Inspired by the contrarian tone of Rogue Nation’s self-destruct briefer and to celebrate Fallout‘s record-breaking intake, what follows is a Mission: Impossible list…with a twist. Your mission, and it’s not like there’s an alternative, is to attend a roundtable where each installment (read: your writer) presents its outstanding element.
Let’s light the fuse.
Mission: Impossible — Dialogue
Curiously, this isn’t liked — Martin Landau (TV series’ Rollin Hand) and the film’s own David Koepp and Robert Towne didn’t make their displeasure a secret — and yet it’s the reason Brian de Palma’s film runs. All the talk, whether through wording or delivery (shout-outs to Henry Czerny and especially Vanessa Redgrave), are piercing and precise, denoting the fact that, in this universe, if you don’t have the words, you are unarmed. Speaking of which, there is a total of five gunshots in the film. Mission: Impossible’s penchant for gabbing can, sadly, be a repellent for modern sensibilities, but it’s the clearest proof of a time when what’s written is considered the project’s backbone. Oh, those days when scribes were crucial…
M:i-2 — Music
The franchise’s first step into the 2000s is glazed with newness: a renowned filmmaker from abroad as director (John Woo), a new hairdo for its lead, a pro-villain intro and a jolting take on espionage film score. Under Hans Zimmer, Lalo Schrifin’s urgent theme morphs into a headbanger, the first in a playlist that also includeS a flamenco night, day at the beach (thanks to guitarist Heitor Pareira’s strumming), epic (the chords of Lisa Gerrard are seraphic), or mix-and-match. Goodbye the “mind games” essence of the TV series and hello “straight-up blockbuster.” The interestingly turbulent DNA in Zimmer and his collaborators’ work is evidently (and perhaps for the better) dampened in future installments, but, man, flu shots have never been the same after “Injection”!
M:i:III — Villain
It’s not just the mission that gets too close for Ethan’s comfort in J.J. Abrams’ spin. With subdued, but hair-raising, menace, Philip Seymour Hoffman gives Owen Davian the ability to make the lead sweat and enough thesp-power to challenge Tom Cruise. In a perfect world, that Billy Crudup reveal never happened. Much like Joker, the blonde, enigmatic arms dealer aims for his opponent’s mind, understanding that once the fitness there is degraded the rest will just perish. “Do you think I’m playing?!” he shouts; “No, siree,” we reply on Ethan’s behalf. The move to place Ethan at a disadvantage in the first trailer and the film’s opening is pure genius, as a result.
Ghost Protocol — Action
How do you trick viewers into believing that maybe, just maybe, impossibility is actually a possibility for the IMF folks this time? Give the gadgets a severe case of the hiccups. It happened before (Langley and its in-vent rodent), but never this constant in frequency or when they’re most needed. So plentiful is the set pieces’ unpredictability that they possess more risk than the Kurt Hendricks-plotted nuclear war. The disbelief on the characters’ faces after all the ziplining, skyscraper free-climbing, sandstorm chasing and multi-story briefcase-snatching? That’s us. To date, Brad Bird’s handling of the franchise’s knuckle-whitening beats remains untouchable.
Rogue Nation — Audio
Christopher McQuarrie’s first of two Missions has a lot of attention-drawers — the brand name, the strong coat game, Ilsa’s yellow dress, Rebecca Ferguson, et cetera — though none is louder than James Mather’s-supervised sounds. They are beefy overall and accentuate or minimize to first-rate effect. In a parallel to the first film’s iconic NOC list sequence, the film’s underwater Torus profile-switching and first-half of the bike chase play out without any presence of a score, so get ready to, along with Ethan, wrestle with 70,000 gallons of pressurized water and control the six feisty cylinders of the M3.
Fallout — Editing
With greater patience than his work for Rogue Nation, Eddie Hamilton becomes the MVP of Ethan’s second McQuarrie-orchestrated adventure. Action scenes unfold with minimal-to-no cutting, meaning your eyes won’t struggle in registering all the punches dealt in the Grand Palais’ bathroom — there you go, those reloaded arms are worth the price of admission — or feel the need for speed as Ethan commits every moving violation known to man. The Kingsman editor also has a knack for cross-cutting; like Ghost Protocol’s Paul Hirsch, every cutaway at the home stretch induces a faster beat. Hamilton is the reason why the yet-again minutes-to-doomsday plot still sits with us.
Agree? Disagree? (Also) Your mission is to sound off if all is correct or not quite so. The first five Missions are available to own, while the sixth, Fallout, is currently in theaters. For the latter, CC2K’s own Peggy Marie said it’s “easily the must-see action film of the summer, possibly the whole of 2018.”
Author: Nguyen Le, CC2K Staff Writer
I love film enough to pack up and fly across the Pacific to write about them. On a mission to add some Vietnamese, or Asian, presence in the film-writing world, first stop being Houston where I’m based. You bet I can make hella good ca phe sua da and equally so omelette. See my bylines at the The Cougar and Cooglife, University of Houston’s two publications, Houston Chronicle, Austin Chronicle, InSession Film and The Young Folks. Member of Houston Film Critics Society and the Online Film Critics Society. Find me on Facebook (@nguyen.le.334) or Twitter (@nle318) — I’m all smiles at both places and so should you!