A franchise that took off with and excellent performance from Cruise, mixed with a strong story to truly deliver an espionage adventure feel.
When a mission to prevent the theft of confidential material fails and Agent Ethan Hunt finds himself the target of his own agency, he will have to go to great lengths to find out who the true mole is inside the IMF.
When this film was released it was up in the air whether or not Tom Cruise would come off as fit for the role. He was already considered a great actor but with a strong of solid dramatic films it remained to be seen if audiences would receive Cruise as an action-star. With the skill of he delivered in this film, audiences were given no choice as he fit the role of an international spy with ease and never over sold it.
Cruise embodied the role of Ethan Hunt and clearly embraced the physical requirements of the persona. The dramatic acting skills of Cruise were not the hindrance people expected, but in fact his acting range sold him even more as an action star. He delivered the intensity, skill, desire and bravery of a man in his position and when watching this film you see the character of Ethan Hunt and not just Tom Cruise as a special-agent.
A great screenplay can work magic on a film and when the cast is chosen correctly their performances can pull even more intrigue out of the writing. Ving Rhames, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Béart, Jean Reno and Henry Czerny all delivered energetic performances and made their characters really come to life in this story-line. The cast as a whole felt more than comfortable in their roles and it was enjoyable to sit back and take in the rich dialogue of banter among the group and the various personalities created for the roles.
This was (in my opinion) the best and albeit hardest of the story-lines to follow out of all the films in the series. But as you take in this film again you can pull more out of the plot and theme, to tie in pieces of the rich story-line. There is an intricate plot here and one that I found very appealing for an espionage action film. Interest is built quickly as the first-act begins with a mission of its own. You are immediately pulled into the spy-world with jargon and scenarios that give the setting a fun international feel.
As the script expands on the story there are definitely some tough parts to follow but with close attention paid to this film you can follow along for the most part. There was some great action-sequences in this one and it did a great job of building the mystique of the rest of the films for having the trademark ‘impossible mission’. The entire sequence of the group breaking into Langley is riveting and has you on the edge of your seat even seeing it again now.
Like this segment of the film the rest follow suit with clever creation to the story and the writing of the characters to build a plot you are compelled to see out till the end. The third-act is great and still one of the better ones in the franchise. The speed and velocity of the action on the train has you up in your seat and with Cruise’s excellent portrayal, you are immersed in the adventure.
The film was beautifully shot in what I would consider a subtle way. There were nice long uncut shots at the right moments and others of slow-motioning that managed to build suspense on their own merit such as during the Langley break-in when the character of Krieger played by Jean Reno drops his knife through the air vent in the ceiling. The camerawork was also very useful for building tension during the conversations such as that between Hunt and Kittridge in the Aquarium restaurant where great angles added something to the seemingly normal scenes.
Action-sequences were also well shot to bring the most life out of the stunt filled segments. The fact Cruise decided to do his own stunts only added to the ability of the camera placement to capture everything without the hindrance of hiding a stunt-mans face. Thus this film give you long wide shots with pinpoint angling. Not to forget a spectacular third-act climax that brought the story a pulse-pounding ending suitable for an espionage action film.
No spy-flick would be complete without wild gadgets and this one clearly delivered in that aspect with many devices that added entertainment to some of the scenes they were used. The score was also fantastic, there was the traditional theme, and it was well used I might add. During just the right moments of the story-line when the familiar tone would come to life, so did the energy. There was also a great overall score of the film that felt similar to the theme and carried the same notes to weave a seamless score throughout.
This was, and is still a great film and holds its validity today without showing its age, despite four more entries since. The script is still creative, well conceived and extremely skilled in the delivery of its dialogue. Cruise was at his best in this one and built the foundations of the Ethan Hunt character convincing enough to make people want more. “Mission: Impossible” was not only a great remake of an old television series, but it was a high quality first entry in a franchise that has spanned close to twenty-years.