Posted by: playingthedevil | December 18, 2011

flashback: my 1996 review of mission: impossible: 1

this is a review of mission:  impossible:  1 i wrote for a journalism class.  it was written the weekend m: i: 1 opened in 1996 and it was actually published in the college paper.  as one of my first reviews ever, it was actually quite embarrassing and cringe-inducing reading it again when i was typing it up.  i even had to fix a few errors.  i don’t quite agree with it now, i don’t know if it’s because i had higher standard in movies then or if the blockbuster tentpole movies are worse.  probably a bit of both.  it is more in the style of traditional newspaper reviews.  it’s probably a good thing that it’s cheesier and not as well written as the recent ones. on the other and, it was published on actual paper. having seen it a few more times over the years, i do like it a whole lot more than i did, way more than one specific movie mentioned in the second to last paragraph. i even put in proper capitalization, if you’re into that sort of things.


Let’s face it:  no matter what anybody tells you, you are going to see the all-hyped-up Tom Cruise movie “Mission:  Impossible.”  And that’s good news to the filmmakers since the film itself is not all that it can be.

Based on the old CBS series which ran from 1966-1973, the new film version has the familiar theme song (here remade by U2’s Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr.) and the famous self destructive message.  And just about everything else is different.


As the film opens, a group of secret agents are being told by their leader (Jon Voight, playing Peter Graves’ role in the series) that their new assignment is to stop a burglary that’s about to happen in Kiev.  Crusie plays Ethan Hunt, a hot shot agent in that elite group.  Others include the leader’s wife played by Emmanuelle Bert, and Emilio Estevez  in an uncredited role as a computer expert.  The mission goes terribly wrong.  Everyone except Cruise and Bert survive.  This causes the agency to think that he is a double agent.  For the rest of the film, Cruise tries to escape from his agency and prove that he is not a mole.  To do so, he recruits new partners, played by Ving Rhames (“Pulp Fiction”) and Jean Reno (“The Professional”).

Directed by Brian De Palma (“The Untouchables”) and co-produced by Cruise, “Mission:  Impossible” suffers from a recent trend of many Hollywood action films.  Since the success of “Speed,” Hollywood seems to abandon the traditional narration.  Like “Broken Arrow” or “Twister,” the film begins with the setup, then it just goes straight from there and starts showing off special effects and stunts.  “Mission:  Impossible” is three major sequences, in between boring talking scenes.  And when you get involved with the plot, the plot twists are more confusing than shocking.  This comes as a bit of a surprise since the script is written by David Koepp and Robert Towne, whose credits include “Jurassic Park” and “Chinatown.”

Another problem with the film is that it lacks humanity and a sense of humor.  Unlike traditional Hollywood action films, there is not an obvious villain (like Dennis Hopper in “Speed”), and there is no love interest either.

With all these flaws, the film manages to bring enough excitement and entertainment from the three main action sequences.  They take place in the CIA headquarter, and a London TGV bullet train.  De Palma is able to create a tense mood with cinematography and some spectacular special effects.  The title sequence is a perfectly updated version of the series.

“Twister” is also a plotless film relying heavily on special effects and action sequences.  But what makes it one better is that there aren’t as many movies about tornados as there are movies about secret agents.  “Twister” shows us something that we haven’t seen before (come on, flying cows!).

Your mission, readers, should you choose to see this movie, is to lower your expectations and think of it as nothing more than a perfect summer movie — escapism.



  1. I highly enjoyed this blast from the past. It’s cool to see glimpses of your current writing style in parts of the review. I hope you have a few more of these older reviews squirreled away. I too have some old reviews that I had leftover from my fanzine that read horribly now but are still fun to read from time to time; if only to see how I articulated my thoughts back then. (Most of my old reviews read like stereo instructions.)

  2. Nice twist on a catchphrase at the end, I think you then had all of the qualifications it took to be a reviewer on your local nightly news.

    I also like how every Mission Impossible credits sequence takes a great delight in showing the very end of the movie in the first two or three seconds of the song.

    • funny you mention that. in the movies, only 1 and 4 show clips from the movies in the opening credits sequences. and they are the better ones. 2 and 3 just put the credits over some csi, alias type graphics.

  3. No fucks given about this entire franchise… am I missing anything?

  4. i think i have a few other ones. they are all equally embarrassing to read.

    funny that you mentioned the local nightly news, the weekly siskel & ebert tv show was the only must see tv for me at the time.

    it is still a struggle for me in each new blog post trying to decide whether i should follow the traditional newspaper/mainstream/tv movie review or the newer blog type reviews. the paulette vs. the more academic serious tone. i definitely enjoy reading the more blog-ish type more.

    as far as this franchise goes, i love the espionage spy type action/mystery/thriller so i like all three movies. it’s the closest we have to the james bond franchise. all three are pretty entertaining popcorn movies. each with its own idiosyncrasy. though at the same time, especially since they are always about tom cruise more than anything else, i can see why someone not liking them.

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