I recently reviewed the original Mission: Impossible (1996, Brian De Palma) for Reel World Theology as a lead up to the fifth film in the M:I franchise:
The Mission: Impossible film franchise, with each sequel each promising bigger and more dangerous stunts for its star, Tom Cruise, to attempt, began less with a loud bang and more with a slow burn. Brian De Palma’s 1996 film is more of a spy thriller than a straightforward action film. Through mind-bending plot twists and some interesting cinematography and directorial decisions, De Palma takes the audience along for a thrill ride with Ethan Hunt (Cruise) as a young IMF agent trying to discover whodunit.
The opening sequence features the now-iconic scene of Ethan pulling off the mask to reveal the truth. This mask-removal trope—present in each of the sequels—serves as a sort of symbol of the entire franchise, a multi-layered mosaic of identity and styles, with each director giving the next film their own personal thumbprint. The audience is unsure where the film will be headed next, or what sort of identity this particular Mission: Impossible film holds. De Palma’s style is certainly present, with canted angle shots, split focus shots, and slow tracking shots all making for a very stylized action thriller. Some taut sequences–especially the Langley infiltration and the fish tank restaurant scene–are exhilarating, and Mission: Impossible is certainly never dull.