Brian De Palma, John Woo, J. J Abrams
In the second film, Hunt is paired up with an international jewel thief (Thandie Newton) in order to take down her ex-boyfriend- an IMF agent (Dougray Scott), who’s gotten his hands on a deadly virus that he’s prepared to sell to the highest bidder.
In the third film, Hunt, now semi-retired, and in love with a young nurse (Michelle Monaghan) is pressed back into service to take down an international arms dealer , Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
Of all the films that followed, Brian De Palma’s more low-key, spy-thriller was the closest to what the old sixities TV show actually was. For one thing, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt really does feel like just a part of a larger team, and the premise of the movie is that this agent, who’s used to working with a crew, is forced to go out on his own. To that end, he sets up a new crew, including French beauty Emmanuel Beart, Ving Rhames, and Jean Reno. Naturally, only Rhames turns out to be trust-worthy, and is the only one to make it back for the other films.
Overall, it’s a solid thriller, although I remember it dividing audiences in ’96, who thought it was short on action, and needlessly complicated (Robert Towne, who wrote both this, and the sequel- really never seemed like a good fit for the series). The film has three really good set pieces- including the explosion of a large aquarium (cue the iconic image of Cruise jumping out a window being chase by water), the famous break-in to a vault containing a hilariously out-of-date computer (techno thrillers never age well), and the final train-sequence, featuring some dodgy old-school CGI (shit was cutting edge back in the day).
It still holds up pretty good, and of the films that followed, De Palma probably did the best job directing, as he knew how to craft a suspenseful action scene, with the vault break-in (borrowed from the sixties thriller TOPKAPI) being a highlight. For his part, Cruise is good as the younger, more inexperienced Hunt- who’s not yet the action hero he became in the next few films.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 ***/*****
John Woo’s addition to the M:I franchise is much maligned, and the fact that the film is such a rip=off of Alfred Hitchcock’s NOTORIOUS doesn’t help matters- at least until the last forty minutes or so. Ya see, the first 70 minutes of M:I:2 are just deadly. Virtually nothing happens, but exposition scene after exposition. Woo doesn’t unleash the action until the film is more than half-over, but from there it’s an orgy of non-stop Woo action, meaning two-fisting automatics, lots of slo-mo, and doves. While Woo is toned down for a PG-13, the action is still effective, especially the final motorcycle chase/fight, and one of the things that’s bugged me about the latter films is that Hunt never gets a suitably imposing adversary to go one-on-one with. Here, Dougray Scott’s physicality means we get a nifty fight, which is really the first time Cruise ever proved his mettle as an action hero- and it’s the fact that this grossed something like $500 million worldwide that started him making big-budget tent-pole action films as opposed to Oscar-bait like JERRY MAGUIRE and A FEW GOOD MEN. For better or worse, this made him an action star, and he’s great in it, even if the movie isn’t up to snuff (hate the way the face-masks were overused).
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 3 ****/*****
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE: 3 is an awesome film…to watch once. Many hold it up as the best of the series, and while I was watching it back in theaters in 2006, I was inclined to agree. Everything about it cooked, from the terrific villain played by Philip Seymour Hoffman (easily the best of the series) to the action scenes (the bridge shootout was jaw-dropping) to Cruise, who gives one of his best performances as the world-weary Hunt, who wants to leave the IMF behind him to make a new life. Cruise is so good, that the main complaint I had about GHOST PROTOCOL is that the intensity of the third film is ditched, making him more of the generic hero he was in the second.
The big problem with the third film is only evident on repeat viewings- mainly that it’s a rollercoaster ride, and rollercoasters rides are only fun to go on once in a while. After the first viewing, much of the fun is gone, and the short-comings of the script become more evident. Also- this was J.J Abrams feature debut, and it has some pacing issues which make it feel (at times) like a super-sized episode of ALIAS . That said, at least it has some context, which is something that was lacking from GHOST PROTOCOL (although it has the only scene in the series- the Dubai Hotel break-in- that can go head to head with the first film’s vault scene). Overall, it’s a very solid action flick.
The first film spots a few featurettes, most of which were done around the time the third film hit theaters (they originate from the DVD re-release of the first film timed to coincide with it). First up is MISSION: REMARKBLE charting the evolution of the franchise from TV to film. Next are three short featurettes examining the stunt work and setpieces of the film, with one dedicated the train sequence, which was cutting edge in '96. The extras are rounded out by the teaser and theatrical trailer as well as Generation: Cruise which is an MTV tribute to the actor that aired on the movie awards in 2005. It's actually a pretty well cut highlight reel of his films.
Oddly, Generation: Cruise reappears on the disc for the second film, as does another featurette Excellence in Film: Tom Cruise which is another slobbery tribute to the man. Next are a bunch of extras carried over from the DVD, including commentary by John Woo , Behind the Mission , and EPK, as well as a bunch of shorter featurettes- grouped under the heading Impossible Shots which, on the DVD from 2000, were a blantant attempt to copycat the "Follow The White Rabbit" extras from the first MATRIX film (the influence of which was heavily over the whole film). The extras are rounded out by a music video for Metallica's 'I Disapear'- a mediocre track, and far from their best work. Oddly, the MISSION: IMPROBABLY MTV spoof featuring Cruise, Woo and Ben Stiller is left off the disc- which is a shame, as it was very funny.
The third film features no extras other than a commentary track . The other extras were all on disc 2, but it's left out of the package. Boo.