Mission: Impossible ★★★★

A nearly perfect action thriller, the original MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE not only holds up after all these years, but actually seems to have anticipated the wave of film adaptations deconstructing or blowing up their source material. I remember the idea of Jim Phelps being a villain ludiocrous at the time (fond, as I was, of the '80s reboot MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE TV series) and his betrayal of the team left a sour taste in my mouth. Over the years I've come to appreciate more what Koepp and DePalma were going for, even if it still feels very out-of-character for the TV character I knew and loved.

Regardless, DePalma directs the hell out of this, not only with his signature action flourishes and dynamic camerawork, but in his direction of the actors, as well. Tom Cruise, a literal child here in 1996, plays Ethan Hunt as someone who, like most of Cruise's characters, is wound pretty tight. We do see a hint of a fun, relaxed Hunt behind the stress, however, and it's a nice balance between the two Cruise gives us. Voight is likewise nicely subtle as Phelps; his performance in the London train station as he watches Ethan figure out his betrayal is particularly nice. Oh, and I could watch an entire movie that's just Vanessa Redgrave flirting with Tom Cruise.

Introducing a sexy (and absurdly young) wife for Phelps is an odd choice, and the film's gender politics are kinda garbage with regard to her character. And though the whole point of the film is, again, to blow up the traditional, expected, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE formula, it's a shame we won't see another team dynamic approaching what we get in the first act until the third film. This film, and the films to follow, are very much The Tom Cruise Show, which is all well and good, but the team dynamic is what made the original MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE so much fun, and it's a shame to veer away from it here.

Still: hell of a good movie!