A recent trip to see Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (more on that later) prompted me to enjoy a popcorn filled marathon of espionage.
Mission: Impossible (1996) Dir. Brian De Palma
Mission: Impossible introduces us to Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), an agent working for covert agency, the IMF (Impossible Mission Force). Ethan and his team, led by Jim Phelps (John Voight), are sent to Prague on a mission to recover stolen documentation. When the mission goes horribly wrong, leaving everyone but Ethan dead, he is suspected of being a mole. Ethan must go undercover to expose the real mole and clear his name.
It’s been so long since I’ve seen Mission: Impossible that I had forgotten what a genuinely good and enjoyable film it is. It’s a more grounded version of Bond, at least to a certain extent, and relies more on plot and mystique to get the job done. The effects hold up really well considering it’s been almost twenty years since its release. I mean who doesn’t love a good helicopter chase scene and of course we can’t forget the iconic trapeze scene.
Mission: Impossible II (2000) Dir. John Woo
In the appalling and best forgotten Mission: Impossible II, Ethan must team up with professional thief, Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton) to stop rogue agent Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) from releasing a deadly virus. Two tiny points in its favour are the amazing rock climb opening scene and motorcycle chase. Points against it, everything else, I suggest skipping to the good parts.
Mission: Impossible III (2006) Dir. J.J. Abrams
Mission: Impossible III saw the series return to form with a strong cast, decent plot and some pretty impressive roof jumping. In this instalment Ethan has retired from active duty and is getting ready to settle down with his fiancée Julia (Michelle Monaghan). One last mission puts him on the radar of a brutal arms dealer, Owen Davian (Philip Seymour-Hoffman) which, in turn, puts Julia in harm’s way.
There are some fantastic action sequences in this film that are thankfully, lens flare free. This instalment treads the fine line between blockbuster action film and the tripe John Cusack has been making as of late. Luckily Abrams knows where to toe the line and strong performances by the late Hoffman and Cruise pull it through.
Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011) Dir. Brad Bird
In the fourth instalment of the series the IMF is disavowed when they are framed for an attack on the Kremlin. Ethan Hunt must search for the culprit with the help of old friend Benji Dunne (Simon Pegg) and new team members Carter (Paula Patton) and Brandt (Jeremy Renner).
The ‘fun’ film of the series, Ghost Protocol is the instalment most akin to the Bond films. Megalomaniac villain. Check. Crazy plot involving something nuclear. Check. Implausible gadgetry. Check. The script is full of humour with Pegg providing most of the witty one liners. Although Renner has his moments, mostly through his catlike face.
Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation (2015) Dir. Christopher McQuarrie
In Rogue Nation, Ethan Hunt must face his most impossible mission to date. To find and eradicate “The Syndicate” – a ruthless organisation that operates in the shadows and whose members are as skilled and as highly trained as any IMF agent.
Hands down this is my favourite in the entire series. Solomon Lane, played disturbingly well by Sean Harris, is a well-rounded and, more importantly, believable villain. Less Goldfinger, more real world. Rebecca Ferguson’s Isla Faust is perhaps one of the most well developed and strongest female characters I have ever seen in a film of this nature. Yes she’s gorgeous, but she is so much more than eye candy. She has her own motivations and part to play, and provides a performance worthy of the original femme fatales of the silver screen.
This instalment is also the most similar to the original. It relies more on plot and character to drive the story, rather than big action sequences. Although there is still plenty of action to be had. Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner are back and on top form, although Renner has a little less to do this time round. Ving Rhames is also back which really makes the series feel like it’s come full circle.
Since its first outing in the form of a post- cold war, pre 9/11 espionage thriller, the Mission: Impossible series has taken a few different forms. The sequel screamed cheesy Americana blockbuster while the third and fourth instalments placed safely in the category of fun blockbuster romps. I think it’s with Rogue Nation that the series finally finds its feet by managing to combine all the good aspects of its previous incarnations with a few new tricks, to make an entertaining piece of cinema. Which leaves you pondering what direction the next instalment will take, and will Tom Cruise ever learn to run like an actual human being?
Featured image credit: kgrantsaboutmovies