Thursday, 30 September 2010

Movie Review: Mission: Impossible (1996)


An action film that relies almost solely on two set-piece scenes needs to get these scenes right. Mission: Impossible almost pulls it off, but ultimately both scenes are not as good as they need to be, and the movie as a whole is vaguely unsatisfying.

The plot, which isn't pretending to be too important, is all about the Impossible Missions Force attempting to prevent spy secrets from falling into the wrong hands.

In the first showcase scene, Tom Cruise as agent Ethan Hunt and his buddies break into a CIA safe room to steal a computer file. Cruise spends the scene horizontally suspended from the ceiling and unable to touch the floor to avoid triggering a motion sensor alarm. The tension is good; the ease with which the computer gives up the secret file is ridiculous.

In the film's climactic and second poster scene, a helicopter chases a train into the Chunnel. Needles to say that while the idea may have seemed good on paper, on film this sequence gets ridiculous early and often.

Mission: Impossible is hampered by a couple of strange creative decisions: Brian De Palma is not an action film director. Even his action-oriented successes like The Untouchables and Scarface were all about the characters first. The Mission: Impossible script by David Koeppe and Robert Towne is nowhere near providing enough depth for the characters to compete with the need for an action-driven narrative, and it is difficult to understand what De Palma is doing at the helm of this film.

The second strange appearance is by Vanessa Redgrave as the mysterious Max, buyer of US spy secrets. She looks out of place in an underdeveloped, mostly unexplained and finally dumbfounding role.

Tom Cruise is credible as Hunt, and in the process establishes for himself a new franchise. The rest of the actors and personalities here are as predictable as any run-of-the-mill action movie.

Mission: Impossible is passable fun, but it proved to be a rare example of a film surpassed by its sequel.



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