Mission: Impossible (1996)

The movie that launched the popular action franchise is rather uninspired despite having De Palma at the helm—action is few and far between and the conversational scenes feel lacklustre.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Review #2,413

Dir. Brian De Palma
1996 | USA | Action/Thriller | 110 mins | 2.39:1 | English, French & Czech
PG13 (passed clean) for some intense action violence

Cast: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart
Plot: An American agent, under false suspicion of disloyalty, must discover and expose the real spy without the help of his organization.
Distributor: Paramount

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – On the Run; Spy
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex

Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Mainstream

Viewed: Netflix
Spoilers: No

I’ve enjoyed the ‘Mission: Impossible’ movies over the years, but going back to this first entry I can’t help but feel disappointed. 

I think it is because of how superior the later films are in terms of craft, action and entertainment value.  Heck, even John Woo’s much-maligned Mission: Impossible II (2000), a personal favourite of mine, is slick and thrilling enough to hide its flaws. 

Tom Cruise plays covert agent Ethan Hunt as he is thrust into the limelight after a mission gone awry, perhaps sabotaged from the inside. 

With his secret identity at risk of exposure, he must do what he can to find out the truth, while also playing a high-stakes game of life and death that he would continue to flirt with in subsequent movies. 

“Excuse me. Mr. Hunt? Would you like to watch a movie?”

It must have been quite a surprise back then to have Brian De Palma at the helm, such is his mastery of craft and storytelling, but in Mission: Impossible he has produced a rather uninspired action-thriller. 

The action is few and far between—there’s little in the accumulation of momentum or a meaningful escalation of stakes and tension. 

Having said that, it features one of the ‘90s most iconic suspense set-pieces—Hunt infiltrating the CIA in ultra-stealth mode, suspended from the ceiling as he attempts to ‘steal’ top-secret data. 

Most of the conversational scenes are slow and lacklustre, sapping away the film’s energy (or what little it has in the first place) and killing any chance of a tightly-paced work shaping up. 

Still, it lays most of the groundwork and elements that would make the franchise so popular, establishing Cruise as a bonafide Hollywood action star in the process. 

Grade: C+



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