Monday, December 19, 2011

Review: First Tom Cruise "Mission: Impossible" is Still a Thrill

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 13 (of 2001) by Leroy Douresseaux

Mission: Impossible (1996)
Running time: 110 minutes (1 hour, 50 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13
DIRECTOR: Brian De Palma
WRITERS: David Koepp and Robert Towne; story by David Koepp and Steven Zallian (based on the television series created by Bruce Geller)
PRODUCERS: Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Stephen H. Burum (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Paul Hirsch
COMPOSER: Danny Elfman


Starring: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle BĂ©art, Henry Czerny, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vanessa Redgrave, Dale Dye, and (uncredited) Emilio Estevez

The Impossible Missions Force (I.M.F.) must recover a computer disc that contains the code name of C.I.A. agents in deep cover in Eastern Europe and capture the spy who not only has the disc but also seeks the other half of the information, which gives the real identities of those same agents.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is the point man for the mission, under the guidance of Jim Phelps (a character holdover from the “Mission: Impossible” television series 1966-73 and a revival 1988-90) and leads his team (which includes parts played by Kristin Scott-Thomas and an uncredited Emilio Estevez). The mission goes awry and places Hunt, the sole survivor, under the false suspicion of betrayal.

Hunt recruits a new team: Phelps’s wife, Claire (Emmanuelle Beart), a thuggish, Franz Krieger (Jean Reno), and a master computer hacker, Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), all to help him discover and expose the real mole in I.M.F.

One of the smartest summer movies of all time, Mission: Impossible, upon its release, left audiences shaking their heads. The film itself is like one of the mind games for which the television series was famous. The characters in the film, other than Hunt, are not what they seem, and the writers filled the film with hints that come and go quickly that inevitably reveal the secrets and secret identities. M: I is light on plot, but deceptively simple. Hunt must obtain the object of desire, the deep cover agent list that will in turn bring all the players out of the shadows and into the light of day. Only then, can he prove his innocence.

Cruise proves to be a very good actor (in addition to be such a magnifying screen presence) in the hands of a good director, and De Palma (Casualties of War), despite his spotty box office career, is a fine director. A student of Alfred Hitchcock’s work, De Palma brings the master’s sense of suspense and mystery to M: I. As with a Hitchcock lead, we know that Hunt is innocent, but the odds are so stacked against him that we wonder if he will escape alive, let alone solve the puzzle.

Jon Voight as Phelps fairly drips with duplicity and mystery; he is simultaneously an wise old teacher and reptilian cold war era spy. Vanessa Redgrave brings a lively elegance to the proceedings as the arms dealer, Max. Henry Czerny, as Eugene Kittridge, brings to the show the similar essence of his character Robert Ritter from Clear and Present Danger.

Mission: Impossible is a fine action thriller full of riveting suspense. It demands one’s attention with its unorthodox approach to action movies. Its premise is a gorilla that hangs by a thread on the suspension of disbelief. But it engages and demands that the viewer not only pay attention but uses his mind. The creators only ask that you surrender part of your thinking to them, while most movies, especially summer fare, ask for all of your good sense.

8 of 10



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