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MISSION IMPOSSIBLE Series Review (Including Rogue Nation)

An overview/review of all five Mission Impossible films. New Review of Rogue Nation.


I’ll be honest up front, I’ve never been familiar with the Mission: Impossible television series that aired on the CBS network from September 1966 to March 1973. The show is a little past my time, and as far as I can tell, doesn’t really pop up on television reruns too often. From what I’ve heard, the now five films that have been released in the Mission: Impossible film series  doesn’t really adhere to the television show that much. Other than the now legendary Mission Impossible theme, originally done by Lalo Schifrin.

I suppose, overall, the Mission Impossible film series can’t help but come off as an American James Bond knockoff. Something the critics have levied against the series since the first film in 1996. Despite that, the film series has been around long enough now that it’s developed it’s own little connected world between all 5 films.

The series is the 20th highest grossing film series of all time with over $2 billion worth of worldwide gross.

Tom Cruise, even at a getting up there 53 years old, is still convincing enough as IMF agent Ethan Hunt. He’s sort of now eased into part like Roger Moore did with James Bond, although Cruise is still in really good physical shape and can perform his own stunts.

Cruise’s age hasn’t stopped the series from moving forward. On May 25, 2015, a new report surfaced saying Paramount Pictures is already developing Mission: Impossible 6. At this time, no cast members are officially set to return for the sequel, but Cruise will again be producing along with David Ellison and Dana Goldberg at Skydance Productions and J.J. Abrams at Bad Robot.

To be fair, the last two Mission: Impossible films, Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation, have been really well received. Even more so than the first three films. So I guess enough interest is there.

Having seen Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation on Monday night. I decided, instead of just reviewing that film, why don’t I take the time to say a little something about every film in the series.


Mission: Impossible (1996) d. Brian De Palma [usr 3]

A major thing that’s interesting about the film series is that it’s Tom Cruise’s baby from beginning to whenever it ends. The first film, released on May 22, 1996, was notorious for it’s rather confusing and convoluted plot. Several cast members of the original 1966–73 TV series reacted negatively to the film.

Despite those criticisms, I think the first film is largely a success because of director Brian De Palma’s inventive use of the camera and the gorgeous Prague locations. It’s so slickly made that the fact you might not really be able to figure out the plot (from a script by Chinatown scribe Robert Towne, and David Koepp) is of little consequence in my opinion.

I enjoyed Cruise in the lead, as well as the supporting performers, with a special shout out to Vanessa Redgrave and the villainous Henry Czerny.


Mission: Impossible II (2000) d: John Woo [usr 2]

Well, it was clear what to do to combat the plot complaints of the first film, make the plot to the second film a lot dumber. This film has strong thematic similarities with Alfred Hitchcock’s 1946 spy thriller Notorious. However, this isn’t in the same league as Hitchcock. As a matter of fact, other than some stand out action scenes, M:I 2 is a step down in quality from the first film.


Mission: Impossible III (2006) d. J.J. Abrams [usr 2.5]

Notable about the third film in the series is again with a change in direction, and also that there was a longer six year waiting period in between films.

In 2002, director David Fincher was slated to direct the next installment for a summer of 2004 release date. Fincher, however, dropped out in favor of another film, later citing creative differences over the direction of the series. Replacing Fincher was director Joe Carnahan, who worked on developing the film for 15 months.

After a dispute over the film’s tone, Carnahan quit in July 2004. Tom Cruise then called J.J. Abrams, offering the directorial role for the film after having binge-watched the first two seasons of Alias. Abrams ultimately signed on, with production delayed a year due to his contractual obligations with Alias and Lost.

Three is better than two for sure, but there’s kind of a Steven Spielberg quality about the film that doesn’t work. Like it’s over focus on the love story between Cruise and Michelle Monaghan. They’re attempting to go for more heart, but it’s kind of hackneyed.

Some of the action sequences are really well done by J.J. Abrams, but this was his first film. He’s developed into a more polished filmmaker now than back in 2006. The third film’s greatest strength is the absolute dynamite villain performance by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Damn, he was good.


Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (2011) d. Brad Bird [usr 3.5]

Ghost Protocol is the best film of the series. The live-action debut of maestro Brad Bird, Ghost Protocol features the best set pieces and action of the series.

Ghost Protocol grossed $209,397,903 in North America and $485,315,477 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $694,713,380. It is the highest-grossing film worldwide in the Mission: Impossible series, and the 5th highest-grossing film of 2011. It is also the highest-grossing film worldwide starring Tom Cruise, surpassing War of the Worlds from the top spot.

In a rare case, the fourth film of a series rejuvenated the franchise.


Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation (2015) d. Christopher McQuarrie [usr 3]

While a bit of a step down from Ghost Protocol, the fifth film Rogue Nation (in theaters this Friday), continues the series resurgence, and offers plenty of thrilling fun.

The ridiculous elements of the series are still in play. The action scenes aren’t designed to really be probable and are pretty ridiculous. However, even at 53 years old, Tom Cruise can still bring it. That makes up for a rather ludicrous plot by Academy Award winning (The Usual Suspects) scribe Christopher McQuarrie (who directed Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher).

Rogue Nation features welcome returnees and new faces to the series. Simon Pegg, of course, gets nearly all the comic relief, and as always he does a good job. Jeremy Renner, Alec Baldwin, and longtime series veteran Ving Rhames do solid, if unspectacular jobs. Rebecca Ferguson is relatively new to the scene and she’s a gorgeous actress who’s a breath of fresh air as spy Ilsa Faust.

Fans of the series should be right at home here, and I’d even recommend it to those who aren’t that familiar with it. You don’t really need too much backstory when going into a Mission: Impossible film. Which is fine because you can enjoy it nonetheless.


New Mission: Impossible Film Franchise Posters

Mission Impossible Mission Impossible Mission Impossible Mission Impossible Mission Impossible


About Knox Harrington

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