|Mission: Impossible (1996)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Jean Reno, Ving Rhams, Emilio Estevez, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Henry Czerny, Emmanuel Beart
Director: Brian De Palma
Bearing in mind that most TV-to-film adaptations are generally commercial failures, Brian De Palma’s 1996 take on the popular “Mission: Impossible” television series truly is a diamond in the rough. It also probably gets a little more attention than it deserves, but until Hollywood shapes up and delivers more quality adaptations, the film is sure to receive credit as the one exception to the case against producing remakes. The main contradiction to all of this praise, of course, is that the events that occurred in the first film (like killing off the entire team in the opening mission) lead to the less-than-impressive sequel.
There’s an awful lot of wasted talent disposed of in the opening 20 minutes, including Emilio Estevez as the IMF team’s resident techie and Kristen Scott Thomas as a fellow agent and love interest to Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), but there wouldn’t be a story to tell if this didn’t happen. And so, after his entire team is seemingly killed during a routine mission gone wrong, Hunt rushes back to the safe house to discover that he’s been framed for their deaths. Determined to clear his name and expose the mole in the agency, Hunt forms a new team of IMF rejects (including Ving Rhames and Jean Reno) to get the job done.
De Palma’s trademark style is stamped all over the film, including his soft spot for extreme close-ups and his keen ability to squeeze tension out of the smallest situation. Perhaps the best example of the director’s handiwork is the much-admired CIA vault sequence in which Cruise’s character hangs 30 feet from a ceiling in order to steal data from a computer server. The amount of tension that builds during this sequence is enough to drive anybody to the edge of their seat, but when those beads of sweat begin to slide down Hunt’s glasses, the feeling that they’re all going to make it out alive precipitates. In fact, this may be the only scene in which Cruise doesn’t overact, and arguably, the reason why it works so well.
The hatred of the American public aside, Cruise isn’t too shabby as super-agent Hunt. It’s no secret that the mid-to-late ‘90s represented the actor’s finest work, but this may be the best character he’s ever played. Despite the few problems that appear throughout (like silly plot holes that could have easily been avoided), none are a bigger concern than the simple fact that Cruise’s name appears in a larger font than the actual title of the movie. Its second-rate billing notwithstanding, “Mission: Impossible” helps remind us why the 1990s was such a powerhouse decade for great movies. We can only hope that its success will influence at least one filmmaker to competently adapt a television show to the big screen.
The 10th anniversary Special Collector’s Edition of the film is a welcome addition (or replacement) to any DVD collection, but there’s just one problem: how many times do I have to hear that damn theme song before my freaking head explodes? I mean, did they really need to preface every featurette with a clip of that song? All grievances aside, this is a pretty impressive disc, but the lack of a commentary track by De Palma is upsetting. Rumor is that Cruise wouldn’t allow it (the two butt heads more than once on set), and since the pretty boy Scientologist owns Paramount, he gets whatever he wants. This might help to explain why we see not one, but two montage clips (“Excellence in Film: Cruise” and “Generation: Cruise” celebrating the actor’s contribution to film).
The rest of the disc isn’t as controversial, with a decent featurette on the expansive history of the franchise (“Mission: Remarkable), a short stunt featurette (“Mission: Explosive Exploits”), and a quick look at a day in the live of a CIA operative (“Mission: Spies Among Us”). Other special features include a tour of the International Spy Museum, in-depth character profiles of the film’s agents, and a photo gallery. All in all, this single-disc release may not sound very exciting at all, but it’s a major improvement on the barebones release from ten years ago.