Mission: Impossible

Tom Cruise is here doing what he does best: running around beating up bad guys. The troubled megastar plays a troubled secret ops bloke, Ethan Hunt, whose team gets wiped out by a job which turned out to be a trap. He has to get to the bottom of things, but who can he trust, and who is trying to frame him?

Mission: Impossible is riddled with spy movie clichés from start to finish, from self destructing tapes to entering a room on wires through the roof, via lasers and an on top of a train action sequence. But with the iconic music, anything less would feel inadequate.

Like most big budget 90s action films, this looks incredible. At the peak of pre-CGI special effects, nearly everything had to be done camera which, as good as CGI has become, is still hard to beat. The supporting cast is good, with Jon Voight of Anaconda and Ving Rhames of Piranha 3D, meaning this is neither of their careers’ low points.

The twisty, turny spy plot is often baffling, which is unusual for an action film. It doesn’t skimp at all on the plot side. Does this mean it’s uneven, making it hard to find your feet, or just that it delivers on both the action and the story? Personally I’m closer to the former. I want my popcorn entertainment with a little less crossing and double crossing. The silly action and gadgets, which border on the camp, feel at odds with the plot which is more like something from a John Le Carré novel.

It loses its way in the final act when both plot and action go beyond absurd. The final action sequence is nauseatingly dumb and the only time what we’re watching fails to look believable, as dodgy bluescreen work is employed. Ironically it’s far less tense than a scene earlier in the film where Tom Cruise has to get a disc from an ultra high security vault. This scene combines numerous elements to create a sequence which is edge-of-your-seat in its tension levels, and also fantastically well made. A finale which went for a similar tension would have been better than one that involved a helicopter flying through a tunnel.

Altogether this is a passable action film, and reminds us why Tom Cruise is so successful, in spite of being so thoroughly unhinged. Is it clichéd? Sure. But it turns the volume up to the full and delivers what it promises.

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