Mission: Impossible Retrospective

Good evening gentle reader. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to read this article discussing the Mission: Impossible franchise.

While Mission: Impossible had its beginnings in television, I will not go into too much detail on this. It is not that this TV series wasn’t good (in fact I have heard very positive things about it); it is simply that I have not seen it. This article will focus exclusively on the film franchise.

The first Mission: Impossible came to cinema screens in 1996. The film marks the first venture by the production house of Cruise/Wagner Productions. Tom Cruise had been a fan of the TV series, and was able to convince Paramount that it would make an interesting film series.

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Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner

Cruise cast himself in the lead role of Ethan Hunt, Jon Voight as series mainstay, Jim Phelps, Emmanuelle Béart as Claire Phelps, Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell and Jean Reno as Franz Krieger. To direct this cast, Cruise approached Brian De Palma (The Untouchables and Scarface).

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Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Béart, Ving Rhames, Jean Reno and Brian De Palma

Within this film, Ethan Hunt is part of a mission that goes horribly awry, resulting in the death of his entire team. Following this, Hunt’s agency, the IMF (The Impossible Mission Force), assume that he is a mole they have been tracing for some time. Hunt must use his skills, and an elite team of disavowed agents, to prove his innocence and expose the real spy.

Mission: Impossible Trailer

Mission: Impossible is a solid film, with numerous tense moments throughout. The most famous, being a scene in which Ethan hangs from the ceiling trying to gain access to a terminal, where any pressure on the floor, or any sound will trigger an alarm.


The most interesting thing about this film though, is that there are no shootouts. Most of the tension of the film comes from set pieces, like the one listed above, character dynamics and double crosses.

This was changed significantly for the sequel, M:I-2. Hong Kong legend John Woo took up the director’s chair for this entry; and brought his usual trademarks with him. This means gunfights, slow motion and yes… doves.


John Woo

M:I-2 follows Hunt, as he attempts to destroy a super-virus, called Chimera, before a defective IMF agent, named Sean Ambrose (Played by Dougray Scott), can acquire it, and sell it to the highest bidder.

New Town Killers

Dougray Scott

Ving Rhames and Tom Cruise mark the only returning cast members from the last film. Thandie Newton (2012), Richard Roxburgh (Moulin Rouge) and Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter Franchise) join the cast in their first, and only, appearances.

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Thandie Newton, Richard Roxburgh and Brendan Gleeson

M:I-2 is considered to be the black sheep of the franchise. Choosing to focus more on action, instead of espionage. While I do find it to be the series weakest entry, I find that there are still things I enjoy about it. The cast all give solid performances, even through some particularly wooden dialogue, and Woo does deliver truly beautiful action scenes.

M:I-2 Trailer

M:I-3 marks the beginning of a new era for the franchise. An era that continues, even to this day. With M:I-3, J.J. Abrams takes up the position of director. While Abrams has not directed a Mission: Impossible film following this, he has shepherded the franchise ever since, through the role of producer.


J.J. Abrams

M:I-3 chooses to explore Ethan’s personal life, outside of the IMF. A lot has happened since the last film. It seems that Ethan is engaged and living happily with his girlfriend, who is unaware of his real job. Hunt is called in to capture a vicious arms dealer, named Owen Davian (played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman). However, when the mission goes wrong, Davian captures Hunt’s fiancé, to force Ethan to get him a weapon of unknown power, simply called, the rabbit’s foot.

2008 National Board Of Review Of Motion Pictures Awards Gala

Phillip Seymour Hoffman

M:I-3 is my personal favourite of the Mission: Impossible films. While I think that many of the set-piece stunts are spectacular in this entry, I feel that the main reason for my love of this film is the villain. Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays, in my opinion, the best villain this franchise has ever had. Hoffman portrays Davian as a truly sick and demented individual, who is prepared to manipulate anyone and everyone to get what he wants.

M:I-3 Trailer

Interestingly, M:I-3 introduces the audience to only the third recurring character in the franchise, Benji Dunn (played by Simon Pegg). Dunn goes on to play a much larger part in the sequel, Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol.


Simon Pegg

In Ghost Protocol, the IMF is shut down when it’s implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin, this causes Ethan Hunt and his new team to go rogue to clear their organisation’s name.

Jeremy Renner (The Avengers) and Paula Patton (Precious) join the IMF for this outing, with Michael Nyqvist (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) serving as the antagonist.

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Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton and Michael Nvqvist

Ghost Protocol is widely considered to be the best entry in the franchise. The director, Brad Bird, truly did bring a lot of creative energy to the film, which is showcased in one of the most impressive stunts I have ever seen on film.

Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol Trailer

However, the big problem with this film is the villain. Granted, the Mission: Impossible films have never had the greatest rogues gallery. However, coming off Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Nyqvist does not bring a lot to the role. He is simply a man looking to wipe a large portion of the world for vaguely defined reasons.

With that being said, the main focus of this film is with Hunt and the interaction with his team, and the film delivers this in spades. Jeremy Renner, in particular, brings a lot to the role of Agent Brandt. He gives off an aura that you can trust him, but it is clear he is hiding something extremely important from the team.

With all of this in mind, this summer we have Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation coming to theatres. In this movie, the IMF seems set to meet its equivalent of Spectre, in the Syndicate. Will the film be good? Only time will tell. However, based on the trailer, I am very much looking forward to it. It seems to be assembling a cast made up of various actors throughout the franchise, including Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg. Here’s hoping that it can meet the my expectations.

As always, this message will self-destruct in five seconds.

Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation Trailer

Written by James Campbell


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