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By Bernie Sauer
The wick to the infamous title sequence bomb has been lit (enter familiar “Mission: Impossible” theme), and I figured it was time to look back on my favorite movie series and rank the franchise from worst to best as the seventh one reaches post-production in Italy (and Mr. Cruise has calmed down a bit since going off on his crew for not wearing their masks back in December). This is my concise evaluation:
6. Mission: Impossible II (2000) Slo-mo shots of Tom Cruise’s long, luscious hair blowing in the wind to slo-mo shots of over-stylized violence only pretentious Director John Woo knows best: This is the essence of the second installment of the series. By far, I consider this the worst one. It is ostentatious muck with actually very little action and a whole lot of unintended laughs.
5. Mission: Impossible (1996) It’s interesting how the 3.5 billion-dollar action-adventure series began with Brian De Palma’s Hitchcockian touch and probably the most emphasis on espionage than any of the other movies in the franchise. Unfortunately, it ended up reeking of an expositional steam pile with whodunits abound. The plot evolves into silly, convoluted territory, especially during the melodramatic box car scene that De Palma apparently wanted to cut. But, when you work with two prominent Hollywood writers in Robert Towne and David Koepp with two opposing conclusion ideas, you’re in for a mess of “ah-ha!” unmaskings.
However, we all remember the best scene in the movie: The silent catapult vault scene remains ingenious, almost perfect, and an icon for the rest of the series to follow. The bead of sweat dripping on to Cruise’s glove as his muscles ache for one more second to be pulled away from a temperature-induced alarm system is still jaw-dropping, De Palma-constructed, and the reason to see this movie today.
4. Mission: Impossible III (2006) Philip Seymour Hoffman as the soulless villain and the quest to humanize Ethan Hunt are two good reasons to enjoy the new flares and vision of Star Wars-beloved, Director J.J. Abrams. This is the darkest one, and it puts Ethan in tight spots that seem impossible to get out of, bringing back the traditional promise in the title. Mr. Hoffman, you are missed.
3. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) The Burj Khalifa scene. Period. It is simply awe-striking. Director Brad Bird of previous animated hits (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) has Tom Cruise hanging off the world’s tallest building in vertigo shots that induce out-loud gasping. Oh, and add an epic dust storm in there for good measure! The sidekick camaraderie of Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg is refreshingly funny, but this chemistry doesn’t take off as lithely as in the next two installments.
I have to admit, these next two flipflop on me, and it’s interesting to see how other blogs, film critics’ lists, and rankings have these two battling it out for top prize as well. They are the latest in the series, methodically written and visualized by Christopher McQuarrie, who douses more action on the espionage, knowing fully well this successful formula will produce the box office numbers, popcorn, and riveting entertainment for the big screen. I bite every time. They are both downright fun spy-action flicks with likeable characters to root for.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) proves that the older Tom Cruise gets (56 at the time) and the more he does his own stunts, the more he and his franchise can defy gravity. From doing all the helicopter flying, abs ripping, and rooftop leaping, Tom sacrifices his body, including an ankle injury that delayed filming production for six weeks. Fallout tends to wear emotion on its sleeve as if it is the last of the series, but we all knew that wouldn’t be the truth.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015) introduces us to the slick femme fatale of Rebecca Ferguson, a slimy villain in Sean Harris; it places Tom in an underwater file chamber sequence that couldn’t go any more oxygen-suckingly wrong (I made up a word there), and it includes the riveting Vienna State Opera scene where Ethan Hunt (quietly) takes down an assassin with a bass flute sniper rifle to the climax of Puccini’s Turandot’s “Figlio del cielo.” Film composer Joe Kraemer even intertwines the “Nessun dorma” motif into the score throughout the movie. Brilliant! As of now, Rogue Nation is my #1.
Thank you for reading.
How would you rank them? What’s your favorite of the series?