Planning to see Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation later this week, so decided to binge-watch my way through the first four films in the series so far. That’s a lot of Tom Cruise, but fortunately Ethan Hunt remains one of his better and more bearable roles, and you can’t argue that he consistently manages to bring it when it comes to delivering a big action set-piece in these movies (usually doing a vast majority of the stunt work himself).
The really cool thing about Brian De Palma’s Mission: Impossible (1996) is that it is as much a De Palma film as it is an effective updating of a 1960's television favourite. De Palma’s infamous Hitchcock homages and camera tricks actually serve the film really well here, and the screenplay by Robert (Chinatown) Towne delivers a few genuine twists along the way. John Woo’s follow-up, Mission: Impossible 2 (2000) has lots of visual flash but very little substance. It was probably one of the last of the big action movies done in the style that had been so popular during the nineties, before everything started becoming more gritty and grounded post-9/11. M: I 2 does have a pretty jaw-dropping opening sequence of Cruise climbing the treacherous Dead Horse Point in Utah.
J.J. Abrams, who rebooted the Star Trek franchise recently and hopes to successfully do the same with Star Wars later this year, made his feature directorial debut with Mission: Impossible 3 (2006), which tried to focus as much on Ethan Hunt’s life away from the job as when he was on it. From the rapid editing to the more washed-out colour palette, you can tell this film was made in the immediate post-Bourne Identity years, and it’s my least favourite of the M:I films, though Philip Seymour Hoffman makes an interesting villain. I saw Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011) on the Melbourne IMAX screen and those shots of Cruise mountaineering about on Burj Khalifa tower in Mumbai, the world’s tallest building, were dizzying indeed, and the sequence still manages to produce white knuckles in the living room. A few other great action sequences and a couple of tense situations make Ghost Protocol my favourite of the sequels so far.
Unfortunately, none of the Mission: Impossible films play the classic Lalo Schifrin theme as well as the man himself did in the original 1966 - 1973 television series.