Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Ethan Hunt (Cruise) faces down "Max" (Redgrave)

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (1996). Director: Brian De Palma.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is on a special "impossible" mission for the IMF [Impossible Missions Force] in Prague when everything goes south and his teammates are slaughtered all around him.  He is told by Kittridge (Henry Czerny, who plays Conrad Grayson on TV's Revenge) that the whole operation was merely a ruse to flush out a mole in the organization. Since Ethan appears to be the only one of the group who's still alive, he becomes the chief suspect and goes on the run. Trying to track down whoever murdered his comrades, he enters into a phony alliance with an arms dealer known only as "Max" (Vanessa Redgrave) and in the film's most suspenseful sequence must steal a list of important names from a nearly impregnable vault while hanging just inches from the ceiling; there is also a thrilling climax involving a helicopter and a high-speed train. While purists may quibble over the identity of the mastermind behind the dire plot, Mission: Impossible is an excellent update of and tribute to the very popular and long-running TV show, equally absurd at times but always fun. Cruise is well suited to this kind of material and does it well, while Jon Voight is fine as IMF head Jim Phelps. Jean Reno, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ving Rhames, and Emmanuelle Beart also have important roles. For some reason Emilio Estevez is uncredited as Jack, an early casualty of the IMF in Prague, although his performance is solid. Vanessa Redgrave is just splendid in her unusual turn as Max. The movie wisely uses Lalo Schifrin's theme music from the television program. Followed by three sequels.

Verdict: One of the classier television adaptations to hit theaters. ***1/2.

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