Mission: Impossible (1996) Starring Tom Cruise


Lead actor: Tom Cruise, Emmanuel Bear.

Director: Brian DePalma.

I’ve hired a new Creative Content Director for VickiTube, my new streaming service with better digital programming.  Mr. Frank, who has had a brilliant career on the American stages, is exactly the kind of visionary artist I need to take our original programs to the next level.  He had barely arrived at the Kondo Maine, at the top of the Nakatomi Plaza building, or he knew exactly why he had been summoned.  He said we should do a live musical because this format has had great success at other stations.  I immediately suggested an adaptation of my musical Flaming Desire, based on the movie Die Hard, because the apartment is so perfect, but Mr. Frank rejected that as too obvious a choice.  Then he had an even brighter genius hunch: He proposed an online contest where VickiTube subscribers could submit suggestions for the program, so they could nominate and choose from the objects that best showcase my superior talents.

The contest aired live this morning on The View with Vicki, where, after a fascinating segment on psoriasis in heart attacks, my co-hosts and I discussed how viewers can suggest a home for a live music performance later in the season.  Belle Poitrine, always the card, immediately started defending Vicky Lester in O Calcutta! which I don’t find particularly amusing.  I know she wants it because she assumes I would star her and her two enormous talents.

The suggestions from the audience were a little more realistic – Vicky Lester – Funny Girl. An adaptation of Nine, in which I would play all the female roles with technical magic.  MNM presents Fiddler on the Roof as Tevye in a series of posters with a floor change.  I think it would work, and Eve Harrington would make a lovely Camzoil Motel.  I’ve asked Leah, the head of my consumer products department, to present the proposals in a giant Excel spreadsheet, and we hope to have a public vote on the finalists in about a week.  I asked Lea to take notes of the suggestions received, as this could be a great opportunity to create a new line of MNM collectible dolls from suggestions with fewer points.

At least I had some time to myself tonight. So, after donning a taupe dress with black monkey fur and a marabou trim, I poured a cognac into one of my family’s strippers and settled into my home theater for the shoot.  Somewhere, I bought a Tom Cruise input kit: Impossible movies, and since the first one is now 25 years old, I decided to check it out. I hadn’t seen it all those years ago since it was first released in theaters.  I’ve always loved the series, and I remember loving the translation on the big screen.  The series has now had six parts in the past quarter century with a seventh promised, giving Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt considerable longevity in the spy game, only rivaling 007 himself, and unlike James Bond, Hunt hasn’t been remade yet, although it might be time to think about that.  Cruise was in his 30s when this movie was made, and now he’s almost 60, and plastic surgery, hair dyeing and makeup can’t do everything.

Several years have passed since the events of the re-released television series, but Jim Phelps (Jon Voight – Peter Graves wasn’t interested because of the character’s role in the film) is still running his Mission Impossible Force (IMF), an obscure branch of US intelligence that takes on missions that normal units can’t accomplish for diplomatic or logistical reasons.  His current gang, consisting of young hothead Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), Jim’s wife Claire (Emmanuelle Heart) and spy guru Jack (Emilio Estevez), the seductive Sarah (Kristin Scott Thomas) and the totally oblivious Hannah (Ingeborga Dapkunaite) are on a mission in Prague to prevent a list of American secret agents from being stolen from the U.S. Embassy and turned over to a shady arms dealer named Max.

Things go horribly wrong, several team members are killed and Ethan is suspected of being the mole by Kittridge (Henry Cherney), the Big Boss.  Ethan, determined to clear his name, takes matters into his own hands and assembles the IMF team, which consists of Claire (a survivor of the embassy collapse) and disgraced agents Luther (Ving Rhames), an IT guru, and Krieger (Jean Reno), a pilot.  Can Ethan break into the impenetrable computer system at CIA headquarters?  Will he survive the battle with the unmasked villain aboard the TGV that traverses the tunnel from London to Paris?  If you can’t answer these questions before you sit down and salt your popcorn, you’ve never seen a Tom Cruise action movie.

Mission: He couldn’t go through the hell of development because it was hard to find a two-hour film script that not only met the conventions of a television series, but also took him to a new era with higher stakes and more immersive dramaturgy.  A number of head writers, including David Koepp and Steve Zaillian (Koepp and Robert Towne were eventually credited with the screenplay), but it was difficult to find the right balance between action, drama and contrivance – both for the characters and the audience – and the film eventually went into production without a finished script.  That’s not usually a good sign.  Tom Cruise and his partner Paula Wagner were the main producers, they had a vision and were ultimately able to keep the production afloat and finish it on time and on budget.  Directed by Brian DePalma.  Although spy thrillers are not his trade, he brought his fluid camera movements and unique ability to tell a story without dialogue to bear on several scenes, including the famous break-in at CIA headquarters, in which the characters must extract vital information from a heavily guarded computer.

Each of the three acts of Mission Impossible is built around a framework, each of which deserves special attention.  The first act consists of infiltrating the IMF and trying to prevent the theft of a CIA list from the US Embassy in Prague during a fancy party.  The decor is great, the clothes are great.  Much of the story is told through what we see on different television screens, giving us multiple points of view.  When things go wrong, a number of characters we think play important roles in the film suddenly fall away – something Hitchcock used in Psycho and several times in Game of Thrones.

The second act is built around a CIA raid.  Famous images of Tom Cruise hanging from a trapeze, all in black against a sterile white room, borrowed from Stanley Kubrick in 2001 : A space odyssey is unforgettable and has often been imitated but not realized.  The third act, a chase on the roof of a train involving a helicopter and a tunnel, is so tightly staged and staged that one forgets how ridiculous it is.

Mission: Impossible is not a movie about the big game.  He’s a battle-hardened man.  Tom Cruise is playing Tom Cruise.  He looks great on screen, is in good shape, does most of his own stunts and challenges the audience not to get carried away.   Most of the supporting characters are good, but forgettable.  They were all better in other movies.  The one exception is Vanessa Redgrave, who plays a lot against her type and is happy to be in a movie like this.  I’m sure she would have the games to do the stunts herself, but her role doesn’t really require it. Mission: You can’t make it fun if you don’t expect it to mean something in the end.

Various latex masks.  Falling off a bridge. Death by an elevator. Exploding aquariums.  Gideon’s Free Bible. Vomiting a CIA agent.  A wonderfully curious rat. Exhibition of the baggage car. Mom’s been arrested.

To learn more about Norman Maine, read our introduction, visit her full catalog, and follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/missvickilester.

Mrs. Norman Maine, a native of Seattle Washington, the land of fog, coffee and flying salmon, awoke as an adult as Athena from Andy’s mind during a difficult period in his life shortly after he moved to Alabama.

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