Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence
Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt
Jon Voight as Jim Phelps
Emmanuelle Béart as Claire Phelps
Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell
Vanessa Redgrave as Max
Henry Czerny as Eugene Kittridge
Jean Reno as Franz Krieger
Kristin Scott Thomas as Sarah Davies
Director: Brian de Palma
When U.S. government operative Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his mentor, Jim Phelps (Jon Voight), go on a covert assignment that takes a disastrous turn, Jim is killed, and Ethan becomes the prime murder suspect. Now a fugitive, Hunt recruits brilliant hacker Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and maverick pilot Franz Krieger (Jean Reno) to help him sneak into a heavily guarded CIA building to retrieve a confidential computer file that will prove his innocence.
Mission Impossible was originally a tv series that started in the 80s, about a team of secret agents pulling off jobs. TV to movie adaptations could so easily turn out badly but director Brian de Palma and co. managed to pull it off. It’s not one of my favourites from the Mission Impossible series but it is still quite solid, and I do appreciate it, especially how it would lead onto some even better movies (for the most part).
Generally the Mission Impossible movies does have some plots where you kind of need to pay attention to what is going on, but with this first film in particular it is essential. All the later movies would have more of an emphasise on action, but here it’s the opposite, there aren’t many action scenes, in fact there’s just one. It’s more of an espionage focussed movie. The team dynamic, which would play a part in the other Mission Impossible movies (with the exception of Mission Impossible 2) are present in 2 prominent sequences in this first movie, but outside of that, doesn’t play a huge part in the overall part. The movie is an hour and 50 minutes long, its much slower paced and I’d be lying if I said that I was completely invested from start to finish. It goes in and out of being interesting to me. Honestly I don’t have much to say about the plot, it’s fine enough.
This is the movie that launched Tom Cruise into becoming an action star. Ethan Hunt would grow to have a bigger range as a character in later movies (after 3) and here he’s not really a deep character but Cruise does add a lot here. Along with his impressive stunts (showing how committed he is and would be in the years to come), Cruise is good when portraying Hunt in scenes when he’s at the top of his game and also when he’s vulnerable in certain situations. We spend more time with Ethan Hunt’s newer team members, which are played by Ving Rhames and Jean Reno, both are good. Rhames as Luther Stickell in particular is great, he’s likable, he’s funny, he’s so good in fact that he would then star in every Mission Impossible movie following the first film, and that can’t be said about any other character in the series aside from Ethan Hunt. Other actors like John Voight, Emmanuelle Beart and Vanessa Redgrave are also good.
For a while, the tradition for the Mission Impossible movies was that each film in the series would be directed by a different person, and with each Mission Impossible film you can really see each director lend their style to the film. Brian de Palma directed the first film and his work is very effective here. It surprised me how well some of this movie holds up, not all of it does (like some of the technology) but for what de Palma was going for with this movie, he really pulled it off. The film really showcases the team and the planning of the jobs really well. A highlight was the sequence where Cruise is hanging from the ceiling and is trying to steal something, it’s a very tense scene that is really effective to this day. There’s like maybe one action scene in the movie (the train scene at the end) and it’s really great, it feels like you’re right there as everything is going on. Some of the special effects don’t hold up but that can be overlooked. The score by Danny Elfman was pretty good, but the main theme which is based off the theme from the original series is very memorable, and would continue to return in later Mission Impossible movies and go through some evolution.
Despite what the series is like now, the original Mission Impossible is actually rather different. If you haven’t watched this movie before and only watched the later movies, it can be quite jarring. It can be slower paced, it’s not consistently interesting and entertaining but it’s got a lot of good to it at the same time, and it is still worth watching. I think there are better Mission Impossible movies but the original is still rather solid.