MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (1996)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 50 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some Intense Action Violence

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Directed by: Brian De Palma

Written by: David Koepp & Robert Towne

Starring: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Henry Czerny, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott Thomas & Vanessa Redgrave

In the realm of big, dumb popcorn entertainment, things usually don’t get any bigger, dumber and popcornier than 1996’s MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE. This spy thriller broke many records during its release. These included widest release (just over 3,000 screens) and highest opening. Though these records would be shattered shortly down the line (TITANIC was only a year away), the TV show turned summer blockbuster quickly launched a franchise. Seeing as the fifth entry arrives at the end of July and I had never sat through a single MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movie before (I know), I decided it was high time that I tackle the series. Having just watched this first movie I can declare that it fits squarely in the realm of big, popcorn-munching turn-off-your-brain fun. Nothing more, nothing less.

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When there are jobs too difficult, dangerous and complex for the CIA, Interpol, FBI, etc., you call in the IMF (Impossible Missions Force). This super secret organization keeps its members identities a mystery as they need to keep under the radar in order to be highly skilled at their work. Ethan Hunt is an IMF agent who has undertaken his latest assignment. This involves retrieving a confidential list from a group of very bad people who plan on revealing the identities of every IMF agent (therefore making them ineffective and putting their lives in danger). When the mission goes horribly wrong and Ethan Hunt is framed for being a mole, he goes on the run. With IMF hunting Hunt (see what I did there?), he can only rely on a very select group of people to help him clear his name, keep the list safe, and undercover the real mole inside of his team.

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The screenplay of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE is a silly one. At first, the plot seems to be fairly simple, but then we keep getting new twists and turns that really don’t make too much sense when you think about them. However, they do serve as excuses for plenty of cool scenes. That’s the main purpose of this film it seems: being cool. You’re thrown right into this world of espionage and ridiculous gadgets. The viewer is automatically expected to care about each of these agents, but the movie moves at such a fast pace that I didn’t really care about anyone that much aside from Tom Cruise (because he’s our leading man) and Jean Reno (because it’s always nice to see LEON in any movie). I was having a fun with how wild and crazy MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE is, though it definitely reaches near John McClane levels of over-the-top absurdity by the conclusion.

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While most of the scenes are enjoyable in a purely dumb fun sense, including Ethan’s showdown with a helicopter whilst on top of a speeding train, there are a couple of moments where things get a little too bombastic. One scene in particular made me laugh but not in a good way. It’s involves gallons upon gallons of water spilling out in slow motion from a giant aquarium with broken glass and fish flying everywhere, all while Tom Cruise narrowly escapes its path in super slow-motion. You can tell that the scene clearly took a lot of effort to film and a lot of money (as well as water) to spill, but I found it all to be a bit…much. This all being said, a majority of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE moves at a pace so fast that you won’t find yourself able to nitpick many problems while you’re watching the film. My favorite part of the entire movie is the iconic break-in sequence that involves getting through three levels of security (lasers, sound & pressure, and heat). Every ounce of possible suspense is milked from that long and exciting piece of the story.

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MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE is one of those movies that requires you to turn off your brain and simply enjoy a big dumb popcorn movie on its own merits. I’m not necessarily what you’d call a Tom Cruise fan, but found him to be a cool leading man in this obvious summer blockbuster. This film took the country by storm at its time of release and its easy to see why that is. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE is exciting, ridiculous and a lot of fun. All flaws considered, it’s a wholly entertaining ride!

Grade: B

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