Re-Watch: Mission: Impossible (1996)

Mission: Impossible
Director: Brian De Palma
Writer: David Koepp, Steven Zaillian
Based on: The TV Series
Cast: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Béart, Henry Czerny, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vanessa Redgrave
Seen on: 03.08.2015

Plot:
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is part of a team of spies led by Jim Phelps (Jon Voight). Their newest mission is supposed to prevent the sale of classified material. But things go very wrong and Ethan’s entire team is killed. All but Jim’s wife Claire (Emmanuelle Béart) that is. When Ethan’s loyalty is called into question and he is suspected of killing them off himself, he knows that he has to uncover and solve this mystery. Together with Claire, they ask Franz (Jean Reno) and Luther (Ving Rhames) for help, both disavowed agents and they take on the case.

Mission: Impossible follows the spy formula to the letter and while the plot doesn’t offer much that’s new, the execution is beautiful, although not exactly flawless.

MissionImpossible

It’s been years that I saw Mission: Impossible, but of course by now certain things from the film are so very ingrained in popular culture (the masks! the scene in the server room!) that it feels not only like it was just yesterday that I saw it the last time, it feels like the film was shot yesterday as well – De Palma just brought a very modern feeling to his film. But since the film is almost twenty years old, this freshness does make certain things a little strange: Tom Cruise’ babyface, the phone booths everywhere, the internet… it makes the entire film seem slightly naive somehow.

Despite those little irritations and the fact that the plot is playing all the classic tropes completely straight, M:I manages to rack up the tension with ease. In particular that famous server room scene is still a piece of breathtaking cinema, proving that it can easily stand the test of time.

MissionImpossible1De Palma is an excellent director most of the time, there were only a couple of moments where Cruise very much ACTED and probably should have toned it down a bit. That is part of what makes the film so engaging. Another thing that I found really fascinating – and that I never noticed before – was the camera work that is all odd angles and twisted perspectives that beautifully mirrors Hunt’s quest to work out the angle from which the entire thing makes sense.

All of this makes M:I a cool and exciting thriller that is still excellent even if you know what’s going to happen. The only thing that really isn’t great is its treatment of women (although considering the rest of the series, it is a shining feminist leader). But I’m willing to disregard it in this film because it has so much else to offer.

Summarizing: how an action film should be.

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