Monday, September 21, 2015

Movie Review - Mission: Impossible

-- Mission: Impossible Week --
Please note that all Mission: Impossible Week film reviews may contain spoilers related to both the film that is being reviewed and other films in the series.

Mission: Impossible (1996)
Starring Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Béart, Henry Czerny, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Vanessa Redgrave
Directed by Brian De Palma
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

The first film in the series, Mission: Impossible stands in stark contrast to the rest of the films that followed it...and that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Much more of a spy film than an action picture, director Brian De Palma creates a unique look for the film layering it with gray and blue overtones (whereas many of the others are filled with red and black visuals) and eschewing the bigger budget action set pieces for a bit more of a character-driven piece.  That said, the film isn't without its problems.

The flick builds its conflict around the lengthy opening set piece in which a group of IMF agents -- that's the Impossible Mission Force -- infiltrate a party in Prague in an attempt to retrieve a stolen list of IMF agents, the release of which will wreak havoc over the US government and the capabilities of their spy agency.  The mission doesn't succeed and as the agents leave the party, they find themselves ambushed seemingly leaving all but agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) dead.  Seeing as how Hunt survived the attack, his IMF superiors wonder if he is the mastermind behind it and the remainder of the film finds Hunt on his own personal impossible mission to find out who killed his team members.

This first film in the M:I series is the only one that really attempts to create a mystery surrounding who is the "big baddie."  Sure, other films have moments of surprise and red herrings, but they pretty much reveal the bad guy from the outset.  That's not the case here...and it's only moderately successful in terms of creating a whodunit atmosphere.  The biggest problem is that there are so few characters in the film that the possibilities of who could be behind the IMF attack are extremely limited and, in the end, create a lack of surprise when the "villain" is revealed.  Don't be mistaken - the film doesn't fail on this front, it's just that it doesn't succeed as well as it should because of the rather obvious culprit.

While Tom Cruise is certainly the "star" and he handles the lead role quite well, what's been incredibly pleasurable about this series as I've watched it is that they've built incredibly solid ensembles around the Big Name.  Here we get added oomph and gravitas from Jon Voight as Jim Phelps (a holdover character from the original Mission: Impossible tv show), Kristin Scott Thomas as a fellow IMF agent, and Vanessa Redgrave as a mysterious crook who is desperate to get that mysterious IMF secret agent list to sell it to the highest bidder.

As mentioned, Brian De Palma creates a different aesthetic in this initial film than those that follow it.  We're not treated to quick cuts or edits, but rather a camera that flows and moves a bit more casually than we're used to in action sequences.  We see interesting framing of faces and images that are typical of De Palma and admittedly only work sometimes (jarringly screaming "CINEMATIC" at other times), but at least provide interesting visuals.

Pleasingly, Mission: Impossible is a little smarter than your typical action picture.  It's not entirely successful, but it's a promising start to the multi-billion dollar-grossing series.  It's a shame that its sequel will end up nearly ruining the goodwill this flick brought to the screen.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

No comments:

Post a Comment