Today marks the 25th anniversary of Mission: Impossible, an iconic film that has generated a franchise. Mission: Impossible was nearly an 80 million dollar disaster, nearly a career-ending failure for De Palma, and nearly a major career stepback to Tom Cruise. Let’s dive into the iconic movie.
Mission: Impossible isn’t your typical action movie, in fact, it’s not your typical Mission Impossible movie. Brian De Palma directed this movie which is kind of strange if you’re familiar with his movies. Sure De Palma has made action movies, but whenever De Palma makes a movie it has a feel to it that says, “This is my masterpiece”. I believe that De Palma thinks he is our modern-day Hitchcock, and in some ways he is. Scarface is a cult classic now considered one of the best gangster movies of all time, Carlito’s Way is seen by many as a masterpiece, and Mission: Impossible sets up an iconic franchise. De Palma originally wanted this to be a blockbuster action movie with more action sequences, like the last 5 Mission Impossible movies. De Palma however, always adds his artsy touch to any movie he directs. The 30 minute cold open set the tone for the last 5 movies and is classic Hitchcock.
Killing prominent characters early in the movie is a movie invented, and mastered by Hitchcock. De Palma put a nice spin on it, by killing Jon Voight 15 minutes into the movie, and what appeared to be Cruise’s love interest Sarah Davies played by Kristin Scott Thomas. The opening scene makes this movie look like an action movie from beginning to end, but it’s not. I see this movie as an action movie with three action scenes: the cold open, the langley scene, and the train scene. Other than these 3 scenes De Palma, and screenwriter Robert Towne do their thing which is class the film up.
Instead of creating the movie formula perfected in the later Mission Impossible movies, this movie has a lot of dialogue. There’s a lot of build-ups, and tension created through the relationships in this movie. Voight’s character is a mentor to the new-ish Ethan Hunt, and their relationship allows Hunt to be played. Hunt’s weird relationship with Claire adds another layer, albeit an unnecessary one, as a sort of love interest? I don’t know with these two, they never kiss, but they give each other looks that are meant to tell the audience they have had relations? I honestly don’t know, De Palma can have some confusing irrelevant storylines in his movies now and then.
Cruise in 1996 is having arguably the best decade of any actor. In 1990, Born on the Fourth of July was released (alright fine it was released in 1989, but 12 days before 1990, so I include it in my list), Days of Thunder, Far and Away, A Few Good Men, The Firm, and Interview with the Vampire. Not only did these movies bring Cruise to another height of fame, but his characters in these movies also have some great names. Mitch McDeere, Lestat de Lioncourt, and Ethan Hunt. Wow, Lestat de Lioncourt may be the greatest name in a movie, ever. Mitch McDeere fits Cruise’s character in The Firm perfectly, and Ethan Hunt is a great everyman name. Because in the Mission Impossible movies, he has to be no one and everyone at the same time.
Mission: Impossible is only another great Cruise movie from the 90s, and was slightly overshadowed at the time by his movie to be released a couple of months later, Jerry Maguire. Cruise would end the 90s with Magnolia, and Eyes Wide Shut (the biggest mind F in movie history). Some say that Mission: Impossible is the beginning of a new chapter in Cruise’s career, some say this was the end of the actor Tom Cruise.
Magnolia, and Eyes Wide Shut are his last movies where he actually acts and doesn’t just jump out of a skyscraper or something like that. The Mission Impossible franchise served as a nice crutch to keep Cruise famous after he stopped being the, “A Few Good Men” Tom Cruise, and became the action star. The opening scene of Mission Impossible 2 is Cruise rock climbing on a cliff with no wires on him, that was the beginning of Cruise infamously doing his own highly dangerous stunts. It was sad to see Cruise go from an Oscar-nominated actor to an action star, but at the same time, it was awesome. Because watching Tom Cruise jump out of a building or rock climb on a cliff just for a movie is legendary. Cruise hasn’t done a real acting part since Magnolia in 1999, since then he has become the highest-grossing action star.
In Mission: Impossible we catch a glimpse of the Tom Cruise to be, but we still get some of the cocky, smartass Cruise of old. The scene where he’s doing magic with the hard drive and putting on a spectacle to mess with Franz is classic Cruise of the 80s and early 90s.
The making of Mission: Impossible is a great story on its own. The movie was given 80 million dollars solely because The Fugitive released three years earlier, was a major success. The movie wasn’t fully written until filming had already started, and there were about 5 screenwriters who worked on this movie. But let’s face it, Robert Towne, Tom Cruise, and Brian De Palma wrote this movie.
The movie does a great job catching certain actors at a perfect time in their careers. The prime example being Jon Voight who just came off of acting in Heat and played the part perfectly. But I think the best side actor in this movie is Emilio Estevez. Here’s a movie theory, is Emilio Estevez playing the same character in Mission: Impossible as the character in The Breakfast Club? There’s an 11-year gap between these 2 movies, it’s not impossible for Estevez’s character in The Breakfast Club to have changed his name and joined the government.
Mission: Impossible has aged horribly in the aspect of technology. The scene where Cruise’s character searches the word internet to get to the internet, c’mon De Palma. You couldn’t have researched technology for a little 10 seconds before writing, “Ethan Hunt types the internet into the search engine” (Cruise blinks 600 times in an attempt to stay awake). Other than the floppy disks, and old internet the movie ages very well.
25 years later Mission: Impossible holds up as a classic rewatchable movie and spawned 5 sequels. Cruise plays Hunt to perfection, and the Langley scene continues to be thrilling even if you’ve seen the movie 20 times. Mission: Impossible is an action movie, a thriller, and a spy movie all in one, a classic Tom Cruise movie, and a classic Brian De Palma movie.