Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 is out next week and I, for one, am excited. The Mission Impossible movies have been solid entertainment from the get-go. Getting ready for Dead Reckoning, I am going to watch all 6 of the other Mission Impossible movies. Having just seen the first three as part of this preparation, I thought I would share a brief review of them with you.
The first of the franchise was a more paired-down remake of the TV series from the 1960s, created by Bruce Geller. I’ve never seen the series, but when I looked it up on Wikipedia I was surprised there was no listing for a character called Ethan Hunt. In the 1996 movie, and the franchise in general, the main focus is of course on Hunt, as played by Tom “Doesn’t even own a phone” Cruise.
You know the story. A mission goes tits up, Ethan is blamed, and goes on the run. He ends up stealing a NOC list to expose the real mole in their organization. It starred Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vanessa Redgrave, Emilio Estevez (who is listed as “uncredited”), and Henry Czerny.
The first one was directed by Brian de Palma. This was a good and bad thing. Firstly, I love de Palma, his direction is amazing and he tells some great stories and, for the first of the movies, he does a great job. There is great action, including that famous scene in the computer room. The ending is also great, if a little over the top.
It is a cracking movie. I love the great split screen shots, where there are two things in focus at the same time. There are some fun Dutch Angle shots, like in the original Batman TV series. It is a decent script, with so many twists and turns that you never know who to trust.
This makes the original Mission: Impossible movie a very solid action flick and I give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Mission: Impossible 2
I’m mixed about this movie. The director this time is John Woo, known for his violence, slow motion, and birds at inappropriate moments. I love John Woo’s movies, but this one just doesn’t work.
The style of de Palma worked. He made an action ‘fantasy’ movie, high on the action, but low on the “this could have happened” scale. Woo takes even further. Too far. His trademark slow motion and over-the-top action can be jarring here. Ethan seems to shoot more people while doing a somersault than he does just standing still.
All of the action in this movie is way over the top, which is not a bad thing, but when making a Mission: Impossible movie the over the top action seems to need to be grounded in style. It makes a reality you can beleive in no matter how over-the-top it is. In this movie, you just can’t believe in it. I think the series settles down around entry number 4 into a “reality” you can believe in.
At its heart, there is a good story here. Sean Ambrose, played by Dougray Scott, is planning on selling both a virus and the cure to terrorists, and Ethan has to stop him. The problem then is Nyah Hall, played by Thandiwe Netwon. Don’t get me wrong, she is a great actress and very beautiful, but the ‘love story’ between her and Ethan feels tacked on and is just not needed.
Mission: Impossible 2 is a pretty cool action movie, but it’s a bad Mission: Impossible movie. If it didn’t have Ethan Hunt in it and just some other spy, it would be fun. It’s the worst of the series so far.
Mission: Impossible 3
Another change of director and another change of style. This time JJ Abrams takes over and, again, he delivers a solid movie. I have to say, his style is love and hate. I love some of the action, but at the same time, I hate the shaking camera for the sake of it.
The story this time, involves another love story, with Ethan living a double life and getting married. His wife thinks he is a traffic planner, but he is now teaching at the IMF. He is called back to action when one of his best and brightest students goes missing while tracking an arms dealer. The villain, Owen Davien, is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman and he is a great bad guy. He’s ruthless, hardcore, and downright evil. You love to hate him.
I’ll bet you forgot that Lawrence Fishburn was in this movie. As was the lovely Maggie Q. MI:3 is a little over-stylized, but damn good fun.
I will be viewing the other Mission: Impossible movies this week, and reviewing them ready for Dead Reckoning. What did you make of the first three movies?
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