Matt Rodgers on the best Mission: Impossible moments…
The ability for the Mission: Impossible franchise to subvert the law of diminishing returns, in terms of both box-office and quality, as well as keeping the fuse lit under Tom Cruise’s dimming star power, is surely down to the stylistically diverse way in which the films are made.
In sync with the way in which that iconic theme has been reimagined by Limp Bizkit, all the way through to Imagine Dragons fantastic Mission: Impossible – Fallout theme, each movie has been filtered through its creators unique vision; from the espionage brilliance of Brian De Palma’s original, via the Tom Cruise haircut pornography of John Woo’s slow-mo misfire, each of the Mission: Impossible franchise instalments have their own distinct D.N.A.
With this summer’s Fallout being the first time a filmmaker has overseen Ethan Hunt’s IMF team for a second Mission, with Christopher McQuarrie orchestrating the, erm, fallout from Shaun Harris’ dastardly Rogue Nation antics, we decided to take a look at the best moments from each of the previous films, before they’re all upstaged by Henry Cavill’s moustache.
Cue Lalo Schifrin……..
Mission: Impossible (1996) Dir. Brian De Palma – C.I.A Headquarters, Langley
Arguably the most visually accomplished of the M:I franchise was Brian De Palma’s entry. His meticulous shot composition, and use of lens as integral component to the narrative, was perfect for the peer-around-the-corner espionage drama of the Prague double-cross. It was a style closest to that of the source material, even managing to make the Channel Tunnel helicopter climax about the smaller action beats, such as the rotor blade whirring to a stop on Cruise’s throat.
There’s little competition when it comes to the most indelible sequence though, as the IMF team break into the C.I.A. headquarters in Langley.
A multiple location – air ducts, comms truck, vault – set-piece, in which the silence is louder than any pyrotechnics. It’s a scene that’s the antithesis of the kind of stunts the franchise has been sold on of late, and simplicity is the key.
The visual signifiers of the sound bar and “toast”, the power of an innocuous sneeze, the ridiculousness of a rat in the pipe, and the slow, agonising fate of a bead of sweat from a perilously harnessed Ethan. It’s like Gravity and A Quiet Place crammed into ten sweaty palmed minutes.
Mission: Impossible 2 (2000) Dir. John Woo – Balletic Bikes
Part John Woo Bingo (doves, slo-mo, double-handed gunplay), part mood movie cum shampoo advert, Mission: Impossible 2 was ludicrousness smothered in overt style; slow motion shots orchestrated to Hans Zimmer feat. Lisa Gerrard, and action interspersed with trailer bait soundbites. It signalled the franchise’s desire to make each instalment unique by veering as far from the straight-edged original as possible. Ethan’s evolving haircut, from a tight buzz cut thingy, to long flourishing locks, is a perfect metaphor for the stylistic change between the movies.
With more rubber mask reveals than a Scooby Doo boxset, Ethan base jumping through a hole he has just created in the side of a skyscraper, and the free-climbing opening that was the start of Cruise making us all feel like measly mortals in comparison, for all of its failings as a film, M:I:2 has some stunning sequences.
One such set-piece makes up the bulk of the films finale, in which Hunt faces a race against time to prevent Thandie Newton succumbing to a population threatening virus, so takes to a motorcycle in order to avoid pursuing helicopters and exploding cars, and rides it like a bucking bronco. Featuring Rashamon edits in which Cruise swings a gun multiple times, all while performing a front loaded wheelie, it’s the kind of all too rare physical stunt work that Mission: Impossible does so well.
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