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Mission: Impossible

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Mission: Impossible

Starring: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight
Director: Brian De Palma
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 110 Minutes
Release Date: May 1996
Genres: Action, Suspense

*Also starring: Emmanuelle Beart, Henry Czerny, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vanessa Redgrave, Dale Dye, Marcel Iures

Review by Jerry Saravia
No Rating Supplied

Back in 1996, I made the comment that Tom Cruise's films seemed to be less than stellar achievements. However, since then he has proven to be a solid actor with "Jerry Maguire," "Eyes Wide Shut," and "Magnolia." Mostly, Cruise has become the Dick Clark of superstars who never seems to age and always plays righteous, good all-American boys a'la "Top Gun." Like some of his lesser achievements, "Far and Away" and "The Firm," "Mission: Impossible" is somewhat fluffy and mediocre yet it boasts some electrifying, entertaining sequences amidst all the muddle.

Based on the hit television series of yesteryear, Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt, an able protege of veteran IMF (as in Impossible Mission Force) agent Jim Phelps (Jon Voight), and along with Phelps's team of undercover operatives, they attempt to capture a Russian agent with plans to steal a disc containing the identities of American agents stationed in Europe. Whew! Of course, something invariably goes wrong with Phelps's master plan and it is up to Hunt and a surviving female operative (Emanuelle Beart from "Nelly and Monsieur Arnaud") to uncover the enemy who may be a former IMF agent.

The movie begins to lose track of an always intriguing premise - corruption at the heart of an organization, which in this case is the IMF. There are multiple twists upon twists upon some clever turns, and lots of latex disguises courtesy of ILM. The elaborate plot does become a bit confusing after awhile, but at least we have action scenes to marvel at.

There are two terrific action setpieces that are as thrilling and enticing as anything I've seen since 1993's "The Fugitive." In one spectacular sequence, Hunt descends froma ceiling onto a computer room which has a heat sensitive alarm that can be triggered if the room temperature is above 98 degrees. This sequence is filled with unbridled tension thanks to director De Palma's uncanny choice of camera shots and editing strategies. The sequence, though, works mainly because the soundtrack is filled with such utter, complete silenc e that all you can hear is Hunt's drops of sweat.

Another titillating sequence occurs when the impenetrable Hunt is fighting the villains on top of a super speeding train, which is also dragging a helicopter. Scenes like this give "Mission: Impossible" an edge that literally keeps you on the edge of your seat.

The ultimate flaw in "Mission" is that the plot is so convoluted that we stop caring about certain characters, including Phelps (a far too restrained Jon Voight) and the luminous Emanuelle Beart (Phelp's wife), both of whom become as one-note as you can expect. This is really Cruise's show all the way (he is also the producer) and he inhabits every single scene, making the character of Ethan Hunt knowing, charismatic, witty and resourceful, like just about every other character Cruise has played. I can't imagine anyone else playing the role with the same level of sincerity - if only he would age a bit. This often feels like "Risky Business" crossed with the James Bond genre.

Cruise has some able support from bald-headed Ving Rhames ("Pulp Fiction"), Jean Reno ("The Professional"), whose character has the tools to break into any security system, Henry Czerny as the coldly calculating IMF chief, and the wonderfully restrained Vanessa Redgrave (!) as some kind of underground mastermind. There is also a funny, unbilled cameo by Emilio Estevez. Only Voight and Beart seem to be sleepwalking through the proceedings.

Another plus is veteran director Brian De Palma who does a professionally slick job fo directing, though his trademark style of nervous energy is largely absent this time. For better or worse, "Mission: Impossible" is fitfully exciting, electrifying nonsense...and terribly confusing and impossible to follow.

Copyright 1996 Jerry Saravia

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