Saga Review: Mission Impossible

I undertook the mission to review possibly one of the most awkward and least consistent film sagas out there, the Mission: Impossible movies!
Asides from some similarities between films three and four, the only recurring element is Tom Cruise himself, and given the original film perhaps catapulted his career you cannot blame him for returning to the series again and again.
The first film was released way back in 1996, the sequel arrived four years after that, and while M:I2 died a death, the third film released six years after, in 2006! Now the fourth film has arrived in 2011, that’s four films of varying quality over fifteen years…. hmmmm.

Let’s light the fuse!

Mission: Impossible
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Quite probably the launch pad for a young Tom Cruise’s action orientated career, the original Mission: Impossible looks and feels a little old-hat by today’s explosive standards. However it does show a definite side of intelligence, and perhaps faith to the material, with covert espionage and stealth over explosive suspense.

Ethan Hunt, a young covert agent working as part of an “IMF team” finds himself targeted by his own people after his team is mysteriously assassinated in a mission gone wrong. He must trick and deceive his way through several countries and build a team of his own to find the real villain.
Like I have said, the pacing is surprisingly pedestrian, and a lot of the technology on show has a glaringly 90s “people-don’t-know-what-the-internet-is-yet” vibe going on.
But, I actually enjoyed re-watching it. The twists are perhaps foreseen, but not unwelcome, and the occasional quips and one-liners made me chuckle. Plus the famous silent vault raid sequence with Cruise on a wire, and the explosive finale, are still exciting.

Looking dated and a little cheap now, but it is still more entertaining than you may be thinking.

Mission: Impossible 2
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Wow… I mean wow. Who in their right mind thought John Woo was the right director for a Mission: Impossible movie? This film has so many issues with it I don’t think I can list them all.
Ethan Hunt returns to battle against a rogue IMF agent who intends to steal a super-virus and its cure for a monopoly on the profits.
The film hinges entirely around a “love triangle” of sorts between Cruise, our villainous Scot Dougray Scott and leading lady Thandie Newton. The chemistry between Cruise and Newton is complete vapour; Woo clearly believed his trusty slow-motion would explain all characterisation. While our villain is so cardboard you wonder why Dougray turned down the role of Wolverine in X-Men for this.

The plot is beyond simple; even the first film maintains some mystery, here it is black and white. The last act is completely absurd with Ethan displaying martial arts moves he has never demonstrated before, while ditching his “no killing” ethics for a more thorough “destroy everyone in sight” method.

A wasted two hours of my life, much more stupid and pointless than I had even remembered it being.

Mission: Impossible 3
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The third instalment comes six years after the nonsensical part two, and shows absolutely no connection.

In fact, it opens with a visceral torture scene, as if to say “we aren’t fooling around this time”.
Ethan Hunt is now training new IMF agents and is about to marry, but he is brought back in to stop a black market dealer who is looking for a dangerous bio weapon known only as “Rabbit’s Foot”.
Now if I told you this is J.J Abrams first major direction, you wouldn’t be surprised when I say the “Rabbit’s Foot” is a mystery, it is never fully explained. It is a plot device and little more.

However despite that, M:I3 is a surprisingly good action movie.  Abrams’ shaky handheld camera gets obvious sometimes, but the sequences themselves are very solid, while the plot does take the time to include some espionage (unlike part 2…) while the scenes in Shanghai are pretty cool. Cruise is on form, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman is probably the best villain so far in the M:I films, both intelligent and merciless, while Simon Pegg debuts as the character he will reprise in Ghost Protocol.

Give it a watch, it is good entertainment.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
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Usually the fourth in a series proves to be a franchise’s dying gasp, but remarkably Ghost Protocol proves to combine the best elements of the better M:I films into a solid action / espionage movie!

(let’s ignore for now the title’s lack of consistent numbering with the previous films…)
Ethan Hunt finds himself with a new team, and a mission to track down launch codes for Russian nuclear missiles. He knows little about his team, but trust must win over as the entire supporting IMF initiative is disavowed.
In the director’s chair is Brad Bird, one of Pixar’s leading men (The Incredibles and Ratatouille) on his first live-action direction, and… he does an exceptional job.
M:IGP takes its time, and proves to be a long film, but the characters in the team are far more fleshed out than in previous films. Each of them have their own issues to deal with (except maybe the comedic Simon Pegg) which wrap together nicely as the story progresses. I would say the villain (played by Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Michael Nyqvist) was underused however.

The action is clear and not rushed or overused, the espionage is clever and readable, and the dialogue is snappy. It even has consistency with M:I3! Amazing! Asides some little issues, it was good fun.

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