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Cinemalphabet: M is for Mission Impossible (1996)

December 13, 2010

00:59 – We’re not supposed to be fooled by that mask, right. I’d know those Cruise mannerisms anywhere! I know we’re not supposed wonder what Emilio is doing here, but what is Emilio Estevez doing here? Still he looks great and I’ve always enjoyed his films such as Witness and Men at Work.

02:08 – Pre-credit sequence chow chow. Microwaving popcorn. If this were “oddly framed shot” drinking game, I’d already be one sheet away from being as snockered as the proverbial phrase. That sounded a lot better in my head.

02:49 – De Palma sure likes his blood 70s red. He’s very Kubrickian in that regard. I already don’t care for this Claire person.

02:55 – Match is lit. Everyone is strapped into their seats. Here it comes. Gosh, I’m a far too giddy. Please enjoy all these images of characters, but don’t get too attached. We’re gonna go all Three Days of the Condor on ’em in a few minutes.


10:44 – Here’s some special spy gum. Do NOT chew! This concludes Spy Materials 101.

11:09 – I much prefer Cruise in one of those rubber face masks. I find his acting much more satisfying. Nothing too De Palma-y going on right now. Though the scenery looks an awful lot like the scenery in Phantom of the Paradise. Though like Emilio, I question Cruise’s decision to go with a Foghorn Leghorn accent. Very curious.

follow me across the room, Kittridge, with your non following ass.

22:10 – The Impossible Mission team is being picked off, one by one like fleas on a dog. In loving send up to the late great Sydney Pollack. Bye bye accomplished European actors. We hardly knew you. Oh, bye to you too, Emilio.

24:34 – Hello, Chekov’s knife! Good bye Sarah. Ethan Hunt is like the worst spy ever. Incredibly sloppy spy work happening. Everything high profile and hastily executed. I thought spies were supposed to be able to smell an ambush. Now he’s hollering at his section chief. Doing vintage Cruise emoting. Acting as hard as he can. It’s hilarious. This scene is bang on for Redford’s frantic call to Cliff Robertson (3 Days of the Condor), except Redford’s a better hollerer and cuter. One more time for the cheap seats. “DEAD. THEY’RE ALL DEAD” *echo*. Now now, batting batting, Manny Manny, Mota Mota…

29:01 – It seems a little late in the game for Hunt to realize there was a second IMF team. Good looking, yo. Pay attention, folks. Here comes the plot. Nothing says De Palma like “plot explained to audience in painstaking detail”.

a more inventive way to get out of an awkward dinner date.

30:52 – Now this is how you get out of a boring job evaluation meeting with a supervisor. I suppose when an R rating won’t allow for buckets of blood, water works just as well. Thanks, DeP, for sparing the audience the obligatory flopping fish shot.

31:09 – Excellent Hitchcockian spiral staircase shot. Well played, BDeP!

34:44 – Ethan Hunt was the only person in 1996 using the internet for something other than pr0n chat. Where are all the A/S/L windows popping open like an Egoiste Platinum commercial?

37:09 – Lawd, he’s gonna have to give that hollering a rest. Claire is terribly unconvincing as the traumatized IMF agent who’s now short a husband. I’ve seen better plants at the grocery store floral aisle.

Sorry, Tom. That grin is no match for Redgravian screen presence.

42:10 – Ahhh, the incomparable Vanessa Redgrave shutting down the scene. Even her pauses are Oscar-worthy. Thank you for giving her something interesting to do. Of course I’d watch her read the instructions to my wireless router. So cheeky and dismissive. “My dear boy…” This is one of the best parts of the film. She talks like the Cheshire Cat. “Whooo arrrreee you? Can you stand on your head?”

Luther, I guess you're all out of excuses...

48:24 – Best place to find disavowed agents? On the CIA website of course! “Hi, this Bob from HR. Listen, it’s been months since we disavowed you and we were wondering if you had any exciting updates for the newsletter?”

52:02 – The message people! CIA is difficult to break into. But they are going to do it. All three systems are state of the art, yet manned by an oblivious chap by the name of William Donloe.

