rest of the franchise which would always be one-upping itself with each sequel, but the mystery of who betrayed Ethan is more like a good mystery than an action movie.
The central theme of this film is not, how far can Ethan jump, how long can he hang, or quickly can he run. It’s who can he trust and it is done in a way that is unique within the franchise. This movie still feels like a small film, not the tentpole series which grew from it.
Despite being the sort of slow burning spy thriller hollywood doesn’t make much anymore, it does have some of the more memorable sequences of any Mission Impossible movie. Heck, when you think of Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, you think of him dangling from a rope, inches from the ground of a white, touch sensitive floor.
It also has a truly unique scene where Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise “The Mummy”) is speaking to Jim Phelps (Jon Voight, “Midnight Cowboy”) and is trying to put together in his head, how the betrayal happen. As he plays out the scene in his head, the audience is shown all the various versions he is considering which the first time may seem a little chaotic but is actually a brilliant way of portraying the confusion Hunt is feeling. Those sort of touches are what makes De Palma’s work here feel so unique among the franchise. In fact, I wish that the franchise had maintained more of that feel rather than becoming more and more like a James Bond franchise wannabe.
Unfortunately, one does have to hand wave a few things here and there in this film. Its understanding of how usenet groups work is silly, and while it is prescient enough to predict how small cameras would get, it certainly does look weird to see someone light up a cigarette on a commercial airplane.
To a modern audience, trained by the nerd fan internet to pick apart plot points and logic problems, parts of Ethan’s plan seem absolutely ridiculous, and the security system at CIA headquarters is laughably complex yet woefully inadequate.
These fault are small however. To me, the mystery of who Ethan can trust is far more interesting than the action, and definitely distracts me from the small logic problems here and there. After all, in an action sequence, we know Tom Cruise is going to survive, but in a scene where he discusses his plan with Claire, the question of whether she is true could go either way.
I think the main reason I like this movie is that sense of tension. Giving the audience somethings care about more than ‘does Ethan make it?’ If that is all there is, one only has to see that there are sequels planned to know he does. Give the audience a question they aren’t sure how to answer and you create tension and stakes that draw an audience in. It certainly did me and, if you go in with your expectations set properly, I think it will you as well.
Like the Mission: Impossible series? So do we! Check out our all of our reviews for Mission: Impossible, Mission: Impossible 2, Mission: Impossible 3, Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation, and Mission: Impossible: Fallout.
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