In commemoration of the release of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT (2018), I will be reviewing the previous films in the franchise because I’m bored and I need a project in my down time! Besides, it’s a fun way to catch up on movies that I haven’t seen in awhile. So if isn’t obvious, I’m implying that I have indeed seen all of these films before. But I’ve decided to go back in time and lay down my opinion for each and every one of them, with the notable exception of ROGUE NATION, as I already have a review for that one:
- MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE II (2000)
- MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III (2006)
- MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL (2011)
- MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION (2015)
Let’s go all the way back to the beginning. And by “the beginning,” I really do mean the beginning. Ready for a history lesson? No? Too bad, you’re getting one! Suck it up, princesses, it’s time to learn something!
For those of you not in the know, the Mission: Impossible franchise originated in 1966 as a TV show. It ran until 1973, and was eventually revived for two more seasons in 1988. So no more whining about Hollywood’s constant remakes. It’s been their staple for decades. The franchise wouldn’t be touched again until 1996 when its first theatrical film was announced. The rest, as they say, is history. See? Short, sweet, and a fun fact for you younger people out there.
But enough about that, let’s get on with the movie. But first, some credits.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Tom Cruise (AMERICAN MADE , JACK REACHER 2 , and the upcoming TOP GUN: MAVERICK ), Jon Voight (FANTASTIC BEASTS , and the upcoming ORPHAN HORSE ), and Emmanuelle Béart (stuff I’ve never seen or heard of, and the upcoming ADORATION ). In support, we have Ving Rhames (FATHER FIGURES ), Henry Czerny (REVENGE [2011 – 2015]), Jean Reno (THE PROMISE , and upcoming films DOORMAN  and WAITING FOR ANYA ), Kristin Scott Thomas (TOMB RAIDER , DARKEST HOUR , and upcoming films PARAMOUR  and THE MAN WHO SAVED PARIS ), and Emilio Estevez (THE MIGHTY DUCKS ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Brian De Palma, known for FEMME FATALE (2002), CARRIE (1976), and the upcoming DOMINO (2018). Co-writing the screenplay are David Koepp (THE MUMMY  and INFERNO ) and Robert Towne (stuff I’ve not seen or heard of). Composing the score is Danny Elfman, known for DON’T WORRY (2018), THE CIRCLE (2017), THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN (2016), AVENGERS: ULTRON (2015), CORALINE (2009), THE KINGDOM (2017), CORPSE BRIDE (2005), and upcoming films THE GRINCH (2018) and DUMBO (2019). The cinematographer is Stephen H. Burum, known for MYSTERY MEN (1999) and ARTHUR 2: ON THE ROCKS (1988). Finally, the editor is Paul Hirsch, known for THE MUMMY, WARCRAFT (2016), STAR WARS: EMPIRE (1980) and NEW HOPE (1977).
This is my honest opinion of: MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE
Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) of the Impossible Missions Force (IMF), as well as his most trusted team, is tasked with a new mission: to track down a man who wants the NOC List, a list of all of IMF’s agents with both their fake names and real names, which would be dangerous in the hands of their enemies. The mission begins as a success, but then Phelps’ team is killed one by one by an unknown assailant, including Jim. The only survivor is Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), Jim’s point man, and Ethan soon learns that the entire mission was a front by the IMF higher ups, specifically Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny) to track down a mole in the organization, and because Ethan is sole survivor, it is believed to be him, sending Ethan on the run when apprehending him results in failure. After discovering that he wasn’t the only survivor of the team, Jim’s wife Claire (Emmanuelle Béart), their only course of action is to recover the NOC List themselves and lure out the one responsible for the murder of the team and clear Ethan’s name.
Wow… this movie didn’t hold up as well as I thought it would. I remember loving this movie as a kid, but now it’s just sort of… meh.
