Mission: Impossible (1996) – 4/5


A complex, visually engaging action packed spy thriller full of twists and turns, memorable set pieces, a great atmosphere, and an entertainingly wacky performance from Tom Cruise that is nonetheless fitting and full of charm and charisma. The film is somewhat shallow though, with no real character development to speak of and nothing of substance really taking place outside the pure visual thrill of the action sequences. But, as an action movie, it’s refreshingly smarter than most, and better shot, and just all around better made, even if the director, Brian De Palma, does borrow heavily from Hitchcock’s work at times, especially in the final “train” sequence. Still, pretty damn good film. Weird, but good.

The film has some rather strange performances too. It’s well acted all around, sure, but the decisions some of the characters make are very bizarre, especially Vanessa Redgrave’s character who seems really loose here, in a good way, and I don’t mean sexually. Mostly. And Cruise is so entertaining; he’s engaged and full of energy, yet never annoyingly over the top. I miss this Cruise: carefree and spontaneous and full of life, like someone having fun in a role rather than just going through the motions. And man was he young. He looks like he’s 20 here, but that can’t be, can it?

And of course there’s the great set-pieces the film is famous for, including the great “computer hack” sequence which looks somewhat outdated today given the big bulky computers and excessive use of floppy disks, but it still works. And man is it funny. The actor who plays the computer guy in that scene is hilarious. Just a beautiful, suspenseful, hilarious, well made scene. An instant classic. Though the whole train sequence at the end is also pretty great, especially once **SPOILERS** Cruise climbs on top of it as it’s speeding along and his jacket is flying everywhere and he has to get to Jon Voight, and then he ties the helicopter to the train and forces it into the tunnel and all that. And of course, the way it all ends. Red light, green light! **END SPOILERS**  Yeah! Awesome, brilliantly staged, shot, directed action sequence, probably one of the best ever made. De Palma and company were really firing on all cylinders here. Genius. The beginning sequence too is also pretty brilliantly shot, and occasionally looks like something out of a horror film with all that fog. Great, great stuff.

Overall, I really enjoyed the film, shallow characters and occasionally confusing/thin plot and all. Also, the soundtrack seemed too light and fluffy and didn’t mesh well with the suspenseful nature of the film. Still, great film: very enjoyable, very well made, very well acted, and, for once, perfectly paced and not overly long. If anything, the film is too short and ought to have used another 10 minutes or so to flesh some things out. But that’s okay. Better too short than too long, I say. Always leave ’em wanting more and all that good stuff.

So yeah, great film. Different, but great. Strongly recommended.

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