Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mission: Impossible (1996)

Impossible.... To Remember

- I have seen Brian De Palma's star-studded (Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Vanessa Redgrave, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Emilio Estevez, Kristin Scott Thomas) 1996 action remake of the 1960s television series Mission: Impossible a number of times but I never seem to be able to recall too many things about it shortly after viewing. So, since I have recently caught yet another viewing of this film, I figured that I better get my thoughts written down now before I lose everything again!

Tom Cruise stars as Ethan Hunt, a member of the Impossible Missions Force (an unofficial yet most cheesily-named branch of the CIA). That is really all you need to know about the plot because it is more convoluted than Dodd-Frank translated into Japanese and then back into English. After director Brian De Palma took over the film following Sydney Pollack's departure, the script went through re-write after re-write until it landed in Chinatown (1974) scribe Robert Towne's lap. Identifying the story as "messy" is kind. De Palma's plan with Mission: Impossible was to surprise the audience at every turn. Apart from some of the predictable "surprises," Mission: Impossible succeeds in accomplishing De Palma's goals, only in a different way than he had hoped: the audience is constantly surprised because they have no idea what is going on!

But, hey, who really needs the plot in the first place? It's all just a big Maguffin anyhow. Let's see some rip-roaring action! Mission: Impossible does have a number of memorable scenes that are well-executed by De Palma (the sequence with Tom Cruise hanging from the rope is famous for a reason). The film includes enough of these action-packed and suspenseful scenes to, at best, keep the viewer mildly entertained and, at worst, keep the viewer from falling asleep. Unfortunately, a lot of the action is completely over-the-top ridiculous, the final action scene is particularly nauseating, and is comprised of some surprisingly subpar special effects even for the 1990s.

Alright, fine. So the action is a bit overhyped in addition to the story being a mess. Give us some interesting characters to follow around and all will be forgiven! Unfortunately, Mission: Impossible develops its characters worse than a polaroid. The entire film is basically just a vehicle for Tom Cruise, who stars and produces the film. Action here, plot twists there - it really does not matter because Cruise is the front-and-center star of this bloated blockbuster, over-the-top and empty as a sea shell as he screams for attention. The franchise that this original 1996 Mission: Impossible film kicked off continues to be Cruise's main cash-cow. Whenever Cruise's career comes spiraling down (a frequent occurrence), brace yourself for another forgettable Mission: Impossible flick.

As lackluster as De Palma's original film is, the series would get progressively worse. John Woo's Mission: Impossible II (2002) was a lot more fun but was not a high quality film (plus its story completely rips off Hitchcock's Notorious (1946)), J.J. Abrams's Mission: Impossible III (2006) was neither fun nor a good film, and, so sue me, I have no interest in putting myself through the latest Mission: Impossible flick, Brad Bird's Ghost Protocol (2011), no matter how supposedly good its reception. Compared to the rest of the crew (which is, of course, not saying much) the original Mission: Impossible is clearly the best of the M:I film series.... Or, at least, I think it is.... Oh no! I just forgot most of the film again!


CBC Rating: 6/10

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