Opens: May 22, 1996 | Rated: PG-13
Everything there is to say about the new "Mission: Impossible" movie can be deduced by looking at who is involved: Tom Cruise produced and stars, Brian DePalma directed, and Danny Elfman scored the film.
None of these men are known for their subtlety, and "Mission: Impossible" is overblown in every sense.
At times this is a plus. The climax of the film is a chase on top of a European "bullet" commuter train traveling 150mph. Cruise has to hang on for dear life to not be blown completely off the train -- a fresh, exciting twist on a scene which has been done to death.
Other times the movie is so excessive it's a burden. The core of the story is the hunt for a double-agent and in an attempt to be overly cerebral the script becomes convoluted and so cluttered with potential suspects that it loses the audience more than once.
DePalma's signature is all over "Mission: Impossible." Extreme close-ups and depth of field shots are common and it's a very good-looking film. But as with many DePalma movies ("Bonfire of the Vanities" especially), substance takes a backseat to style.
Not that it isn't an engaging story. Cruise plays Ethan Hunt the disguise specialist member of an Impossible Mission force that includes John Voight as Jim Phelps (Peter Graves, who played the part on TV, refused to participate in the film), Emilio Estevez and Kristin Scott-Thomas ("Four Weddings and a Funeral").
Their mission at the beginning of the film is to catch a spy in the act of stealing a file of undercover agents from the United States embassy in Prague.
But there is a mole somewhere in American intelligence and the team is ambushed, leaving only Hunt and one other team member, Phelps' young wife (French star Emanuelle Beart), alive.
The survivors become suspects in the eyes if the CIA, and while on the lamb they hunt for the real traitor.
This is where the script gets shaky. The evidence keeps pointing to different people and the mole could be the CIA contact (Henry Czerny), any member of Hunt's make-shift team of ex-agents or even Jim Phelps and his wife or Hunt himself.
This should have made for a fascinating maze of twists, but instead the compass of blame moves so quickly if you blink you'll be lost. After one confusing scene late in the film, a meeting between Hunt and the mole in which the pieces of the puzzle are supposed to fall into place, it's another 15 minutes before what has transpired begins to makes sense.
"Mission: Impossible" bears little resemblance to it's television parent. There is considerable fiddling with established characters, and the focus is almost all on Cruise instead of it being an ensemble effort.
The performances are adequate, but Ving Rhames (Marsalis in "Pulp Fiction"), playing a master computer hacker, is the only standout in a cast of bigger names.
The movie does, however, have it's moments. To trap the mole, Hunt and his adopted team of disavowed agents (among them Jean Reno from "The Professional" and Rhames) break in to CIA headquarters to steal the same list of agents they were gaurding before to use as bait.
The sequence is wrought with tension as they hack past a voice print lock, laser beams and alarmed, pressure sensitive floors (this is the scene in the ads with Cruise hanging from a wire over a computer terminal).
This scene is absolutely silent, which adds tremendously to the tension and comes as a surprise since the rest of the film is heavy with Elfman's usual overbearing soundtrack.
But like the few other shows of restraint that rescue the movie from being just another complicated stunt flick, Elfman does use the famous theme music sparingly, saving it for when he wants to say "pay attention, this is the exiting bit."
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