What a difference fifteen years can make. When Mission: Impossible came out in 1996 I was 13, Tom Cruise was still a viable actor and Emilio Estevez was still in movies. Okay, that last one wasn’t very nice and I might be completely wrong about the second one, but I know I’ve been leery about watching Cruise flicks ever since his Oprah freakout and learning more about the weirdness that is Scientology.
I think I saw this movie in the theater with friends when it came out, but can’t be certain. I remember really liking it at the time, not knowing anything about Brian De Palma (I think this was the first of his movies I ever saw) and probably not having as much experience with the kind of plot featured in the flick. Since then, I’ve seen the whole “It’s not what you think!” thing done better and worse, but even if this wasn’t the first example I saw, it was highly influential.
Watching it again was a lot of fun because I haven’t seen it very many times since it came out. I had forgotten that Estevez was in the flick, then after a few moments remembered and then remembered why I didn’t remember. Ouch. About 10 or 15 minutes in, I remembered the whole plot and was along for the ride. On the negative side of things, this is not a Usual Suspects-type fake out movie where it’s actually more interesting watching after knowing the secret. In fact, it actually felt a little silly at times, knowing the truth as the heroes slog through things. On the other hand, I was able to look at the movie with a new eye thanks to having studied film a bit and watching a ton of movies. De Palma uses all kinds of actual director’s tricks to help convey mood and emotion without slamming you in the face with it. When Cruise’s Ethan Hunt first realizes he’s not in a good spot and returns to the safe house, the director uses all kinds of high angles making Hunt look small and worries. I’m sure there’s lots more, but that’s the one that really stuck out.
Aside from that, though, it’s still a pretty solid movie. Sure, some of the special effects don’t hold up so well (the helicopter at the end), but overall I was jazzed to watch the movie again. Of course I was looking forward to the big scenes I remembered, but was also surprised by the ones I had forgotten. I knew the “hanging-from-the-ceiling” bit was coming, but had forgotten about the exploding fish tank. Oh man, that is such a cool looking scene! I’ve got the next two flicks queued up from Netflix and am excited to revisit them. This is such an interesting film series to me because it not only spans a fairly long period of time in Hollywood, but also has a diverse and impressive line up of directors: De Palma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird doing Ghost Protocol, which I probably won’t get to see until it comes out on DVD.