Mission: Impossible

Mission: Impossible ★★★★

Brian DePalma finally got the chance to direct a big studio tentpole and the resulting film absolutely rips. The director gets to lean into his pulpier, crowd pleasing side while still indulging in his signature obsessions with surveillance/voyeurism and meta filmcraft-as-spycraft mechanics. The very first scene opens with our Impossible Mission Force team essentially making a film: we've got a director, a damsel in distress, a villain, and a set, and we're seeing it all on the same video monitor as the team itself until - voila! - DePalma pulls back the curtains and reveals what's really happening. It's right in line with some of his best intros, a meta-riff and love letter to filmmaking itself - the slasher movie in Blow Out, the vampire set in Body Double, heck even the "look ma no hands!" show-off sequence opening his followup, Snake Eyes.

The coolest thing about his take on Mission Impossible is that the movie essentially gets more ambitious as it goes along, like he had to gradually transition from his normal cool-tense thriller mode into the bombastic helicopter-train climax, giving us the centerpiece, near-silent Langley heist in between. It even works as an on-ramp to the MI series as a whole, which grew from its humble espionage roots to become one of the biggest action franchises on the planet, only hinting at the explosive style of the later movies in its final act.

My favorite part, as with most people, is the CIA sequence - it's a nearly perfect construction, a fluid masterclass on how to build up and present a heist in the most tense, entertaining way possible. We get a montage of the pieces moving into place as our hero describes the plan, we see the players slipping into their roles, and right when the crucial moment arrives, the movie basically holds its breath: near-silence as Cruise lowers himself into the high tech boobytrapped room to grab the macguffin, total focus on the physical action on screen, a mesmerizing ballet of movement and tension. It's pure cinema, the kind of wordless grace DePalma was born to create.

Honestly, I was way too negative on my first review here four years ago. This is much more than just a "fine" outing for DePalma, and a lot more fun when you're keyed into his signature flourishes. I've begun a full series rewatch, and maybe I'll rank them when I'm done - I've only seen the last two movies once each and I hardly remember the third, so I'm pretty excited for this.

2022 Mission Impossible rewatch

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