Film: Mission Impossible

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Film:

Mission Impossible

Director: Brian De Palma
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Genres:
Distributor: Paramount

A flashy, splashy summer-movie blockbuster that’s fun and exciting without being mindless? That’s the impossible mission accomplished by director Brian De Palma, star-coproducer Tom Cruise, and the crack team of Mission: Impossible. Based on the ‘60s TV show and an almost impenetrably complex (but nonetheless thrilling) original story by David Koepp (Jurassic Park) and Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List), with a screenplay by Koepp and Robert Towne (Chinatown, Shampoo), Mission: Impossible begins with veteran agent Jim…

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A flashy, splashy summer-movie blockbuster that’s fun and exciting without being mindless? That’s the impossible mission accomplished by director Brian De Palma, star-coproducer Tom Cruise, and the crack team of Mission: Impossible. Based on the ‘60s TV show and an almost impenetrably complex (but nonetheless thrilling) original story by David Koepp (Jurassic Park) and Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List), with a screenplay by Koepp and Robert Towne (Chinatown, Shampoo), Mission: Impossible begins with veteran agent Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) and his expert crew embarking on a mission that goes horribly, horribly wrong. But nothing is what it seems. The nail-biting set piece—always a signature of director De Palma (Carrie, The Untouchables)—in which Cruise is lowered from the ceiling to retrieve information from a computer in a high-security vault—is an instant classic. But perhaps even more impressive, at least in retrospect, is a flashback sequence in which two characters attempt to reconstruct a series of events from multiple points of view. It’s pretty daring and sophisticated stuff for a big-budget spy movie, but brains were always what put the Mission: Impossible team ahead of the competition, anyway, no? —Jim Emerson

Mission: Impossible was one of the best action blockbusters of the 1990s, deriving a quality unique amongst its peers from the tension between Brian De Palma’s directorial stylisation and the overriding presence of its star and producer, Tom Cruise. Cruise plays Special Forces agent Ethan Hunt, disavowed as a traitor by his own superiors and forced to uncover the true mole to prove his innocence. The original 1960s television series provides not only the wonderful musical motif, but also the layered complexity of false realities and masked identities, which are revealed with the playful conjuring of a Russian doll.

This was Cruise’s last movie as an angst-ridden youth (next stop was Jerry Maguire and the trials of family life) and he presents Ethan Hunt as caught between his heroic physical prowess and a trusting emotional naïvety that is painfully punctured by the treachery of those around him. Hollywood heavyweights Jon Voight (Heat) and Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction) are both excellent in support, while the remaining cast reads like an identikit of European cinema, including Emanuelle Beart, Kristin Scott Thomas and Jean Reno (Leon).

De Palma’s trademark set-pieces include a giant exploding fishtank in Prague, a helicopter chase through the Channel Tunnel, and, most notably, a break-in to steal a vital disc from CIA headquarters in Langley. The moment in the latter when, in almost complete silence, Cruise dangles precariously from a cable and just catches a bead of sweat before it triggers the floor alarm is as sublimely exhilarating as any in American movies of the last 10 years. —Steve Napleton

Related Works

Film:Mission Impossible III

Mission Impossible III

J.J. Abrams

Tom Cruise returns as Special Agent Ethan Hunt, who faces the mission of his life in “Mission: Impossible III.” Director J. J. Abrams (“Lost”,“ ”Alias") brings his unique blend of action and drama to the billion-dollar franchise.

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