Those Mission Impossible films rated….

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With Tom Cruise proving that he’s probably the only A-list film star who has stayed at the top of his game for decades we thought we would take a look at the franchise that has proved his worth with both the box office and the studios and as Spielberg told him that he, ‘saved Hollywood’ after the lockdown refusing to let Top Gun Maverick go to streaming insisting it be seen on the big screen….and he was right because it’s on IMAX it is fantastic spectacle. So we’ve rated the Mission Impossible films starting with the worst……

 

  1. Mission Impossible II (2000)

After the success of the first film there was a thirst for more and Tom Cruise was about to make his first sequel in what would be a now long running franchise and box office pleaser. Except this first sequel was a disappointment. Cruise’s intention had always been to have different directors for each film to put their own stamp on them and Hong Kong director John Woo was an obvious choice. His films had included the quite brilliant Hard Boiled and The Killer , two films which Tarantino had homaged with his characters firing handguns in each hand. Woo’s set pieces were astonishing in each of those films and he had been , excuse the pun, wooed to Hollywood where his second film there, 1997’s Face Off with Nicolas Cage had had rave reviews. MI2 began the franchise’s burgeoning trademark, Cruise doing his own insanely dangerous stunts, although here it was the opener that saw him clinging to a rock face and was a hint at the madness to follow in future films. The film was mostly shot in Australia and was beautifully photographed with Woo’s usual trademarks, slo-mo action, two hand pistols and of course flying doves but it’s climax saw Cruise and the villain Dougray Scott having a seemingly endless fist fight on a beach that was at best, routine and at worst, dull.  Despite that the film performed well at the box office earning $546m but the reviews were mixed and in retrospect the film had none of the director’s flair and was the beginning of the end of his time in Hollywood.

  1. Mission Impossible III (2006)

The box office success of the first sequel meant a third film was inevitable and helming it would be JJ Abrams who had found success with his TV shows ‘Lost’ and ‘Alias’ and this sequel would mark his feature film debut. The film would mark a number of firsts for the franchise. Ethan Hunt was now married and we get a glimpse at his spacious apartment he shares with Michelle Monghan. It also saw the Cruise- meister’s own trademark – a shot of him running full tilt. It also introduced us to an unexpected addition, that of Simon Pegg as Benji ,  a casting choice that no one saw coming least of all Pegg but his addition bought some much needed levity to the action. Best of all was the casting of the mighty Phillip Seymour Hoffman , magnificently malevolent as a truly bad to the bone bad guy and the films stand out set piece was his rescue by helicopter from an armed truck on a bridge which saw Cruise thrown with great force against the side of a vehicle in a shot that featured  in the trailer and had audiences stoked. It was a step up in what stunts Cruise would do and the studio were concerned at the possibility of their star injuring himself and the consequence for the films shoot – if only they knew what was to come later in the franchise.  But what would seem a sure hit was scuppered by Cruise himself…or at least his behaviour on the Oprah show. Having recently fallen for Katie Holmes he was absolutely besotted and like a love-lorn teenager was jumping up and down on Oprah’s sofa declaring his love for Ms Holmes. It was the moment the studio blamed for audiences turning against him and the film suffered with the film earning only $398m making it the worst performing of all the films and it would be five years before the next film would appear.

  1. Mission Impossible (1996)

At the time Cruise was still a box office draw but his shine was starting to fade after the failure of Days of Thunder and Far & Away but had started to claw back his reputation as an A-lister with Interview with the Vampire, The Firm, and  A Few Good Men opposite Jack Nicholson & Demi Moore ( herself on a roll of successful films).  Mission Impossible had long been a TV property ripe for the big screen with TV reruns ensuing that audiences were still familiar with its iconic theme tune, its catch phrase ( Your mission should you choose to accept it’) and its implausible but highly enjoyable use of masks. With stellar screenwriting talent that included David Koepp (Jurassic Park ) and Steven Zaillian (Schindlers List) they turned out a somewhat convoluted plot that would be stylishly put on screen by Brian de Palma, a whizz with stylized and highly effective set pieces of which the stand out here was Cruise lowered from the ceiling in a CIA building to access a computer. It was a set piece that would be copied and parodied for years after and showed that DePalma, when at the very top of his game, could put a set piece together like no one else and the films climax with a helicopter chasing the Eurostar down a tunnel was both insane and insanely entertaining.

