Mission: Impossible (1996)

An extremely 1990s, taut action-thriller that feels like what it is, Brian De Palma delivering a hit he needed. His touches spark up the movie (split diopter shots, POV tracking shots, mounting tension presented through sudden switchover to dutch angles), but the lack of a script while shooting shows, and the whole thing feels very cobbled together in the edit out of what setpieces they managed.

The Langley setpiece is iconic and full of delicious tension and memorable images and performances from Tom Cruise. The final setpiece is a near-incoherent, dull mess of meaningless escalation. The Prague setting of the film is lovely and novel. It’s the only film of the series really beholden to the titular television show, with some continuity baggage and links that nevertheless had the show’s fans (and cast!) annoyed back in the day. The ludicrously believable face-swapping masks are the main carryover from the show in the future of the franchise, and are employed to good fun here.

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Jean Reno and Ving Rhames make for a fun supporting cast, as does Vanessa Redgrave to a lesser extent. Everyone else is pretty forgettable. It’s easy to see why Rhames and Cruise are the sole consistent cast members in every film in the franchise. It’s a very dated film, which is fun, but lacks the madness, scale, or depth that would define further sequels. Two and a half masks and a NOC list.

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