The year is 1996 and the world has no idea what is about to hit it like a bullet train: Tom Cruise, the adrenaline junkie. Director Brian De Palma is simply making yet another movie about bad people doing bad things but inadvertently launches an action movie phenomenon so large, it makes our heart race even today.
While the thing about series maybe that you start with the first part and continue with each of its successors, my introduction with the Mission: Impossible franchise was quite different. I watched the third one first and I still, to this day, maintain that it was the absolute best of the lot. In a confusing, messy sequence, I managed to watch the entire series except one, the first.
So, in a bid to right all wrongs before the sixth part comes swinging off buildings or dangling off airplanes, I decided to watch Mission: Impossible before it got any numericals attached to it. Did it manage to stand on its feet? Sure, except when it tried to walk on a bullet train’s roof.
The film kicks off with the most perfect version of the title theme, U2’s. We find ourselves tapping feet, shuffling shoulders once again to the brilliant music as a montage of what is to come, runs before our eyes. The good music continues even in the Danny Elfman’s larger-than-life, John Williams-style background score so particular to the 90’s, it sets nostalgia rushing through our ears.
The largesse built by the music, however, juts out even more when juxtaposed with Tom Cruise pulling off one Scooby-Doo face mask after another. Before the series felt enough shame to actually show how the masks are made to give a better semblance of reality (MI3), it was simply letting Tom rip through the rubber and ugly old man prosthetics. The film is full of such goofy episodes and tricks but more on it later.
In the first chapter of his story, Ethan Hunt is out with his IMF team to save secret agents all over the world but on they fail the mission badly and he ends up losing his entire team. The officials suspect him to be a mole and he thinks it all a ploy to frame him for the crimes of somebody else. He escapes their hold, running his classic Tom Cruise sprint for the first time ever. It’s a beauty.
Once escaped, he decides to find the real mole in a long series of events. He wins over the criminals’ trust, deceives them, loses an important floppy disk, finds it swinging from a ceiling, loses trust in a few old friends, wins a few new ones. All in time to kick Jon Voight off a bullet train. I really cannot let go of that train.
As thrilling and intelligent as the computer room scene was, the horribly tacky climax was enough to ruin it all. It does not matter how well you get the pulses racing, hearts beating with a hand-in-your-mouth stunning sequence which is played out to the beat. No action movie is complete until Vin Diesel launches a missile at the submarine, Superman and Batman battle the CGI beast and Tom Cruise dangles off a bullet train.
The climax, after the rubber masks, also seems to have come straight out of yet another episode of Scooby Doo. Jean Reno makes evil faces as he tries to slit Cruise’s throat with helicopter blades, in a tunnel, tethered to a train; Jon Voight, who really does not seem fit enough to be leaping off trains and into helicopters, is the villain who will soon say ‘So long my boy!,’ as he launches into a maniacal laugh.
While the series may have progressed so much in the two decades since its inception, it did have very humble, very comical beginnings that would look far from cool to the audiences today. So should we start excepting a multi-million dollar franchise from The Flying Jatt?
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