Welcome to another episode of moviemanMDG’s Movie Talk, where I talk about everything film-related. Throughout the years, the spy genre has been quite popular for two reasons: James Bond and “Mission: Impossible”. These two franchises have been gathering a crowd since the beginning, and based on their box office numbers, they’re showing no signs of slowing down. You might be wondering if this is what I’ll be talking about for this episode. Well, you’re half correct. Today, I will be talking about the “Mission: Impossible” franchise because talking about James Bond will take me at least a couple of months. Maybe even more. Inspired by the 1966 television series of the same name created by Bruce Geller, the “Mission: Impossible” films follow a team of agents from the Impossible Missions Force (or IMF, for short) as they take on a series of assignments that are deemed…wait for it…impossible. Hence the name, “Mission: Impossible”. I got engaged to the franchise ever since I saw “Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol” for the first time seven years ago. If you’re wondering why I wasn’t introduced to it earlier, well, let’s just say that the first three movies were released during my elementary and middle school days and I had my movie-watching limits. The reason why I’m talking about this now is because we got another “Mission: Impossible” film this year in the form of “Fallout”, and to celebrate, my mission, should I choose to accept it, is to revisit the first five installments of the action spy franchise and provide my brief reactions for each film. This is something that I wanted to do for quite a while because I felt that reviewing just one installment in a franchise each day in my usual format would be a time waster. If you happen to like this strategy, let me know and I will continue working on it with a different franchise. And now, without further ado, let’s get this mission started.
Mission: Impossible (1996)
Let’s start things off with the one that helped Tom Cruise gain action stardom. “Mission: Impossible” served as the first installment in the franchise and it was directed by Brian De Palma, who is known for his work on the crime drama classic, “Scarface”. Taking place after the events of the television series of the same name, the film follows Ethan Hunt (played by Cruise) as he sets out to find the mole who’s responsible for the deaths of the entire IMF team lead by Jim Phelps, played by Jon Voight. I did remember watching this film a while ago, but I wasn’t able to get through the whole thing. I was finally able to get into it today without any problems, and I happened to enjoy every minute of it. While the plot can be a bit hard to understand sometimes, the film had enough tension and intrigue to provide a well-deserved start to the franchise. Tom Cruise and Jon Voight were both charismatic and engaging as Hunt and Phelps, respectively, and Brian De Palma did a great job at making every sequence more intense than the last, especially the scene where Hunt and his team infiltrate the CIA headquarters. The score by Danny Elfman also helped in enhancing the experience. This is a mission that I would gladly accept again. My Rating: B+
Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)
Next up on this impossible list is “Mission: Impossible 2”. Directed by John Woo, the man behind the slow-motion shots and the chaotic action, this action-packed sequel continues the adventures of Ethan Hunt, played by Tom Cruise. This time, he teams up with his new love interest (played by Thandie Newton) to destroy a biological weapon and defeat a rogue IMF agent (played by Dougray Scott). Like “Mission: Impossible”, this is another film that I remembered seeing parts of. After experiencing it from beginning to end, all I can say about it is that it was pretty entertaining. Despite an average story that failed to live up to the original, the film boasts another likable performance from Cruise and a unique style from John Woo to deliver a thrilling follow-up. My Rating: B-
Mission: Impossible III (2006)
“Mission: Impossible III” served as the directorial debut of J. J. Abrams, who created shows like “Alias” and brought back both Star Trek and Star Wars for a new generation of science fiction fans. The third installment sees Tom Cruise reprising his role once again as Ethan Hunt, who is retired from field work for the IMF and is now training new recruits. However, an elusive arms dealer (played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman) forces Hunt to spring back into action. The film introduces Ethan’s fiancé, Julia Meade, and IMF technician, Benji Dunn, played by Michelle Monaghan and Simon Pegg, respectively, both of which reprised their roles in the next three films, including "Fallout". This was actually my first experience watching this film unlike my past experiences with the last two installments. I have been adoring Abrams’ vision on the science fiction genre ever since I saw the 2009 reboot of “Star Trek”, so I was pretty interested in seeing him take on an action spy film, let alone a “Mission: Impossible” film. Long story short, it’s a well-deserved improvement over the last installment. The story is just as engaging and intense as its stunts, the performances were top-notch, and Michael Giacchino’s score is stunning. “Mission: Impossible III” once again proves that J. J. Abrams has a talent in delivering thrills and interesting stories. My Rating: B+
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)
All right. Now for the one that fully introduced me to the franchise. Serving as the first live-action film by animation genius Brad Bird, “Ghost Protocol” focuses on Ethan Hunt and his new team, which consists of Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), the technician, Jane Carter (Paula Patton), the handler of a late IMF agent, and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), the Secretary’s aide and intelligence analyst. They set out on yet another dangerous mission that takes them halfway across the globe as they try to prevent a nuclear strategist from starting a nuclear war between the United States and Russia. It has actually been a while since I first saw the film in theaters. I have been so busy looking forward to the other movies that I didn’t get a chance to watch it again. Thankfully, I got a chance to do so on television and wow, I can’t believe I forgot how immensely entertaining it was. In terms of Bird’s impressive direction and its screenplay, the film works in not only providing a healthy mixture of action and comedy (mostly provided by Simon Pegg’s Benji), but also providing an intense and well-executed plot that changes the course of the franchise. Tom Cruise was once again great as Ethan Hunt and Jeremy Renner was a welcome addition to the party as Brandt. The stunts were also handled extremely well, with the Burj Khalifa tower climb being the main highlight due to its dizzying camerawork and its brilliant use of tension. “Ghost Protocol” still succeeds in delivering a spy thriller that offers both style and substance. My Rating: A-
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015)
“Rogue Nation” is the second collaboration between Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie after their work on “Jack Reacher” back in 2012. The story has Ethan Hunt tracking down a terrorist organization known as the Syndicate while going on the run from the CIA. Meanwhile, the disbanded IMF is facing some controversy for their past actions as well as their collaboration with the CIA. This is another film that I haven’t seen in a while ever since I first saw it in the theater. From my first viewing, I thought that it was a solid continuation to the franchise. After watching it again on television, I think it held up pretty well. As always, the film is accompanied by Cruise’s performance as Hunt and its well-choreographed stunts. Simon Pegg also delivered some solid attempts at providing humor as Benji and Rebecca Ferguson was very talented as Ilsa Faust, an MI6 agent who is also after the Syndicate. It’s safe for me to say that Benji is now one of my favorite characters in the series because of his well-timed humor. Despite the final showdown being a small step down from its predecessor and the plot being a bit confusing for those who don’t pay attention, this is still a well-directed and fun entry in the spy franchise. My Rating: B+
So there you have it. I am now caught up with this action-packed franchise. If you want to know what my thoughts are for “Mission: Impossible - Fallout”, you can find it in the “2018 Reviews” page, or you can click here. What these films have in common is that they were held together by the presence of Tom Cruise, stunts that are intense and dangerous, and tension-filled stories that can be a bit convoluted at times if you don’t listen closely. Without these three elements, this franchise wouldn’t have made it this far. More importantly, they wouldn’t have become beloved summer blockbusters that we all know and love. Here’s hoping that the franchise will continue to thrill audiences around the world in the near future. Let me know in the comments section what your favorite or least favorite “Mission: Impossible” film is, and stay tuned for more of my upcoming reviews.