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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Mission: Impossible (1996)



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Most of the original Mission: Impossible television series episodes were brilliantly constructed "sting" operations, skillfully executed by a team of top notch agents one could only admire for their professionalism, efficiency, expertise, and sheer ingenuity that enabled them to perform seemingly impossible tasks. In the best episodes, their target would be "stung" and the enemy never knew what hit them -- sometimes they never even knew that they had been the victims of a carefully executed counterintelligence plot. The series was fresh and original, and the prospect for a feature film was anxiously anticipated. The plans for a film were in the works for upwards of fifteen years, delayed again and again for various reasons, until it fell in to the hands of director Brian DePalma and producer/star Tom Cruise. These two made the dream manifest in to a series fan's penultimate nightmare. The Mission: Impossible film is, sadly, a convoluted, confusing mess that -- and here's the worst part -- utterly fails to capture the unique spirit of its source material. There's no master plan here, efficiently and competently executed by a team of professionals. Mostly, it's Tom Cruise pretending to be a spy. There's a partner here and there, but their functions are peripheral. Just when the film starts to look like it might pull its act together and become a worthwhile adaptation of the series, it falls apart again when something goes wrong and blows the plot up again. Ok, if it's no good as an adaptation of the series, how does it stand on its own as an action/spy adventure? Strike two. What many mistake for a complex plot is really no more than bad storytelling. Its plot is no more fresh, original, or complicated than the average spy thriller, but it is told so poorly that the viewer is left mystified for what is going on. Part (but not all) of this is due to Tom Cruise's atrociously bad acting -- his reactions to plot twists are so incongruous, you are left wondering whether you misunderstood a plot point because it's not affecting Cruise the way it should. Mission: Impossible's third strike is the filmmakers' blatant irresponsibility in handling the legendary screen characters of the original series. For the sake of a single plot twist (that, sadly, amounts to little more than a cliche even without considering the TV series), the screenwriters have ruthlessly destroyed continuity of characterization and shattered the pride we took in rooting for the team during a episode of the series. It is impossible (pun intended) to acknowledge the series and the film as co-existing in the same universe. It can't happen. No way.

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