Mission: Impossible – The Rewatch

tomk: Mission: Impossible
The only one I’ve seen before and that hacking the CIA scene is still a masterpiece of tension.
The whole movie makes me wonder what happened to Brian de Palma’s career. That guy used to make great psychological thrillers in the 70s. As far as I know, his last really big hits were remakes of TV shows: this and The Untouchables.

This movie has taught me not to trust French people.
And Wolverine taught me not to ride on the roof of a high-speed train without adamantium claws.

OK, so, like The Fast the Furious last year, this series was a film series where I’d seen the first years ago and for some reason never saw any of the others after that, despite the fact that the movies looked like a lot of fun. As such, I like doing rewatches with the crowd here as it helps me get caught up in time to enjoy something with everyone else. So, as for this first one, the one that the original TV series’ cast all turned down cameo appearances in after Peter Graves turned down the offer to reprise Jim Phelps in part due to Phelps being killed off and also being the villain. Martin Landau in particular was a bit vocal about it according to the IMDB trivia section, saying he condemned the movie for being an action film with the original series was more about mind games and cons. But this is a fairly intense movie, and while it does have a couple really tight action sequences, there isn’t a lot of gun play, and it is ultimately about conning the bad guy in the end with the gadgets on hand. It’s a fun movie, maybe not a great one, but it’s easy to see why it got at least one sequel.

Though, for the record, I’ve also never been much of a Tom Cruise fan, and I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve really liked him and his performance in a movie. This isn’t one of them. He’s fine, but nothing special.

jimmy: I’ve seen this several times now and even though I know all the twists and turns, I still enjoy it. Great cast and great director. It will be interesting to contrast this with M:I2, as this was shot in a very “classic” almost 70’s noir kind of way and the sequel is highly Woo-rific…but we’ll get to that next week.

tomk: I was visiting my wife’s parents a couple years ago, and her father was watching this movie on a small TV in their kitchen as he often did. My wife didn’t quite get the appeal of the movie, so she said as much, and I told her that making the movie with Jim Phelps as the villain was a major surprise, and that it would be like if they made a Gilligan’s Island movie where Gilligan went nuts and ate the other castaways. To that, my wife asked, “What’s Gilligan’s Island?”
Her dad thought that was funny…

jimmy: What’s Gilligan’s Island? Sheesh.

But too be honest, I don’t know much about the original show outside of the kick ass theme song. I wouldn’t be able to tell you if I ever saw an episode.

tomk: I think they modeled the opening credits off it.

jimmy: I suspected as much. With clips from the movie, “spoilers” really, but taken out of context you have no idea what is going on.

tomk: I don’t think they set too much of that show in Prague, for what it is worth.

jimmy: The movie might have had a slightly higher budget to work with.

tomk: Maybe.
Tom Cruise don’t come cheap.

jimmy: Or Ving Rhames.

tomk: You know, having seen the trailers for the new one, how come Ving Rhames has aged so much more than Tom Cruise?

Then again, they also killed off most of Hunt’s team in the first act, including an unbilled Emilio Estevez.

jimmy: Yeah, that was a bit surprising.

tomk: Of course, more of them turned up alive later.
We’re probably fortunate Kristin Scott Thomas wasn’t the co-pilot on that helicopter.

jimmy: Well, only two of them.

tomk: It’s a movie with a low body count anyway.

jimmy: Not if you count fish.

tomk: That’s why the Humane Society is on set.

jimmy: This movie was released “only” 22 years ago, but it sure felt pretty dated at times. Computers using 3 1/4” floppy disk drives, watching movies on tape and being able to smoke on airplanes!!!

tomk: Even the tapes smoked.

That, of course, was left over from the old show. Or Inspector Gadget. One of them.

