Monday, August 3, 2015

Mission: Impossible

Although it began a series of increasingly good summer blockbuster over the course of two decades, 1996's relaunch of the television series of the same name as a theatrical film (which introduced the world to Tom Cruise's most successful ongoing character in IMF Agent Ethan Hunt) is problematic at best. Poorly plotted, including a huge fuck you to fans of the original series by turning the television show's central hero (Peter Graves) into a greedy villain (Jon Voight) selling CIA secrets to the highest bidder, the film hasn't aged well. Turning Jim Phelps into a villain would be like rebooting Superman into a coldblooded killer. What kind of an asshole would do that?

Opening with the death of an IMF team (Kristin Scott Thomas, Ingeborga Dapkunaite, Emilio Estevez) and Ethan on the run from his former bosses who believe he is responsible, the film climaxes early on with a break-in at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. It's this sequence, and really only this sequence, that's worth noting from the otherwise forgettable tale.

Putting together a makeshift team from disavowed former spies, Ethan calls on the help of tech specialist Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), mercenary Franz Krieger (Jean Reno), and his mentor's widow (Emmanuelle Béart) to hunt down the man who framed him. The group is passable, if unremarkable, in their roles, but it's definitely Cruise's show as it will take two more films before the series truly embraces the idea of centering a film around a full IMF team rather than Ethan and his back-up dancers.

Mission: Impossible ends in a regrettable train sequence, ridiculous when it was shot and which hasn't improved with age (which sadly also one of the few exceptions to my train theory in film). Ethan and his team are also stuck with a poor man's Bond tech that looked pathetic in 1996 (or even 1966) and is even less impressive nearly 20 years later.

Released and re-released over the years, the film is available on DVD and Blu-ray with a collection of short extras including a look back to the television show the film's script betrays, dossiers on the various characters, and featurettes on the film's stunts and leading man.

[Paramount, $24.99]

No comments: