25 YEARS OF MOVIE MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE(S). The Question remains: IS Ethan Hunt really just a gambler?
Full disclosure: my love or otherwise for MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE depends a great deal on my mood. Each movie has things I love and can enthuse about, lyrically, on demand. And sometimes, I notice things I dislike but in the scheme of things, let pass, because the effort invested in the series is ALWAYS first rate. Tom Cruise and his team have earned our respect as viewers. They give their all, every time.
The first film in the franchise will always be my favourite. Sentimental reasons. It came out in summer ’96 and I was a happy kid back then. Dark stuff happens (there are some brutal murders at the start) but it’s an upbeat thrill ride that races along, looks pristine and uses location/score/editing/cast to best effect. I revisit the movie frequently and it always makes me feel great.
The second film is much maligned. My Grandfather HATED it! I recommended it because his lovely girlfriend loved the movies. They had enjoyed 1996’s The Rock and I thought the two films had a similar aesthetic / kinetic editing and score styling. ‘The Mission: Impossible ‘gives me pain. Ethan Hunt would never graduate West Point let alone make special forces with hair like that’ (etc). Yes, one movie was destroyed by adding a definite article. The movie remains fun, visually thrilling and well edited. Sure, Cruise is trying too hard to be liked. Anthony Hopkins is hamming up a cameo into something it isn’t. And Dougray Scott keeps shouting ‘HUNT’ like it’s another, less family friendly word 😉. Notice: the threat is from a killer virus. Not terribly realistic, right? RIGHT?!
Part 3 is a soft reboot of sorts. Short hair again on Tom, thankfully. Seymour Hoffman is the best villain in the entire series. The Vatican heist is a blast of fun and feels like it’s related to the DNA of the tv show. Fantastic score. Solid supporting players who sadly never came back for further sequels. It’s a BIT dark though and ultimately a tad hollow and draining, even. Quite nasty in places, too, without ever feeling truly substantial to justify that risk. I want to see THAT Fincher/ Carnahan treatment leak out one day. Oh what might have been!
Ghost Protocol is an ambitious, epic, rich, spectacle from start to end. There are certain tweaks to the format and an evolution in the idea of a team ethic in executing the titular mission. But at its core one feels this is still a Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt adventure and BOY oh BOY does the man sell this one. THAT climb? On the world’s tallest building is proof of professional dedication and another reason, among many to love Mr Cruise. Lea Seydoux is in this and even as a baddie, adorable.
Rogue Nation returns to many of the themes, ideas and even images that helped define the first movie. At last we have some continuity to the series, whilst preserving the experimental shifting in genres, styles and relatively self-contained plotting. London is shot beautifully. Quibbles? Ethan on the run AGAIN? The opera scene, however brilliant (and it is, brilliant) had been done before in James Bond. And other arias exist besides Nessun Dorma!
FALLOUT is not just one of the best films in the series (I refuse to do rankings: sorry!) but among the greatest action thrillers of all time. Does for Paris what preceding entries managed with London in making it a character as much as location. Lighting is supreme here! Cavill is great and anyone doubting his future 007 credentials would do well to re-watch this. Lorne Balfe is a genius in his Zimmer graduate score, though the choral number only feeds back into the notion of Tom Cruise /Ethan Hunt as a messiah figure.
I look forward to parts 7 and 8 with great interest. We know a train chase features and a bike again. London and Italy will feature as will Hayley Atwell. Oh and HENRY CZERNY is back from part 1 which is an instant boost to the dramatic quality here. I accept the mission to see those sequels.
One thread that runs throughout the series is Ethan Hunt’s morality. IS HE A GAMBLER? Well yes he is. Not in the sense of James Bond visiting casinos and play live casino. But more in terms of weighing up odds, on the spot and making both tactical and strategic decisions. To say he is just Tom Cruise doing stunts without a character arc is to fundamentally misrepresent the series’ ethos. Yes, they deviated from the tv show a lot and only borrowed its visual tropes and theme tune. But no. These are NOT vanity projects or stunts for stunts sake. Cruise plays Hunt as a man concerned with utility, always. And if a MINOR chance of short term sacrifice can enable MAJOR gains in the end, he will go to places other agents will not. Hence he pulls off the ‘impossible’? And long may he continue!
DO NOT TRY TOM CRUISE LEVEL STUNTS AT HOME. PLEASE GAMBLE RESPONSIBLY.