[Losing My Virginity articles are reviews written by someone who still hasn’t seen an incredibly popular movie after all these years. LMV reviews are interesting in that they can offer the perspective of a person who’s untainted by the cloud of commonness that surrounded a famous film of the past, and also show how well it has stood the test of time.]
Last week, I chose to accept a very important mission: watch the first three Mission: Impossible films in preparation to see the latest installment, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. The mission, though daunting, was largely a success. Due to an unfortunate series of circumstances, primarily holes appearing in the space-time continuum, I found myself out of time to review the first three films before posting Ghost Protocol. After a globe-trekking adventure with a crack team of top men, I am finally able to present you with my take on the whole damn Mission: Impossible franchise, beginning with the first film. This is going to be a bumpy ride, so strap in, sit back, and enjoy the ride.
Plot: In the first installment of Mission: Impossible, we are introduced, for the first time, to Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt. He is a capable, confident superspy who will stop at nothing to save the world and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty doing it. When a mission to stop the sale of a list of deep cover spies and their locations (secretly a mole hunt) goes horribly wrong, almost the entirety of Hunt’s team is killed and suspicion as to who the mole is falls on him. With his handler’s hot French wife and a new team of disavowed agents, Ethan sets out to clear his name and find the bad guy, who may well be closer than he thinks.
Team quality: Pretty freaking awesome. Although his first team is wiped out pretty quickly, Emilio Estevez, in an uncredited roll, plays the hip, cool techie that gets impaled on the top of an elevator. That was kind of amusing. When he builds his new team with Emmanuelle Béart’s character, it consists of Ving Rhames as tech savant Luther (who would go on to be the only other series staple along with Cruise) and Jean Reno as, pilot Franz Krieger (who is, as one would suspect, your standard badass Jean Reno character). That is awesome. One of the best parts in the movie is when Ethan Hunt mindf*cks Reno’s character with some pretty amazing slight of hand and pure, unadulterated swagger, to which Krieger gets pissed and storms out. I didn’t care much for Béart outside of her role as “hot French love interest/treacherous bitch” but Ving Rhames and Jean Reno in the same shot can make up for a lot.
Babe quality: I’d hit it. Emmanuelle Béart is super-fine and it’s too bad she couldn’t break into American film. I didn’t care much for her character, as I said, and she’s not that great of a love interest (mostly because in the end it turns out she’s just a treacherous bitch) but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t take her out to a fancy restaurant and buy a bottle of champagne I couldn’t afford.
Villain quality: Not too shabby. Jon Voight plays Ethan’s handler Jim Phelps (the same character from the television series, originally played by the late Peter Graves), who after becoming disillusioned with America or whatever, kills his entire team and fakes his death to go underground and see his plan to fruition. His wife is also in on it the whole time, or isn’t but sides with him when she finds out, or something. The whole good-guy-gone-bad, lost-faith-in-what-he-was-fighting-for schtick is a little bit cliché but Voight kind of knocked it out of the ballpark. And the climax…well, keep reading.
Best part: The climax. Okay, so, the climax begins on a train, then moves on top of the train as Ethan chases after Phelps. Nothing too new here. Then, Jean Reno shows up in a helicopter (yeah, he’s on Phelps’ team, TWEEST!). Still pretty standard. Now, the train’s moving pretty fast and Phelps is getting ready to get away by locking himself to the cable hanging from the helicopter. Hunt’s like “I don’t think so, mofo,” unhooks him, then hooks the helicopter to the train. Then, the train goes into a tunnel and TAKES THE HELICOPTER WITH IT. My suspension of disbelief flew out the window at this point and the ludicrousity of what was unfolding before my eyes elevated my movie-going experience to a level not unlike nirvana. Phelps finds himself in a tough spot and keeps beckoning Krieger to get closer. Bear in mind, he’s in a helicopter connected to a high-speed train in a tunnel. The look on Krieger’s face each time Phelps suggests the idea is beautiful. Very “are you effing kidding me?” Naturally, things don’t work out for Voight or Reno and both end up dying in horrible, fiery misery after our hero leaps onto the plane and sticks some explosive gum (seriously!) to it. While the two bad guys die horrifically, Ethan Hunt is blown back onto the train and has his name cleared just in time for him and Luther to essentially high-five into the sunset.
Worst part: Tom Cruise’s over-acting. I enjoy Tom Cruise as an actor, and Mission: Impossible is a fantastic first installment into a now four-film franchise. There is one scene, at the safe house after almost the entirety of Hunt’s team is slaughtered, where he delivers one of the most forced, strangulated lines I’ve seen in all my years of watching films. He turns to Emmanuelle Béart and says “They’re DEAD! They’re all DEAD!” Now, don’t get me wrong, in the rest of the movie he’s pretty on the spot, but that one line, in that one scene, took me out of the movie for a hot second. When the biggest complaint one has in a film is one line, you’ve made yourself a pretty good movie.
In the end, even with a stilted line delivery here or there and a smokin’ hot but ultimately lackluster love interest, you have yourself a really fun, really awesome first installment. The classic scene where Tom Cruise and company infiltrate Langley to steal the film’s plot device was amazing. There were less lasers than I remember from the Nintendo 64 game (known to young Sean then as Not Goldeneye) but I’ll be damned if the whole scene didn’t have me gripping the edge of my seat with child-like wonder and merriment. If you told me it would stay this good forever as the credits rolled on Mission: Impossible, I would’ve believed you. Two hours later I would’ve called you a liar and possibly choked you out, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Join me here tomorrow at the approximate same Bat-time and same Bat-channel as I take you on a guided tour into the depths of madness with John Woo’s Mission: Impossible II.
I told you it was going to be a bumpy ride…