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Rewatch Review – Mission: Impossible (1996)

Thirty years after the TV debut Mission: Impossible finally hit the big screen. Well, there was a two parter from season two named The Council which was cobbled together and given a theatrical release outside of the USA under the title Mission: Impossible vs The Mob. So, it’s thirty years later and it’s time to see if there can’t be some way of updating the franchise and making a film out of it. I say updating but, just to put things into perspective, this is the last film that was released on the Betamax video format! Betamax, children, is what came second in the home video format wars.

It wasn’t just me who had fond memories of the TV series, apparently Tom Cruise was also a fan. He was also setting up a production company and chose Mission: Impossible as his first project. Throw in that Mr Cruise is a fine actor and very good at doing some truly spine tingling stunts and there was a better than evens chance that a cracking film was in the making. This is despite how the original cast felt about the new project. Apparently there was a planned opening sequence in which the whole original team were brought back and killed off. Unsurprisingly, none of them wanted to have anything to do with it. Mind you, they all would have been of pensionable age by then so it may not have been the best idea.

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Your Mission…

So, instead, we have a complete clean slate to work with. Apart from the name Jim Phelps, who was brought back in the form of Jon Voight. The original Phelps, Peter Graves, was offered the role but turned it down mainly due to the way that Phelps was portrayed. Spoilers prevent me saying too much but I’ll leave it as Phelps isn’t exactly the knight in shining armour that he was in the TV series. Obviously, what is needed is a new lead character and it is a similar search process to the one that they have to go through for a new James Bond.. They need to be young enough to be able to stick around for a reasonable length of a franchise and fit and athletic enough to be believable as the character. 

Enter Thomas Cruise Mapother IV as Ethan Hunt. As well as Tom Cruise we have a whole range of famous faces and acting talent. Sadly though, many of them weren’t around for long as the “kill off a whole IMF team in the first act” part of the script was still in operation. Emilio Estevez comes to an early and sticky end in an uncredited role as Jack Harmon. The divine Kristin Scott Thomas doesn’t last much longer. This is a shame as she is proving herself to be eminently believable as an espionage operative in Slow Horses. Vanessa Redgrave is marvellous as the big bad Max. Filling out the main cast is the ever wonderful Jean Reno who I have admired for years.

Should You Choose To Accept It…

There is one other name which I haven’t mentioned and that is the only chap, besides Mr Cruise, who has been in every Mission: Impossible film: the deeply imposing Ving Rhames as Luther Stickel. He was chosen for the role mainly because he was the complete antithesis of what a hacker was supposed to look like! And, talking of what thing look like…George Clooney. Bruce Willis, John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Ralph Fiennes, and Mel Gibson were all considered for the role of Ethan Hunt before Ton Cruise finally landed it. Similarly Al Pacino, Michael Douglas, Robert Redford, and, of course, Peter Graves were considered for Jim Phelps.

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Some fun facts…the sleight of hand scenes were actually done by Tom Cruise. This is the only Mission: Impossible film in the franchise where the infamous mask scenes are done with entirely practical effects. The Channel Tunnel sequence ran for a shade over seven minutes but was made up of 152 special effects shots. Unusually for an action film of this calibre, there are only five gunshots throughout the entire running time and none are fired by Tom Cruise. The part of Max (Vanessa Redgrave) was originally intended to be played by a man. During the data stealing scene in the CIA headquarters, Tom Cruise kept knocking his head on the floor. To overcome this he put pound coins in his shoes!

Movie Grade – A

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One response to “Rewatch Review – Mission: Impossible (1996)”

  1. “Last movie released on Betamax.”

    That is the best trivia question I’ve ever heard. Thank you for that nugget. 🙂

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