‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’, the fifth feature film entry is about to smash into cinemas, so here is your crib notes guide to the blockbuster series.
Every entry has been released approximately five years apart, each hosting a distinct style and director, evolving from cool heist flick to blunt action epic to espionage thriller. Taking a look back at the varied and diverse instalments, Mission: Impossible has a quality not often found amid long-running action series; the ability to tell its chapters apart.
Mission: Impossible (1996)
Director: Brian De Palma
Drawing elements from the famed television series, the first Mission remains one of the classic action flicks of the ‘90s, a crowning gem of Cruise’s career and still the best of the four films. Hunt and team travel to Prague where they are slowly picked off one by one; the subsequent CIA heist and chase atop a bullet-train remaining iconic moments in the long-running action series. Ving Rhames and Jean Reno (fresh off Leon: The Professional) provide solid support along with veteran Jon Voight, all pulling off some of the most absurd, questionable and melodramatic dialogue ever written for an action movie.
At one point, a CIA boss tells Hunt “You want to shake hands with the devil that’s fine with me, I just want to make sure that you do it in hell.” The dialogue was often so grandiose that you wonder if people in these sorts of situations just generally revert to hyperbolic banter when faced with enormous amounts of pressure and/or life/death scenarios.
But it didn’t matter, because it was just so cool. The chit-chat, only one aspect of a film transporting us into the world of double-crossing was made all the better by Cruise running from a small tidal wave in slow motion after blowing up a restaurant with a stick of gum. Mission: Impossible still stands tall against the more recent instalments.
Mission: Impossible II (2000)
Director: John Woo
No. Just no.
The bar was set so high, the chances of the sequel being as good as the first one were slim. No one expected this would set the bar so low for a third entry, should the studio ever take such a gamble after this unfortunate blip in an otherwise enjoyable series.
Set in Sydney and doing the city no justice by its disappointing script, excessive slow motion and over-use of doves, MI2 sees Hunt trying to destroy a virus, or something. Full of strategically-placed fuel drums just waiting to be blown up, the crew took over La Perouse and other iconic Sydney locations to film what could have been a much better tourism ad.
Aside from its contribution to the Australian film industry, MI2 did cinema no favours.
Mission: Impossible III (2006)
Director: J.J. Abrams
Loud, fun and forgettable. The third entry in the series features Hunt chasing after a Ronin-style Macguffin called “Rabbit’s Foot” and a megalomaniacal black market dealer played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman who brought genuine menace to an otherwise one-dimensional role.
Joining the countless popcorn action flicks that have no staying power once you’ve crossed the cinema threshold onto the street, MI3 was two hours of jets, explosions and Cruise jumping off/out of buildings. A helicopter chase through wind turbines and a raid on the Vatican were stand-out moments in a regrettably forgettable action romp.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
Director: Brad Bird
A return to form for the series and easily the best since the original, Ghost Protocol will forever be etched in the minds of stunt gurus and action-junkies for its extended sequence in and around Dubai’s Burj Khalifa skyscraper. That’s actually Tom Cruise hanging off the awe-inspiringly tall achievement in engineering; and in the age of CGI where so much is glaringly fake, we thank him for literally putting himself out there.
A consummate thriller, forgetting for a moment the under-developed villain who just seems to want to destroy everything because he can, Ghost Protocol steps it up a notch with a raid on the Kremlin and the addition of Jeremy Renner in a Hunt-style supporting role.