Mission: Impossible (1996) Review

It is amazing how different the original Mission: Impossible movie is to the summer blockbuster movies that the franchise offers today. Mission: Impossible is actually a taut, slightly complicated and quite low-key spy thriller and about as far-removed from the outlandish, set-piece focused action movies the series relies on now. It is also better because of it.

For starters, the film doesn’t feel like a huge, Tom Cruise vehicle. There is no question that he has the starring role but it feels like he is a character within a story, not that the movie is vehicle for his talents. To this end, for the beginning of the movie at least, Cruise is surrounded by an impressive ensemble. The cast covers skills that range from Jon Voight, through to Emilio Estevez and includes Vanessa Redgrave and Jean Reno. It is to the script’s talent that this cast signed on because you can’t imagine many of those names wanting to make a Mission: Impossible movie today.

This movie feels much more like an ensemble

The story gives the film a lot of credibility. It isn’t completely action focused. It is a thriller, with double-crossing, coded messages and a great “trust no-one” mentality that means the movie will manage to surprise a few with it’s twists and turns. The action seemed to come second to the story, which was much more in tune with it’s TV-show roots that arguably the series is now.

That isn’t to say there aren’t action set-pieces in this movie. The difference is that they seem to fit the story and never feel superfluous. The most memorable, and something the sequels continue to try to replicate, is the CIA hack in a very complex and secure room. The acrobatics and tension in this scene are applied to great effect and though it often more than stretches credibility, the seriousness of which it is taken helps engage you as a viewer.

This scene is rightfully the stand-out for the whole movie (and maybe franchise).

The more traditional action scenes are there too and none more so than the final “battle” in the train tunnel. It isn’t explosion after explosion, piled high upon each other to a ludicrous finale though. It is a more focused, more contained action sequence which fits in more clearly with the overall story and feel of the movie.

That feel is the film’s major success. This is a different kind of spy film to the resurgence of Bond that it was accompanying. It isn’t about beautiful ladies, fast cars and cool gadgets, although there is a little bit of that included. Mission: Impossible is about a more “realistic” look at being a spy, with safe houses, drop-boxes and coded messages in hotel bibles: the parts of being a spy that James Bond forgets to do.

Overall, Mission: Impossible is a smart, focused and engaging thriller. It has a taut story, with many twists and turns that add to the tension rather than confuse and complicate. It has some famous and edgy set-pieces, alongside clever use of action sequences that don’t over-reach or over-exaggerate. Most surprisingly of all, this is a film starring Tom Cruise and not necessarily a Tom Cruise movie!

Rating – 5!

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

The Mission: Impossible franchise has come a long way from Tom Cruise looking edgy and nervous

 

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10 comments

  1. I’m well overdue a rewatch of this. In fact, it’s the only one I’ve seen out of the series so I might do a marathon viewing of them all and then decide whether to go see the latest on screen.
    Apart from the downright cool moments like the aforementioned scene, I remember being very confused the last time I watched it; there seemed to be a lot of double crossing and difficult-to-follow moments. Hopefully that’ll change on my rewatch.

    • I was the same the first time I saw it. I was a lot younger and thought it would be a generic spy film so didn’t pay as much attention. If you watch knowing you have to be slightly more alert, it makes for a better film.

  2. I have never rewatched this. I watched it originally, back in the day, with my boyfriend and his mom. I later married that dude, and later divorced him, and he really ruined a lot of good movies that way.

  3. […] Mission:Impossible was never really about one single man but an IMF team and to some extent the movies have kept this dynamic, with just one constant – Tom Cruise. Cruise has made Ethan Hunt his go-to role and made the Mission: Impossible franchise a serious contender against both Bond and Bourne. In fact, forget recasting Hunt, could you envisage a Mission: Impossible without Cruise? […]

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