Mission Impossible 7 is slated to arrive in May 2022 and the franchise itself is 25 this year, so I’m enjoying a brief retrospective of the films. Spoilers ahead for Mission: Impossible III.
J.J. Abrams had his break fresh out of college with the script for Regarding Henry and was soon on his way to success as a writer (including Michael Bay‘s Armageddon) and success on TV developing Felicity. His TED talk about the use of the “mystery box” model of developing stories to intrigue and reel in audiences can be seen in the spy shenanigans of Alias and in the brilliant first series of Lost.
High Tension then Mundane Reality
The pre-titles sequence is marvellous. Dropped straight into a “cold open” torture scene, we see Hunt (Tom Cruise) bloody and cuffed to a chair, being interrogated by the ruthless Philip Seymour Hoffman (Davian). The villain’s verbal countdown cranks up the tension to exceptional levels, especially when he shoots his other hostage in the leg. Davian gets to zero and fires his gun as the titles explode. Yet after the titles we are with Hunt and that second hostage, revealed as his fiancé Julia (Michelle Monaghan), at their house party. Hunt seems entirely domesticated and dull.
Before long he is called back into the IMF to rescue a colleague, then working against the villain in obtaining “the rabbit’s foot”. Hunt juggles his private life and his mission in a story which stretches from the US to Germany, Italy and China, with some great set pieces.
The “cold open” is a great start, and the use of the mystery box Macguffin of “the rabbit’s foot” – we never learn what the thing really is – is a slick way to avoid murky exposition. Hunt’s heist into the towers in Shanghai to acquire the object happens off screen, which initially hits as frustrating, but clears the way for a great finale in China.
That “Mission Impossible” Moment
The entirety of the Vatican City sequence. Diversions, rappelling wires, disguises, underwater infiltration, bombs, earpieces, masks, voice changing programs, suspense and an escape switcheroo.
Tom Cruise Running Scene
Hunt, guided by Benji (Simon Pegg) on the phone, runs through the Chinese town from the rooftops to the riverside, including one very long sprint with the camera in pursuit.
This is the big trailer scene, the fantastic attack on the bridge. This scene mixes practical effects and CGI in a shoot out with high stakes as the villains rescue Hoffman’s Davian from IMF captivity.
The destruction of the bridge, which Hunt must leap across, the explosion which blows him from his feet into the car, are all tremendous. The action recalls other great bridge attacks in Licence to Kill or True Lies and is a highlight.
The infiltration of the warehouse in Berlin to rescue Farris (Keri Russell) is wonderfully staged. Luther (Ving Rhames) with his remote-controlled guns. Zhen (Maggie Q) striding through the building to acquire the computer. Hunt’s gunplay as they make their escape. The helicopter chase through the wind farm is incredibly tense as pilot Jonathan Rhys Meyers struggles to avoid missiles as the others race to resuscitate Farris.
Fuse Rating = 5 out of 5
I love the return to the fun, over the top espionage. The action beats are there too, but the audacity of having Hunt retired and ready to marry, the cold open torture scene, the globe-trotting story and the swaggering double-cross spy shenanigans hit the spot.
Michelle Mongahan is a great addition as Julia, who gradually has more involvement in the plot at the film progresses. Simon Pegg first appears as Benji, a new series regular. Sadly Maggie Q and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (Declan) don’t return to the films but they make for a solid team. Ving Rhames is back, and the addition of both Billy Crudup and Lawrence Fishburne round off a fabulous cast.
Michael Giacchino provides the score which is packed full of excitement – and with a clear love of Lalo Schifrin’s original Mission Impossible themes.
First published on Reel Anarchy.
Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol – with the exploding Kremlin, a race against time and THAT terrifying sequence on the Burj Khalifa.
Producer Paula Wagner, Tom Cruise, Bad Robot Production
Director J.J. Abrams
Screenplay Alex Kurtzmann, Roberto Orci, J.J. Abrams
Cinematographer Dan Mindel
Editor Mary Jo Markey, Maryann Brandon
Music Michael Giacchino
US premiere May 2006
Tom Cruise Ethan Hunt
Philip Seymour Hoffman Davian
Billy Crudup Musgrave
Michelle Monaghan Julia
Maggie Q Zhen
Keri Russell Farris
Jonathan Rhys-Meyers Declan
Ving Rhames Luthor
Lawrence Fishburne Brassel