Is Mission Impossible character destructive?

mission6The problem I have with this movie is that it’s a poor man’s James Bond and doesn’t even adapt its source material very well for the big screen.  It acts like it wants to be as slick as James Bond, but it focuses more on action and realism, but the movie gets really caught up in character destruction.  It is not the TV Mission Impossible, but it has cars, theme music, and good-looking people, so it takes the James Bond formula and tries to run with it.

mission1The only thing missing from Mission Impossible is the suave machismo that makes James Bond work as a superspy.  Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt is a common man, and has a team of other people in the same boat as him.  They have laptops, pal around with each other, watch the news, and complain about stuff.  It’s almost commonplace.  

Jon Voight plays Jim Phelps, the character from the TV series originally played by Peter Graves.  This is an iconic character put to shame in this movie.  Peter Graves carried Mission Impossible for many years and was the standout on many occasions.  He refused to appear in the movie because Phelps was going to be revealed as a traitor and I don’t blame him.  If peopled crapped all over my legacy, I wouldn’t want to participate in it either.  I hate Voight’s Phelps character and I hate how he’s a supervillain who conveniently sets everybody up.

mission4This movie has a lot of reveals and reverses.  Some people betray each other, switch allegiances and I wasn’t sure who was going to trade up next.  Mission Impossible treats character development like a surprise revelation.  Surprise, your boss wants to kill you.  Surprise, your best pal is dead.  Surprise, Ethan is not Ethan.  It’s really a bad guy in disguise as somebody good, who is in co-hoots with another bad girl acting good, in disguise as the good guy’s love interest, which is acting at first, but then turns real. Don’t get that stupid sentence?  Yeah, that’s this movie.  

My issues with this movie sorta dissolve with the pulse pounding action.  The action really is captivating and soars to a climax like any good formulaic flick.  The end chase is probably one of the better scenes in any spy movie I’ve seen.   Ethan Hunt saves his list of spies from being revealed, unlike James Bond, who is treated a little more harshly.  

mission8The only standout supporting character I liked was Ving Rhames.  His dialogue and exchanges with Tom Cruise are one of the reasons to see this movie.  Emmanuelle Beart as Claire has a paper-thin character, and it’s a good thing too, because she has to trade sides for no reason a little later.  Jean Reno as Franz is wasted in this movie, in my opinion.  He has more to do in Nikita in 1990, even though he’s only in one-quarter of that movie.  His character is sorta off in Mission Impossible, and he can’t play his usual driven, badass character, because that’s already taken, so he’s left being the brunt of the joke or being an obnoxious jerk.

mission7 The whole point of Mission Impossible is the invisible superspy team who are able to do anything.  Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt is anything but invisible in this movie.  Everyone on his team is pretty much killed early in the movie.  He’s not even put over as a very good spy.  Voight’s character is obviously the brains and manipulates everything, which is supposed to be a big reveal.  I guess it works, but it doesn’t sell Mission Impossible.

The good parts of this movie are the locations, the action, and Tom Cruise.  He is at his best when he can show some extreme feelings, and his does a great job as the fugitive, Ethan Hunt.  The beginning where he is racing around, yelling, and trying to get help is just perfect for Tom Cruise.  He can take the dialogue and deliver it with a punch.  No one else does that, but it doesn’t matter, because Cruise is the only one who needs to.  I just wish they could have done the same thing without sacrificing what Mission Impossible is.  You might as well call it something else.

mission5I have to admit that there are several iconic scenes in this movie.  The elevator shaft scene with Rhames, Reno and Cruise is iconic and really suspenseful.  Tom Cruise hanging in midair on a rope was everywhere when this movie first came out.  That scene works very well.  It’s so simple. It just works as a great suspense set piece.  The second scene that works is the fish tank scene.  The camera zooms in on Tom Cruise as he argues with his boss, as he’s accused of being a double agent.  Cruise explodes the fish tanks inside the restaurant, hops out a window to escape, and the slow motion makes the glass and water look great.  It works.

Action movie main characters have come under fire lately and their “comeback from destruction” is a common plot thread.  Skyfall did it, when Bond had to make a comeback from a gunshot.  Ethan Hunt has to comeback too, although his troubles are more subtle than a gunshot to the chest.  I think the whole purpose of Jason Bourne is to live out this theme, because the whole movie is about him making a comeback.  The theme continues in new releases like November Man.  Meanwhile, they kill more agents in the Mission Impossible sequels, and the only sequel that isn’t character destructive is Ghost Protocol.  Ten bucks says the next spy movie involves a comeback from something. 

All in all, this is a pretty decent movie, with two iconic scenes sticking out as great action.  The thing about Mission Impossible is that the pace holds your attention and all the sequels have this in mind, which is probably why people keep coming back for more.  Mission Impossible is entertaining.  However, the movies are not indicative of the TV series and do a disservice to the actors that built that show.  I think James Bond is better spy material and is stylish. Mission Impossible is merely content with being just an action movie.

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