A decent cast that included Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Kristen Scott Thomas, Jean Reno (a huge draw after his lead role in the excellent ‘Leon’) and Ving Rhames who soon became a series regular and all would find themselves up against top Brit acting talent Vanessa Redgrave. Earning $457m it was the third biggest film of the year behind only novelty blockbuster ‘Twister’ and of course Independence Day that blew everyone away hyped up on that Whitehouse exploding trailer. By all accounts it was not an easy shoot for De Palma and would arguably be his last bona fide box office hit but it’s success ensured at least one sequel if not a franchise.

  1. Mission Impossible Rogue Nation (2015)

The staple cast of the previous films now saw the addition of Rebecca Ferguson and for the first time a baddie (Sean Harris) who would return in the next film with an overarching intent for the MI agency. The other thing would be director Christopher McQuarrie who would be the first director who would return for later films. Mc Quarrie had writing crednetials ( an Oscar for The Usual Suspects) and had directed Cruise before in Jack Reacher (2012) so could handle action and the action set piece here was the opening sequence with Cruise clinging on to the outside of a plane as it took off. If the insurance underwriters had never regarded Cruise as a liability before then that stunt surely secured his reputation. It was one of a number of great stunts and Cruise was now so assured and competent that the stunt co-ordinator freely admitted that he had no stunt driver better than Cruise who would drive in the car chase sequences himself with a terrified Simon Pegg in the passenger seat. Added to this was a thrilling high speed motorbike chase with a helmet less cruise and an assassination set piece in an opera house that rivalled Hitchcock’s one in ‘The Man who Knew too much’. Audiences lapped it up to the tune of $682m

 

  1. Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol (2011)

The fourth film was probably the game changer for the franchise. The third film performed badly and Cruise needed a hit after a string of flops that included the long forgotten ‘Lions for Lambs’, the true life WWII drama ‘Valkyrie’ and popcorn blockbuster ‘Knight and Day’. It also had the studio increasingly wary after the studio saw Cruise getting far more involved in doing the stunts himself and as a precaution the studio insisted on the introduction of a character to be played by casting of Jeremy Renner with a view to him taking over the franchise if audiences were still turning against Cruise.  Continuing the tradition of a different director for each film the job went to Brad Bird, an Oscar winning director of animated films ‘The Incredibles’  but he was new to live action. As it was he was an inspired choice taking the mad stunts of an animated film such as The Incredibles and turning them into reality. And if the studio had been concerned about Cruise doing his own stunts in MI3 then they would be apoplectic when they saw him hanging off the side of the Burf Khalifa hundreds of feet in the air in what was the films stand out sequence that had audiences gasping and the studio execs stunned.  MI4 was the film that would set the direction for subsequent films namely Cruise doing his own stunts that might make a stuntman think twice. It would also see the dropping of a film franchise number – this would have been MI4 – replacing it with ultimately meaningless and frustrating titles that meant audiences would always ask friends, ‘Is Ghost Protocol the one where he hangs off the side of that huge building?’ Nonetheless audiences were thrilled and flocked to see a film that would rejuvenate his career in what would be the second highest grossing film in the franchise making $694m. The future of the franchise was assured

1. Mission Impossible : Fallout (2018)

By now the template was well established – Cruise doing his own almost too incredible to believed stunts in stunning action set pieces supported by a team of regulars that included Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson and for the first time helmed by a previous director, Christopher McQuarrie. With stunts that included Cruise doing a HALO jump, a motorbike chase around the Arc De Triomphe, and piloting a helicopter through a narrow valley it was actually a simple stunt that saw him injured when he broke his leg in a rooftop jump holding up production until he healed. So prolific were the stunts in the film that one that is glimpsed in the trailer, Cruise seemingly on a collision course with a jack knifing fuel tanker careering across a narrow road, that it was dropped from an already stunt packed film. It was the best film in the franchise with audiences lapping it up also making it the most successful to date earning $791m worldwide.

related feature: The story behind the Shot – Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

related feature: ‘Con Air’ director Simon West talks about the making of the film and working with Nicolas Cage and an all star cast 

related feature: Mission Impossible daed Reckoning Part One reviewed

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