Monday, July 23, 2018

Mission Impossible Series: An Introduction

When did the Mission Impossible films become the best action franchise Hollywood has going right now? For me, it was a slow dawning realization that these films are consistently top quality, action blockbusters of the kind that Hollywood doesn’t really make that often or that well anymore – but it probably took until the fourth film in the franchise – 2011’s Ghost Protocol – for that to really sink in. Part of that is because while the series is about to release it’s sixth film – it’s done so over 22 years, with multiple year gaps between each, and because the series has mainly gone against the currently popular trend of making them all interconnected. Yes, there are some things that carry from one film to the next – but nothing that you really need to know to watch and understand and enjoy any single film all by itself.
Those gaps were crucial in my thinking – because for a long time I was able to dismiss the first two films in the franchise as entertaining, but minor (or disposable) entries in great director’s resumes. Sure Brian De Palma’s, the first film is fun, but it’s not Blow Out or Body Double or Scarface or Carrie or Femme Fatale or (insert a dozen other titles here). Mission Impossible II has some great moments, but it’s really when it started to look like John Woo was almost getting into self-parody with all those doves. JJ Abrams third installment worked hard to ground the series to some kind of recognizable emotion – and contains a great bad guy performance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but also felt like what it was – a TV director coming to the big screen for the first time, and not being wholly comfortable with all the room he had to work with. The last two installments were my favorites – Ghost Protocol because, in part, director Brad Bird embraced the size of the screen and the action, and made as close you can get to a live action animated film without it becoming overwhelmed with CGI. Christopher McQuarrie’s Rogue Nation scaled down a little bit, but was perhaps an even better film – harsher, leaner, and meaner with great set pieces. I’m torn about my feelings towards McQuarrie coming back for Fallout – I like it because Rogue Nation was my favorite, but I don’t like it because I think part of what makes the series special is because it’s let five different directors come in and put their own unique stamp on things. Maybe that is the key to this series still feeling fresh and new each time after 22 years – it really does not repeat itself.
I also realized though that I don’t think I’ve seen any of the films twice – which means I haven’t seen any of them since they were first released. Leading up to the release of the sixth installment then, I decided to go back and watch the other five – to see if my memories of the films matches the reality of them. I’ll do a fully ranking at the end (next week, after I see Fallout).

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