Film Review: Mission Impossible (1996)

“Ethan, you’re not making any sense”

Emmanuelle Béart probably wouldn’t thank me for selecting this particular movie to represent her but as I scrolled down the rest of the cast list, I could scarcely believe that both Kristin Scott Thomas and Vanessa Redgrave were in this film – it being so long since I first saw it that I remember nothing of it – that I couldn’t resist revisiting it. A remake of the 70s TV show helmed by Brian De Palma and led by Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible has since become a highly successful franchise, though this first film hasn’t really stood up to the test of time.

It is actually quite amusing to watch, not least because it is nearly 20 years old now and nothing dates quite so quickly as a movie that does hi-tech. The 90s version of the internet is hilarious as is the technological chatter, and the email client that is used is as quaint as anything. Special effects look laboured (those glasses…!) and the climactic big sequence is simply daft – a helicopter chasing a Eurostar train through the Channel Tunnel? (although granted, such ridiculousness is a Hollywood staple in such big-budget action films).

The story, for what it’s worth, centres on a sub-team of the Impossible Missions Force – including a fantastically miscast Kristin Scott Thomas – who are wiped out during a mission in Prague, leaving just Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt who is then suspected of having masterminded the whole thing. Forced undercover, he then has to recruit fellow disgraced agents to help clear his name, keeping an arms dealer sweet (played by Vanessa Redgrave, who else) by breaking into the CIA and also trying to work out who the traitor is, wearing any number of latex masks to hide his identity (sadly Cruise never tries to imitate Redgrave).

Béart plays Claire, the wife of the team leader Phelps, who manages to escape the slaughter and forms the nucleus of Ethan’s new team to try and save the day, and she does a passable job with a character who at times is barely there. A little background reading suggests that much of her role was cut after test audience screenings declared they weren’t keen on the romance that originally developed between her and Ethan and perhaps as a result of this, she rarely revisited Hollywood again.

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