Saturday, June 1, 2013

Mission: Impossible (1996)

Tom Cruise, I still believed in you.

You took plenty of heat after that couch jumping incident with Oprah Winfrey in 2006. If memory serves, that incident hurt box office traffic to Mission: Impossible III. I went and thought the film was very well done. Tom, people shouldn't watch so much TV. Your detractors missed out on a fine effort.

Now it's seven years later and I'm finally watching the first installment of this big screen take on the classic television show. That program offered 143 episodes between 1967 and 1973. It returned for a second, shorter run between 1988 and 1990.

Funny thing is, some of Cruise's behaviour early Mission: Impossible reminds me of why eyebrows were raised for his activities on the small screen. He strikes me as unconvincing in some key moments. There's no chemistry between him and his fellow government agents before they start a mission. These are folks who regularly defy death together? They should be pretty tight. I didn't buy their banter. Cruise does settle down as this 1996 effort from director Brian De Palma continues. Thank goodness.

The assignment is straightforward. Alexander Golitsyn (Marcel Ivres) is accused of stealing American government secrets about its spies in eastern Europe. Those agents will be sought out and killed if their information ends up in the wrong hands. Under the leadership of Jim Phelps (Jon Voight), Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his team are to nab Golitsyn and protect American lives. But it's Hunt and his cronies who are being hunted. Someone has double-crossed them.

American government bigwig Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny) figures it's Hunt who has gone rogue in return for cash to support his family back home. Hunt's not about to be framed for something he says he didn't do. He goes underground to seek out the interested buyer in the spy secrets. Enter computer hacking guru Luther Stickers (Ving Rhames) and Franz Krieger (Jean Reno). Sorry, I missed what Franz does best. Reno doesn't get to do a whole lot in this film.

The trio team up for Mission: Impossible's best scene. They slip into CIA headquarters to steal crucial information. Their targeted computer is watched over by heavy security and one analyst, Rolf Saxon. There's real tension here because of the limited time available to get the information and potential threats that will find them identified. Hollywood, take note. A pulsating soundtrack, special effects and high speed chases don't often equal great cinema. This caper sequence is a welcome relief to what's usually offered moviegoers for entertainment.

Hunt meets up with a shady lady (Vanessa Redgrave). She is connected to a Max, a chap from the Czech who wants the names of those spies. Redgrave's character, for all her evil, sure seems to get giddy around Hunt. Behave yourself, woman. Focus on being bad.

I wish I could have felt Robert Towne's magic in this film's script. Here's an American talent who won an Oscar for 1974's Chinatown. But there's little that's unique about his work here. If audiences want action and suspense, they'll find it with the previously described CIA sequence and a fine finale involving a high-speed train, helicopter and the Chunnel. But don't expect a smart script that'll offer something new to adventure fans.

RATING: 7.5/10

FUN FACTS: Alexander Golitsyn appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.

Dale Dyes often plays military characters (band of brothers, JFK, Born on the Fourth of July, Casualties of War), but not here.

Jon Voight did a fine job as baddie Jonas Hodges in season seven of TV's 24. He also appeared as Blessed Pope John Paul II in the 2005 television film, Pope John Paul II.

Oh, Canada. Henry Czerny is a Toronto native.

Mission: Impossible received a Razzie nomination for worst film to gross more than $100 million. twister won. I'm surprised. The Razzie should have gone to Independence Day. That was a terrible movie, one of the worst I've ever seen, and made way too much cash.

1 comment:

Roman J. Martel said...

I enjoyed revisiting this one a bit more than you did. I liked all the double and triple crossing going on in the film. At the time it was fairly unique for a espionage thriller to get that twisty. I think De Palma's direction really helps this one.

And I completely agree with you that "Independence Day" is easily the winner of a razzie - several razzies if I had my way. :)