56:48 – The CIA has the world’s biggest air shafts. Supporting the weight of several humans and one rat. Wow. RATS? really. That can’t be good for the air quality. However, it’s an excellent plot device.

59:27 – In my white room, with black glossy floors…

61:08 – William Donloe lacks Spidey sense. Billy, there’s a man hanging from your ceiling!

Oh I'm just hanging around. rim shot.

62:22 – The CIA has the cleanest bathrooms ever. Despite the level of horkage going on courtesy of Mr. Donloe. Pretty ladies doing crossword puzzles should be avoided at all costs!

64:03 – Our friend William Donloe just won a trip to Alaska courtesy of the CIA!

71:54 – Ladies and Gentlemen, The Ethan Hunt Magic Hour! Tonight’s show featuring beloved illusions such as “Which Disc is This?” Tom Cruise gives some version of this speech in all his films. In Jerry Maguire he used a briefcase and a fireplace poker instead of a data disc. In A Few Good Men, I’m pretty sure it was a legal pad. In Top Gun it was on the volleyball court. Anyway, he makes some kind of plot clarifying speech in this scratchy distracted voice and waves his hands around like a traffic cop. Classic Cruise.

magic, the gathering.

77:24 – Oh Snap. Jim Phelps lives. and coughs convincingly. At least to Hunt. Now it’s time for the Red Herring report. Special correspondent Jim Phelps is your host for this edition. And in case you weren’t sure this was all a ruse, De Palma is going to walk you through each frame of the ambush, in loving detail to fill in whatever bald plot patches you weren’t experiencing. This is mostly for Hunt who it seems has taken until nearly the end to figure out what the audience knew from the first ten minutes of the film. That’s some mighty fine secret agenting.

London calling

84:44 – The above shot is a call back to this shot in Three Days of the Condor and serves a similar plot purpose. I love when directors I dig have conversations with other directors I dig through their films. Yeah, so I’ve seen these films a few times. So what. I love De Palma and I love Pollack. Deal with it. Anyway, they’re about to move the party to the TGV!

86:11 – Another Hitchcockian shot, this time of the sleek TGV barreling towards the Chunnel. With Phelps, Max and various other interested parties on board or en route, we’ve got ourselves a climax!

88:25 – Luther’s trying to keep that damn NOC List from getting out in the open. Meanwhile Max is having some troubles with her bellbottom laptop, housed in a handsome briefcase. She’s snapping at her henchman who can’t get the NOC List to upload to her contact. 1996 technology woes. *shakes head* I freaking hate when I can’t get my shit to upload when I’m engaged in important activities of a nefarious nature. I feel you, Max. Luther, you done picked a lousy time to visit the facilities!

90:45 – Damn, again with the rubber mask. Poor Claire. She got trick-did. Or maybe not. I’ve lost track of the number of plot twists and turns. It seems everything is back to where we started.

91:38 – Best line of the film, skillfully delivered by Voigt: “They stamped it [bible], didn’t they? Those damn Gideons!” This is the point where the plot tends to sag – chow chow a go go – Until BDeP decides to move things along and leave those Bond Villain speeches alone.

93:05 – Shout out to TV fans, pissed about the reboot. “Good Morning, Mr. Phelps.” said quite cheekily.

98:20 – With the faint stirrings of the theme song we know our boy is about to work things out. That said, wouldn’t it be better to figure out how you’re going to get away from the flaming wreckage before using your special spy gum? I don’t mean to be a backseat spy, but it’s just a thought.

Blade Outrunner

101:03 – Luther: I’m gonna miss being disreputable.
Hunt: Luther, if it makes you feel any better, I’ll always think of you that way. (My favorite line in the movie)

cue techno remix of the theme song and we’ll catch you later. Possibly hanging from a cliff in M:I2.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 14, 2010 9:10 am

    Nothing says De Palma like “plot explained to audience in painstaking detail”.

    Except maybe for getting plastered playing the wonky camera angles drinking game.

    Just having watched Jon Voight in The Rainmaker I’m impressed at the nuance with which he can portray a villain. Sadly his Phelps has none of that subtlety.

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