Mission: Impossible (1996) – Review

3 Stars

Brain De Palma’s big screen incarnation of the venerable 1960’s television show arrived in theaters riding a wave of promotional hype. A high concept premise with roots to older audiences starring a proven box office draw (a mixture that proved successful for The Fugitive) had summer ticket buyers expecting a balls out action extravaganza. So inevitably audiences were greatly disappointed when Mission: Impossible turned out to be a quiet almost cerebral thriller more akin to 1970’s government paranoia thrillers like The Parallax View than the Bond films.

Working with a serpentine screenplay credited to writers David Koepp and Steven Zallian, Cruise and company do their best to guide the audience through the maze of double and triple crosses. Under close (and repeated) viewings it is fairly easy to follow the sharp twists and turns in the devilishly fun script. I’m almost positive I could correctly explain the story to a friend but don’t ask me to. The thing that is undeniable about Mission: Impossible is the enormous charisma of Tom Cruise. He streaks through this thing like a missile, emotionally invested in the role and throwing himself fearlessly into all manner of potentially dangerous situations.

The highlights include a break in to a high security vault in Langley, VA and a duel with a helicopter aboard a bullet-train. These sequences and their near death experiences have become hallmarks of the long running franchise. An inauspicious opening installment to a series with great peaks and valleys.

Director: Brian De Palma
Stars: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight and Emmanuelle Béart

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