One of the most notable roles in Tom Cruise’s career as well as one of the most successful box office hits of Brian De Palma’s filmography, both for reasons I never understood completely. That’s not to say Mission: Impossible is a bad film because it’s very far away from that, but the trademarked name seems to be from what I’m seeing is the only reason to remember it but what about it makes everything a standout? As a particularly big Brian De Palma apologist, I’ve always struggled with the reputation that Mission: Impossible had formed. At least given its success the fact it managed to spawn a franchise is understandable, but is the original really as special as some say so?
While I do love the directorial style of Brian De Palma, I’m not so sure it’s the kind that I do have in mind when I’m thinking of the fast-paced action that Mission: Impossible intends to contain. I’ve especially loved the filmmaker for his subversions of the homage through Hitchcockian thrillers like Dressed to Kill or Body Double, or the amazing allegory of Blow Out, but when he’s headed for a much bigger audience I’ve always felt as if what trademarks his directorial style is restricted. It’s a problem I’ve faced with Scarface and The Untouchables (both of which I do enjoy though not as much as others) but my issues with restricting a vision I do admire very highly are most prevalent in Mission: Impossible because it doesn’t have much of the vibe that defines what I see in Brian De Palma’s general oeuvre, it’s just simplified for a mainstream appeal.
In spite of the film’s greatest strength being in how detailed its plot is, the problem is the general investment with the content that takes place on the screen for a good amount if it can come off as rather dull and convoluted. You can expect that given the exciting buildup of tension arising from Brian De Palma’s aesthetic there’d be something at least to make Mission: Impossible exciting not just in the action or espionage sequences but instead, De Palma falters to what is merely standard for the genre thus a much more predictable approach turns away general interest in the content seeing that if many spy movies have been watched beforehand, one should already be familiar with how these films are set to move and thus Mission: Impossible isn’t nearly as pulse pounding as it could have been.
Although there are sequences that do indeed garner high admiration from my end (noting a scene in which Ethan Hunt is breaking into the vault), it’s surprising just how unremarkable a good amount of this is on De Palma’s end. I admire De Palma for his versatility when he’s working around suspense but what’s provided for the viewers in Mission: Impossible simply just feels so standard. Some action sequences at least within the first half do work rather perfectly but only one more afterwards (the climactic chase scene) is worth noting.
Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is a big strength to the film for he is a memorable character but a good majority of the cast whom we’re left with is extremely uninteresting which is a shame when we consider the extreme amount of talent we have. Kristin Scott Thomas especially is underused, Jean Reno’s Franz Kreiger contains an uniteresting arc and Emmanuelle Béart’s talent feels really out of place. Cruise’s arc is rounded out so perfectly but not so much is given from many others, which is a shame because of the amount of talent we have assembled.
Mission: Impossible is a case of potential building up to an overly convoluted plot and a sense of dullness where tension should be formed. It’s such a shame that given its success and that of those whom have followed, Mission: Impossible is especially a scenario regarding bitter disappointment considering whom you have behind the camera, and I’m referring to none other than the wonderful Brian De Palma. Had De Palma used what it is that we’ve come to love about his films, this could have been much more exciting but as it stands, a good amount of it sadly is rather lifeless. Certainly a lower point in De Palma’s body of work.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Paramount.
Directed by Brian De Palma
Screenplay by David Koepp, Robert Towne, from the television series created
by Bruce Geller
Produced by Tom Cruise, Paula Wagner
Starring Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Henry Czerny, Emmanuelle Béart, Jean Reno,
Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vanessa Redgrave
Release Year: 1996
Running Time: 110 minutes