Maybe this movie is harder to discuss than some we’ve chatted about in the past. It’s a well-made action-adventure flick with one really well-made suspense piece that ironically involves Tom Cruise being suspended above the floor. But there isn’t much to the character of Ethan Hunt, is there? He’s the betrayed secret agent trying to clear his name and that’s about it.

jimmy: Well, we also know the twists, which takes some of the edge off from an initial viewing. But I get your point.

Let me ask you a question. You’ve said that this is the only one of the series that you watched. Was there not enough here to intrigue you to watch more? Was it the complete change in style and tone for part 2 maybe? Do you feel differently this time around?

Yes, that’s all one question. 🙂

tomk: Ok. I was never a big Tom Cruise fan. I can take him or leave him. He always strikes me as a bland, generic protagonist and the only times I really like him is when he plays characters that are meant to be kinda shallow on purpose. Otherwise, he doesn’t tend to leave much of an impression.

I saw this one on home video with my parents back when VHS was still a thing. I didn’t get out to the movies nearly as often as I do now, and while the movie is good, it wasn’t the sort of thing to grab me hard enough to want to see more.

The big crazy stunts that have become the series hallmark aren’t in this one. It’s much quieter. That a good thing, but there was little about Ethan Hunt or his world that didn’t feel like I’d seen it many times before with more interesting characters.

Keep in mind I felt similarly about the Fast and the Furious franchise after seeing the first one except I didn’t care for that one much at all after my first viewing.

jimmy: The copter in the tunnel is pretty impressive, but as mentioned, the key set piece here is literally as quiet an “action” scene as you can get. It’s a classic though.

I think it helps peak your interest, probably along the same lines as the F&F franchise, that subsequent sequels get quite a bit of positive buzz.

tomk: It must be doing something right to keep justifying sequels.

jimmy: 2 will be an interesting test to see if it holds up for me and what you think. Watson hasn’t shown up here, but he said that he would refuse to rewatch it. 3 ticks back up and I really think the Brad Bird directed part 4 is the franchise pinnacle. I felt like 5 dropped a bit, but Ryan thinks it is as good or better. But Ryan likes Krull. 5 is still good, but…well, we’ll see.

I think it is less of a surprise franchise than F&F though, which was essentially dead after FF2 and FF3 should have been direct to video.

tomk: I can agree. This one was much more promising to start, and again, it’s not bad, but it also isn’t very special in its execution.

jimmy: Stepping back a little, the Phelps being traitor thing didn’t affect me much since as I mentioned, I never really watched the original. But I can see how the original cast wasn’t happy about it.

tomk: And even if you’ve never seen the show, he’s still Ethan’s boss and Phelps’ wife has been very helpful.
Then again, Phelps turning up alive late in the movie was awfully suspicious or convenient or both.

jimmy: What did you think of the directing? The extreme close up shots are not something you see often, and that I recall, won’t return in the series as it routinely shifts directors.

tomk: Brian de Palma made a name for himself with suspense movies in the 70s. Movies like this one show you why. He should get more work these days if he’s even still working.

jimmy: It worked within the confines of this being more of a thriller than an action movie.

tomk: Very true.

Would you say the series becomes less thriller and more action in the future?

jimmy: Definitely. Aspects of both, but the films are more set around the crazy stunts Tom Cruise is willing to do. There’s nothing thriller about M:I2. 🙂

tomk: I am expecting slow motion doves for M:I2 given its director.

jimmy: Oh so many…

tomk: Watson must hate birds.

jimmy: Well, I think the two of us have dragged this on as long as we can. How about we do some grades?

tomk: Okie dokie.
8.5 out of 10 stunned train engineers.

jimmy: I as well will give it 8.5 extreme close ups out of 10.

tomk: What does the Calculon 500 have to say?

jimmy: I’ll let him rest this week and guess he would say, 8.5 out of 10. 🙂

tomk: The math was too advanced for me.

jimmy: Well, I do have a degree in mathematics.

tomk: I’m glad someone does.
Given your last name, I expect you know the square root of negative one.

jimmy: 42?

tomk: Works for me. Bring on the slow motion doves!

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