Mission: Impossible Midnight Movie Review
By Bret Dorman
I work at a job that attracts a lot of college and even high school students. The other day before work started I was making conversation with a lovely young female coworker. When I say lovely I mean she asked if she could sit with me and even offered me a Twix bar. When I say young I mean she is still a Senior in High School and was born in ’93. And When I say female I mean a lady.
The issue of age only came up when she, making completely innocent small talk asked me “What did you do last night?” to which I replied “Watched Mission: Impossible” (so I could write this review). She just looked at me weird and asked… “What’s that?”
I was not too surprised to find out she hadn’t seen it, but to never even hear of it? It’s a pretty big franchise… I think? There is a fourth coming out next summer (Booya!) and one just came out not too many summers ago (Booya!). But even more surprising was when she asked “Who’s in it?” and my first and immediate response was “(well… obviously…) Tom Cruise…” to which I got an even more blank stare.
Not only and she not ever even heard of Mission: Impossible, she doesn’t even know who Tom Cruise is?! To imagine… Tom Cruise went from rising young actor, to Hollywood A-Lister, to Unstoppable Force in the Universe, to crazy guy on talk shows, to one of the most hated celebrities in Hollywood, to… nothing…? Hopefully she’ll check out the movie this week and become enlightened to the awesomeness that is Tom Cruise… and the Music Box Theatre.The Story: Ethan Hunt (that guy… what’s his name? you know) goes on what is just another Mission: Routine when all of a sudden most of his team and leader, Jim Phelps (the curmudgeony John Voight) turn up KIA. Who’s the guy to take the fall? Hunt of course. So he calls upon other outcast agents, Krieger and Stickell (Action Powerhouse Duo Jean Reno and Ving Rhames) to clear their names, which turns out to be a real Mission: Impossible! Also, Emelio Estevez has a beard.
I recently read the book Shock Value by Jason Zinoman (Recommended Reading for Horror Film Fans!) and in it he talks a little about the life and films of Brian DePalma. In that book he mentions Voyeurism and how that seems to play a part in his personal life as well as his work.
Keeping that in the back of my mind during this last viewing of Mission: Impossible, its hard to not see this as a film more about watching others and being watched, than a mindless Hollywood Blockbuster. It seems no matter what is going on in this movie, people are also getting (dis)information second hand through a monitor or other viewing/listening device. This allows for tricks to be played and cons to be pulled.
In the opening scene, we see a man interrogating someone in a hotel, and we know one is a spy and they are being watched. Immediately we, the audience feel as though we are in on the ploy. But once the spies have their info, the room is swept away to reveal a sound stage and the spy takes off his face to reveal Tom Cruise. In this movie, nothing is as it seems.What is probably the scripts greatest strength and weakness, is the speed at which it zips along. Not one scene in this movie is unnecessary and they all are about what went down, what’s going down, or what will go down. Too many spy movies take time to divulge in silly things like romantic interests when in reality the life of a spy who is being hunted by his own organization for something he didn’t do has no time for dilly dally. Everything in this movie has a sense of urgency or importance to it. It helps speed things along and keep the entertainment value high, but later we are asked to care for some characters and decisions that we just don’t have an emotional connection to. Luckily, the film handles this by not making a big deal about it.
Mission: Impossible is actually relatively light on the huge overblown action scenes, compared to the sequel (John Woo) which had a solid 30 minutes of Tom Cruise on a motorcycle and fighting on a beach and the threequel (J.J. Abrams) which has a short but intense ‘Bridge Sequence’ that is Pure Action Concentrate. De Palma settles first for general mayhem and confusion which leads to the ‘The Vault’ scene. Most of the movie is actual ‘spy work’ and espionage. The only time things get really out of hand is the grand finale, involving a helicopter and high speed train. What’s most impressive is how this looks more like a cheesy film (like Hitchcock’s North by Northwest) than a polished Action CGI-fest (anything that came out this summer).
That leads me to our leading man. Tom Cruise. The man so many people have so many opinions about, given they were born before the 90’s. Cruise is a natural. Whatever that ‘Je ne sais quoi’ is Cruise has got it in his veins. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, this man can’t do and increase the intensity on it ten fold without ever making it silly. Plus, he’s one of the best on-screen runners. Maybe a notch below Franka Potente (Run Lola Run) but a couple above The Action God Himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Running Man).
Why You Must See It At Midnight: Whatever you might expect from Cruise, DePalma, or 90’s Action Blockbusters all together, Mission: Impossible delivers just not the way you’d expect it. You won’t need a password, voice print identification, or super awesome team of spies and access to the ceiling vents to get into The Music Box Theatre this week to see the movie, but don’t be surprised when you go to leave and find yourself exiting not into the streets of Chicago, but a warehouse in Berlin! Drl-rl-rl-rl-rl-rl-rl-rl-rl-rl-rl-rl… Dun Dun Dun-Dun, Dun Dun Dun-Dun, Do Do Dooooooooo…!