Alright, well first thing’s first, nothing was wrong with the acting. Cruise is great, Voight, Rhames, Béart, they’re all good. Most of the action and suspense definitely holds up. The iconic Langley vault scene with Krieger holding up Ethan by a rope, as masterfully directed as its ever been. Ugh, even having seen this played out as many times as I have over the course of my life, even during movies that are satirizing or referencing it, it’s still an awesome scene. And the climactic train scene? I don’t think I’ve seen it done better before or since. The intensity of how the wind blows back their clothes makes it feel so damned real, even if you can tell it’s all green screen nowadays. And this is probably a weird one to remember so well, but I absolutely adore the whole “who has the real NOC List” scene between Ethan and Krieger, where Ethan is bluffing the shit out of the situation by performing cheap sleight of hand magic tricks. There’s just something so charming and bad-ass with how Ethan handles the situation.
However, when all is said and done, this movie is… sadly, not that good and even a little dumb. Oh man, this is going to be a controversial thing to say, so let’s get to explaining.
Alright, so the big twist of the movie is that Jim didn’t die and, double twist, Ethan puts together that Jim, Krieger, and Claire killed the entire team in the beginning of the movie.
But let’s really dissect this. The very moment where pieces start falling into place for Ethan is when he opens the Bible and it reads it’s from the Chicago hotel that Jim was in before the movie started. This is a fantastic place to start because this shows would imply that Jim is a dumb-shit. Why would he need to steal a Bible, that he even later on suspected was stamped? Why didn’t he check for stamps before he brought it with him? He came to the conclusion of how Ethan put it all together pretty quickly, as if it was an obvious bit of information that he stupidly overlooked. Plus, it’s not exactly hard to steal Bibles from ANYWHERE in the world! Just saying! Also, sure, a Chicago Bible in London may not be the most common sight in the world, but how is its mere existence a sign that he was the mole the entire time? And don’t tell me that it was to use Bible quotes for all the messages that Job was sending to his buyers, or whatever, because Max (Vanessa Redgrave) explicitly says that Job never did that. So not only does Ethan continue to send messages this way (just prior to the “who has the real NOC list” scene with Krieger), armed with this knowledge, but it makes no sense how this places Jim as Job. So at the end of the day, one really has to ask why the hell Jim had the Bible at all. It wasn’t for the Bible quotes because that was all Ethan. This is an extremely contrived excuse to get this plot moving along.
During that standoff between Ethan, Jim, and Claire in the baggage car of the train, why does Jim kill her? I mean… they were married. And she never betrayed him. She and Ethan never had sex and gave no indication that she was about to betray Jim. Literally, all she was doing was trying to prevent Ethan from being killed on the spot. In fact, when you think about it, Claire’s idea was the smartest decision: take the money and let Ethan take the blame. By this point, Kittridge didn’t actually know that Jim was alive. Also, kind of stupid to just let Ethan reach for something hidden in his sleeve. These guys are secret agents playing with really fancy toys. Why would anyone risk that? Sticks of gum are powerful explosives in this world! Who knows what a pair of glasses would do? Sheesh.
And my final problem, which is admittedly a smaller issue, is that Jim is the ultimate bad guy. Why? Let me explain my confusion, Jim Phelps is the main protagonist of the Mission: Impossible TV show. Mostly. I think the first season had a protagonist that was a different character, then switched over to Jim Phelps later on, becoming the main protagonist of the show. Despite the fact that Voight didn’t play TV Jim Phelps, it’s implied that this movie takes place in the same universe at the TV show, just years later and Ethan Hunt takes the reigns as the leading man. So why is he a villain here? Was Jim Phelps always kind of a disgruntled IMF agent? Was he sort of like James Bond in that sense where he practically hated doing what he did? If so, I guess that could make sense if it was played with better, but the motivation for this Jim Phelps makes very little sense. It’s like he’s just doing it for shits and giggles. Something about the President having his own mind, it was a bunch of rambling that would have given the Architect from THE MATRIX: RELOADED (2003) a run for his money.
Overall, yeah, the movie doesn’t hold up all that well if you think about it. There is definitely a lot of dumb in the movie with very little excuses for it. I can’t claim it’s an awful movie, but it’s not good, which breaks my heart because I used to love this movie. But I can still appreciate a lot of the set and action pieces, that no film has ever managed to do better, so I’ll still hold this on some kind of pedestal. I certainly don’t hate it, but it’s not my favorite. And to think, I have the sequel to look forward to.
My honest rating for MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE: 3/5