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Mission: Impossible DVD Review

Mission: Impossible

May 5, 2006

Director: Brian De Palma,
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Henry Czerny, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vanessa Redgrave, Dale Dye, Marcel Iures,

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DVD Review

A lot was riding on Mission: Impossible (1996) for Tom Cruise. Not only was it the first film he produced (in addition to starring), it was also his first attempt to kick start his own franchise of movies. And what better way to do this than resurrecting a classic T.V. show from the 1960s? Cruise, always the calculated risk taker, wisely surrounded himself with talented people: Robert (Chinatown) Towne co-wrote the screenplay, Brian (Scarface) De Palma directing and the likes of Jon Voight, Jean Reno and Vanessa Redgrave in the cast. The film was a huge box office success spawning two additional sequels the latest one kicking off this summer’s blockbuster season.

While in Prague on an undercover mission to retrieve a stolen list of undercover CIA operatives and catch the thieves and those who want to buy it, members of Ethan Hunt’s (Cruise) team are killed by mysterious assailants. Only he survives the bungled mission and rendezvous later his superior, Kittridge (a wonderfully twitchy Czerny) in a restaurant. Over the course of their conversation, Ethan realizes that he was set-up and that another team was shadowing his. Kittridge blames Ethan for the mission’s failure and charges him with being a double agent.

De Palma conveys Ethan’s growing sense of paranoia and panic in this scene through increasingly skewed camera angles as the magnitude of what has happened begins to sink in. Czerny plays the scene beautifully as he talks to Ethan as a parent might scold a child. The conversation between them culminates with a daring escape as Ethan causes a large aquarium to explode, using the ensuing chaos to make his getaway. He regroups at a safe house where he meets Claire (Beart), another surviving member of his team and decides to form his own team, retrieve the list and clear his name.

The film’s overriding theme is one of deception, a world where nothing is what it seems. The film’s prologue has a disguised Ethan trick a captive man into giving up a name of a key operative. This is only one of many disguises he adopts throughout the film in order to obtain information or trick an opponent. In addition, several members of his teams are not who they appear to be as well and this keeps the audience guessing as to who is “good” and who is “bad.”

The common complaint leveled at Mission: Impossible was that it was hard to follow, fueling speculation that De Palma’s original cut was non-linear in nature and that Cruise re-cut it after disastrous test screenings. Regardless, if one is paying attention to what is happening and what is being said (or not being said, in some cases) it isn’t difficult to navigate the film’s narrative waters. The script was written by David Koepp and Robert Towne and is lean and unusually well-written for a big budget action blockbuster.

Mission: Impossible’s most famous set piece is an impressively staged sequence where Ethan and his team infiltrate CIA headquarters to perform the “Mount Everest of hacks” that is masterfully orchestrated by De Palma. The heart of this sequence is nearly soundless proving that one doesn’t need a ton of explosions and gunfire to have an exciting, tension-filled action sequence (Michael Bay take note).

Special Features:

“Mission: Remarkable – 40 Years of Creating the Impossible” takes a brief look at the history of the Mission: Impossible franchise from the T.V. show to the latest film. Tom Cruise had been a huge fan of the show and jumped at the chance to resurrect it as a movie. There are archived interviews with cast and crew for the first two movies and small soundbite with director J.J. Abrams for the latest one. Not surprisingly, most of the time is spent on the first film.

“Mission: Explosive Exploits” examines the impressive stunts of the film. They show how Cruise actually did some of the big action set pieces himself. One has to admire his level of commitment.

“Mission: International Spy Museum” takes us through this museum located in Washington, D.C. and showcases some of the more interesting devices used by spies over the years and explains their significance in this fascinating extra.

“Mission: Spies Among Us” features several experts in the spy/intelligence community as they talk about what it requires to become a spy and what they do, how they disguise themselves and so on.

“Mission: Catching the Train” examines how they pulled off the impressive train chase at the end of the movie. Naturally, it was a mix of live action and CGI.

“Agent Dossiers” gives you biographies and stats of each of Ethan’s team in much the same format as we see in the movie which is a nice, added touch.

Get ready for the Tom Cruise lovefest in the next bunch of extras that will test your endurance for the actor.

“Excellence in Film: Cruise” is a highlight reel of Cruise’s various film roles first set to Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” a composition that was inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Superman” and used in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Oh dear. If that wasn’t bad enough the next bunch of clips are scored to “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones (?!).

“Acceptance Speech for BAFTA/LA’s Stanley Kubrick Britannia Aware for Excellence in Film” features Cruise giving a very polished speech about the collaborative process of film, blah, blah. Noteworthy for the embarrassing moment at the end when Cruise tries to crack an awful joke (a pun on Eyes Wide Shut no less) with no response from the crowd.

“Generation: Cruise” if the first montage of clips wasn’t enough of ego stroke we are subjected to another one.

“Acceptance Speech for MTV’s Generation Award” features Cruise’s current squeeze Katie Holmes introducing him in a truly embarrassing display as she shamelessly fawns all over him.

Finally, the extras are rounded out by two trailers and nine T.V. spots for the movie and a photo gallery of stills.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 89%

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