Today! Because you’ve never seen me very upset –
Mission: Impossible (1996)
Directed by Brian De Palma
Starring Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Ving Rhames, Jean Reno, Emilio Estevez, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vanessa Redgrave, Henry Czerny, Ingeborga Dapkunaite, John McLaughlin, Garrick Hagon
Ah, the glorious summer of 1996! While it was expected to be the big draw that season, and would only end up third behind ID4 and Twister, it proved to have the longest legs, cranking out sequels straight to the present day. And even though I think it’s fair to say the first one is no one’s choice for best film in the series, the De Palma outing does have a lot going for it. Because all the follow-ups would get helmed by action directors (I don’t care what else you might think of J.J. Abrams), this one stands out for the underlying suspense De Palma (at the end of his effectiveness as a director) brought to it, the first of many fake masks and double-crosses, and for that sequence where they break into Langley to steal the list. The effects may get bigger and wilder as the series goes on, but nothing will ever quite compare to panicky Cruise quietly dangling from a rope as Jean Reno kills that rat. Holy wow. Sure, the plot is convoluted nonsense, and some of the motivations are a bit fuzzy to say the least, but it’s still a pretty exciting running/jumping/punching flick.
In addition to its slightly unfair Razzie nomination for Worst Written Film that Grossed Over $100 Million (but it is some pretty convoluted nonsense!), I think it more deserving of Best Exploding Aquarium (“Red light, green light!”), even more impressive given how often fish tanks are the subject of violence in action movies. Also, clearly, Best Surprise Estevez, with the brief, unannounced cameo work by film MVP Emilio as team member Jack in the film’s opening sequence.