Mission Impossible: A movie that exists in the instant | Sunday Observer

Mission Impossible: A movie that exists in the instant

5 December, 2021

Mission Impossible is a 1996 American action spy film directed by Brian De Palma and produced by and starring Tom Cruise. A continuation of both the original television series of the same name and its revived sequel series (and set six years after the events of the latter show), it is the first installment in the ‘Mission: Impossible’ film series. The plot follows Ethan Hunt and his mission to uncover ‘the mole’ who has framed him for the murders of most of his Impossible Missions Force (IMF) team.

Work on the script had begun early with filmmaker Sydney Pollack on board, before De Palma, Steven Zaillian, David Koepp, and Robert Towne were brought in. ‘Mission: Impossible’ went into pre-production without a shooting script: De Palma devised several action sequences, but Koepp and Towne were dissatisfied with the story that led up to those events. U2 band members Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton produced a dance rendition of the original theme music, which became a top-ten hit in the US (receiving gold record certification) and six other countries and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.

‘Mission: Impossible’ was a commercial success, eventually becoming the third highest-grossing film of 1996, and garnered a mostly favorable response from critics. Its success spawned the ‘Mission: Impossible’ film series.

Critical response

On ‘Rotten Tomatoes’ the film holds an approval rating of 66% based on 61 reviews, with an average rating of 6/10. The website’s critics consensus reading, “Full of special effects, Brian De Palma’s update of Mission: Impossible has a lot of sweeping spectacle, but the plot is sometimes convoluted.”

On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 59 out of 100, based on 29 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews”. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of ‘B+’ on an A+ to F scale.

‘Chicago Sun-Times’ film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars and wrote, “This is a movie that exists in the instant, and we must exist in the instant to enjoy it.”

In his review for ‘The New York Times’, Stephen Holden addressed the film’s convoluted plot: “If that story doesn’t make a shred of sense on any number of levels, so what? Neither did the television series, in which basic credibility didn’t matter so long as its sci-fi popular mechanics kept up the suspense.”

Mike Clark of ‘USA Today’ gave the film three out of four stars and said that it was “stylish, brisk but lacking in human dimension despite an attractive cast, the glass is either half-empty or half-full here, though the concoction goes down with ease.”

Empty thrills

However, Hal Hinson, in his review for ‘The Washington Post’, wrote, “There are empty thrills, and some suspense. But throughout the film, we keep waiting for some trace of personality, some colour in the dialogue, some hipness in the staging or in the characters’ attitudes. And it’s not there.”

‘Time’ magazine’s Richard Schickel wrote, “What is not present in ‘Mission: Impossible’ (which, aside from the title, sound-track quotations from the theme song and self-destructing assignment tapes, has little to do with the old TV show) is a plot that logically links all these events or characters with any discernible motives beyond surviving the crisis of the moment.”

Writing for ‘Entertainment Weekly’, Owen Gleiberman gave the film a ‘B’ rating and said, “The problem isn’t that the plot is too complicated; it’s that each detail is given the exact same nagging emphasis. Intriguing yet mechanistic, jammed with action yet as talky and dense as a physics seminar, the studiously labyrinthine ‘Mission: Impossible’ grabs your attention without quite tickling your imagination.”

Numerous reviewers have praised the CIA break-in and the last climactic pursuit scene, despite their mixed feelings about the rest of the film. Both scenes have frequently featured highly on fans and critics lists of best action scenes from this series and have been referenced many times in other subsequent works.