Tuesday, February 18, 2014
(May 1996, U.S.)
When my mother's (second) husband went to see MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE in Los Angeles upon its release, his reaction was nothing short of furious! Apparently, he's a real fan of the original TV show and simply could not accept all of the new film changes implemented into the story, particularly the death of character Jim Phelps (played by Jon Voight) after being revealed as a traitor. Well, all I ever knew of the TV show was the iconic opening and it's musical theme by Lalo Schifrin. In other words, I never actually watched the show so I had no basis of comparison to the film. That accompanied by the fact that I have a rather shameful weakness for many of Tom Cruise's films (but you already know that!), I was very quick to get on line to see Brian DePalma's film version and get in some of that new Tom Cruise action hero flavor!
Many of those who saw this film could not quite get the plot line straight in their head, and I was likely no exception. It took a second viewing as soon as it was released on VHS (remember those??) to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Cruise plays IMF (Impossible Mission Force) agent Ethan Hunt who's the only survivor of an ambush that takes out his entire team during a failed mission at the American Embassy in Prague. As a result, Ethan is considered suspect in their murder and a vital piece of information known as the NOC list (a fake one, actually) is out in the open; the result potentially leading to the execution of many IMF agent by enemies around the world (actually, what's so hard to understand about that??). So now he's got to clear his own name as well as find the real "bad guy" responsible for all that's happened. By all accounts, such a plot line doesn't sound all that unfamiliar on screen. We've seen it before. However, unlike a rogue cop who must seek and fight for justice, Ethan employs additional team members that include actors Ving Rhames and Jean Reno, and it's here where things start to get interesting. The team must successfully infiltrate CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia and steal the real NOC list in order to draw out the enemy in question. This heist, as we'll call it, is, in my humble opinion, is nothing short of brilliant and nerve-wracking under DePalma's direction. Particular reasons for this are not only the camera shots and angles but the non-use of any musical score. In fact, I've often thought that if the film had used nothing more than a human breathing soundtrack for this sequence, it would have been a wonderful homage to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968). And hey, let's not forget this iconic image of a dangling Tom Cruise that's been parodied more times than I care to count...
Like his film version of another popular TV show, THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987), DePalma doesn't seek to overload our eyes and our brains with endless in-your-face action, but rather give us assorted thrilling moments with a chance to actually think about a plot that isn't quite that simple. Remember - I'm a man who enjoys a good reason to think about what he's watching on screen, and unlike too many audience members, I don't throw a damn fit the minute a story becomes just a little bit challenging! And yet despite what I've just described, there is that awesome climactic speeding train and helicopter sequence taking us through England's Channel Tunnel at top speed and finally the helicopter blade that stops just short of Cruise's throat (damn!!!). Regarding that final scene aboard the plane, though...well, somebody's going to have to explain that one to me! Ethan has already revealed that he's out of the game, yet he's given a new mission on board the plane. His final facial reaction appears to be that of puzzlement and surprise. Is he accepting a new mission or does he, like too much of the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE audience, not know what the fuck is going on??
Now here's a story...at the start of the Summer of 1996, I reopened by beach house in the Westhampton Beach, Long Island after a three year absence due to compromising conditions of natural beach erosion and severe seasonal weather. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE was the first summer film I saw that year after once again, breathing life again into my beloved home. That's it. I said I had a story. I didn't say it was a big story!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Eugene Kittridge: "I understand you're very upset."
Ethan Hunt: "Kittridge, you've never seen me very upset!"
Kittridge: "All right, Hunt. Enough is enough! You have bribed, cajoled, and killed, and you have done it using loyalties on the inside! You want to shake hands with the Devil, that's fine with me! I just want to make sure that you do it in Hell!"