27 years later, Mission: Impossible remains one of the greatest action movie franchises of all time. So much so, that the final film is being split into two feature-length parts! Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 releases on July 12, adding to the blockbuster bonanza at the box office this sunny season.
The first installment back in 1996 set the standard for what could be done with action movies. It genuinely kicked off Tom Cruise’s illustrious action career and made his name synonymous with the upper echelon of on-screen action. Brian De Palma, who was widely acclaimed for his films of the 80s (Blow Out, Scarface, and The Untouchables), was tapped to helm the introductory installment of the movie.
As we progress through each film on each Monday together leading up to the new release, one thing will become apparent—while not all Mission: Impossible movies are the best, they all had the best action directors of the time. Brian De Palma, John Woo, all the way to Christopher McQuarrie. The franchise knows how to push the action envelope.
‘Mission: Impossible’ is a decade-defining action flick
If you don’t remember the plot of Mission: Impossible or it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, allow me to refresh your memory. I’ll start off by saying that, yes, the plot is indeed convoluted and makes nearly no sense—so if that is something of a haunting memory for you, just know that you are justified and should be haunted no more.
Here’s the rub: Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his squad (Ving Rhames as Luther, Jon Voight as Jim Phelps, and Kristin Scott Thomas as Sarah Davies, to name a few) are sent to Prague to stop a rogue agent from stealing the CIA NOC list. This list, which houses all the names of the “Non-Official Cover” CIA operatives around the world, is successfully stolen as Ethan’s team is killed off one by one.
It’s revealed the list is a fake and Hunt obliges to steal the real list, located at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, for $10 million. Cue double agents, drops of sweat nearly setting off heat alarms, and helicopters flying in train tunnels, and you’ve pretty much got the idea of the rest of the movie.
Now, of course, I’m skipping over some of the epic action sequences and incredible Tom Cruise-sprinting moments, but for those, I encourage you to revisit the film. They are capsules that haven’t all survived the test of time (much like many of the slick, ultramodern gadgets—I’m looking at your camera glasses!), but have survived the test of sick on-screen action.
I know that your mind is wandering off right now thinking of the iconic get-in-get-out heist that sees Tom Cruise hanging from the ceiling, trying his damndest to not set off the alarm at Langley. It’s okay. I get it. My feelings aren’t hurt at all.
It’s a wildly impressive action sequence that Tom Cruise filmed himself! But along with that are several other indelible moments that really only work in the cardinal chapter of this franchise—my personal favorite being Tom Cruise shouting in a way only he could that “the disk is in the open.” A top 10 Mission: Impossible moment, in my opinion.
While not every plot detail ultimately makes sense, that kind of doesn’t matter. Henry Czerny as Eugene Kittridge, the director of the IMF (The Impossible Mission Force), who is slated to make a return in Dead Reckoning Part 1, is chilling. Luther is hilarious. Jack Harmon (Emilio Estevez) has incredible repartee with Ethan Hunt and dies in a downright startling albeit compelling way.
It’s the team, led by the on-screen charisma of action-star Tom Cruise, that supersedes the plot and makes the movie so unique. So enjoyable. So, kinda….campy—in the best possible way. Mix that with a dynamite score from Danny Elfman, which contains the epochal Mission: Impossible theme song, and the energy of the movie is something visceral. It doesn’t need to make complete sense because it’s Mission: Impossible, that’s all there is to it.
At the end of the day, the movie represents the innocence of 90s action movies, as well as the elemental Tom Cruise performance that kicked off a $3.5 billion movie franchise. The original Mission: Impossible is the preeminent definition of an action movie. High stakes, convoluted plot, and full of legendary set-pieces that make you, even if just for a brief second, want to join the world of the IMF. Now Mission: Impossible II, that’s a different conversation for next week.
Be sure to tune in each Monday while we cover each Mission: Impossible film leading up to the release of Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 on July 12, 2023!
'Mission Impossible' Review'Mission Impossible' Review
- High-octane action keeps you glued to your edge of your seat the whole time.
- Tom Cruise running. That's it. That's the tweet.
- Convoluted storyline makes is difficult to follow at times.
- Dated VFX.