MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE was a big financial hit when it came out in 1996, the third-highest grosser in a year packed with popcorny adventures of questionable quality. Nothing wrong with non-deep action entertainments, but this so-so start to what became a steadily improving series (the last few are top-rate) made for a rocky beginning. *
The IMF team, on their covert way through an assignment in Prague, are wiped out but for point man ‘Ethan Hunt’ (Tom Cruise, 33, landing on a gold mine) and the wife of team leader ‘Jim Phelps’ (Jon Voight), played by French beauty Emmanuelle Béart (Manon of the Spring). Suspected of being a mole, Hunt is hunted by the C.I.A. With help from disgraced former agents (Ving Rhames, Jean Reno), Hunt finds the betrayal was even more sinister than it seemed.
Directed by Brian De Palma, written by David Koepp & Robert Towne, the cast also including the class factor of Vanessa Redgrave and (briefly) Kristin Scott Thomas, the project had credentials galore and an expenditure of $80,000,000 for buck bangs. Yet apart from the dynamic Redgrave (who owns the screen whenever she’s on it), a few of the stunts and Danny Elfman’s score, little charm, excitement or tension finds its way out of a convoluted screenplay that gets too unlikely even for the let’s-pretend standards of this type of thriller. Dour, choppy, talky, this first installment is the weakest in the series.
With Henry Czerny, Emilio Estevez, Dale Dye and Ingeborga Dapkunaitè. 110 minutes. It earned $457,700,000. Eflman’s pounding electronica recharge of the classic main theme composed by Lalo Schifrin kicks it with flair—it became a pop hit.
* Fans of the 1966-73 TV series took umbrage with the star vehicle, and its surviving cast members Peter Graves, Martin Landau and Greg Morris expressed their dismay. 1996 was stocked with flashy, empty noisemakers—Independence Day, Twister, The Rock, Eraser, remakes of The Nutty Professor and 101 Dalmations, From Dusk till Dawn, The Cable Guy, The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Island Of Dr. Moreau, Mars Attacks!