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Missions preventing or triggering wars
Are shrouded in subterfuge no one explores,
And those who enact them
Are quick to redact them
With names only spoken behind their closed doors.

Missions accomplished with such secrecy
Are kept as discreet as we need them to be.
And though you and I
Never know how or why,
Such missions are part of what keeps us all free.

MPAA rating: PG-13

It seems that any franchise I didn’t watch growing up simply has to work up enough buzz for me to finally catch up on it. I’d heard that the first three Mission: Impossible movies had mixed reviews, but with three critically acclaimed entries in more recent years, I think it’s finally time for me to see if Tom Cruise’s spy thrillers are all they’re cracked up to be. I was pleasantly surprised last year when I watched the latest Planet of the Apes trilogy, so I’m hoping for good things. My mission, if I choose to accept it, is to watch all six of the M:I films in the coming weeks and review each one before seeing the next, so that I don’t get confused on which explosion or double cross happened in which sequel. But you have to start with the beginning, and that means the 1996 original.

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Having never seen the 1960s-70s TV series on which it is based, I didn’t have any major expectations, aside from the famous theme music and the self-destructing tape that details a mission, if they choose to accept it. (On a side note, I always thought the tape would cause some big explosion, not just go poof with a little smoke. Isn’t it fun to learn how wrong you are sometimes?) The man listening to that tape is Jim Phelps, played by Jon Voight, but despite the presence of Voight and other stars like Emilio Estevez and Kristin Scott Thomas, we all know Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt is the star, which becomes even clearer after the mission backfires and shaves down the team considerably. Now suspected as a mole behind the sabotage, Hunt goes on the run to figure out who the real criminal mastermind is.

I suppose I’ll just come out and say it: I liked it. The British have James Bond, and Ethan Hunt is sort of his American counterpart, just with less womanizing and more disguises and hacking. As a product of the ‘90s, the technology in this first Mission: Impossible is unavoidably dated, with spies fighting over floppy disks and a hidden video early on that seemed almost like the quality of a parody. But it also has a twisty plot and the same kind of heist-style infiltration by which my beloved National Treasure was clearly inspired. Though most of the film lacks the daring stunts that the series has become known for, the climax boasts some especially thrilling (albeit CGI) action with a bullet train and a helicopter.

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I do see why my parents never got me into the series early on because this first one apparently trampled all over the original they remembered, particularly the character of Jim Phelps. Those with nostalgia for the original series will likely take offense, but I as a newcomer found a lot to enjoy. I’m still not convinced whether this qualifies as List-Worthy in my book, but I’m excited to continue the series and do think that it has the potential to join my favorites. Now for the supposedly bad one, Mission: Impossible II….

Best line: (tech guy Jack Harmon, describing a gum-like explosive) “Hasta lasagna, don’t get any on ya.”


Rank: List Runner-Up (for now)


© 2018 S.G. Liput
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