Mission: Impossible (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Brian De Palma|
|Produced by||Tom Cruise
|Screenplay by||David Koepp
|Story by||David Koepp
|Based on||Mission: Impossible
by Bruce Geller
Kristin Scott Thomas
|Music by||Danny Elfman
Lalo Schifrin (themes)
|Cinematography||Stephen H. Burum|
|Editing by||Paul Hirsch|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||110 minutes|
|Box office||$457,696,359 (worldwide)|
Mission: Impossible (also known in the Blu-ray release as M:I) is a 1996 American spy film directed by Brian De Palma and starring Tom Cruise. Based on the television series of the same name, the plot follows a new agent, Ethan Hunt and his mission to uncover the mole who has framed him for the murders of his entire IMF team. Work on the script had begun early with filmmaker Sydney Pollack on board, before De Palma, Steven Zaillian, David Koepp, and Robert Towne were brought in. Mission: Impossible went into pre-production without a shooting script. De Palma came up with some action sequences, but Koepp and Towne were dissatisfied with the story that led up to those events.
U2 band members Larry Mullen, Jr. and Adam Clayton produced an electronic dance version of the original theme song. The song went into top ten of music charts around the world and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. The film was the third-highest-grossing of the year and received positive reviews from film critics. The film marked the beginning of a film series, with sequels Mission: Impossible II, III and Ghost Protocol released in 2000, 2006 and 2011, respectively. A fifth film, Mission: Impossible V, is in development with Cruise reprising his role.
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is part of a small team of the Impossible Missions Force (IMF), an unofficial branch of the Central Intelligence Agency. Led by Jim Phelps (Jon Voight), the team assembles for a mission in Prague to prevent Alexander Golitsyn, an American diplomat, from stealing the non-official cover (NOC) list, a comprehensive list of all covert agents in Eastern Europe, from the U.S. Embassy. The mission goes hopelessly wrong, apparently resulting in the deaths of the entire team except for Ethan. Technician Jack Harmon (Emilio Estevez) is impaled in an elevator shaft, Jim is shot on a bridge by an unknown assailant, Hannah Williams (Ingeborga Dapkunaite) and Jim's wife Claire (Emmanuelle Béart) are both killed by a car bomb and both Sarah Davies (Kristin Scott Thomas) and Golitsyn are stabbed to death by an unknown assailant, and the NOC list is stolen.
After fleeing the scene, Ethan meets with IMF director Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny) at a café where they discuss the events of that night. Eventually, Ethan realizes that a second IMF team was watching his team during the failed operation. Kittridge then discloses that the operation was a setup meant to draw out a mole in the IMF. The mole has made a deal to sell the list to an arms dealer known as "Max" as part of an operation called "Job 314". As a result, the NOC list taken in the mission was a fake and the computer disk it is on is rigged with a tracking device. After Kittridge informs Ethan of his suspicion that Ethan is the mole, Ethan blows up the floor-to-ceiling aquarium with a stick of explosive chewing gum in the café and flees.
Ethan returns to the IMF safe house where, realizing that "Job 314" refers to a Bible verse in the Book of Job (and presumably the mole's codename as well), Ethan begins email correspondence with Max (Vanessa Redgrave) over a biblical correspondence web site and warns Max about the fake NOC list. Ethan then encounters Claire and discovers that she has survived the mission, having gotten out of the car in which she was waiting before it exploded.
Max arranges a meeting with Ethan where he offers to deliver the real NOC list in exchange for $10 million and a face-to-face meeting with the real Job. Max agrees and she and Ethan then escape moments before a CIA team, alerted by the tracking device, arrives in search of the fake NOC list. Ethan assembles a team of disavowed agents: computer expert Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and obsessive pilot Franz Krieger (Jean Reno), who claims it is a bank heist. Ethan, Luther, Krieger, and Claire infiltrate the CIA's headquarters and successfully steal the full NOC list before escaping to a safe house in London.
While in London, Ethan discovers that his uncle and mother have been falsely arrested for drug trafficking in an attempt by Kittridge to lure him out of hiding. This infuriates Ethan, and he contacts Kittridge who offers to drop the charges if Ethan surrenders. Ethan stays on the line long enough for Kittridge to trace him to London and then hangs up, only to find Jim—wounded, but alive—standing next to him.
Jim, presumed dead in the Prague operation and following Ethan ever since, tells Ethan that Kittridge is the mole and is trying to tie up loose ends. As Ethan listens, he mentally pieces together the operation and realizes that Jim, having become disillusioned with his work, is actually Job and that Krieger—who uses the same distinctive make of knife that was used to kill Sarah and Golitsyn and steal the NOC list—has assisted him. However, Ethan is still doubtful about Claire's place in the conspiracy.
The next day, Max and Ethan arrange to meet aboard the TGV en route to Paris, with Claire and Luther aboard to provide backup. Kittridge is also aboard, having received tickets and a watch from Ethan. Aboard the train, Ethan delivers the NOC list to Max, who directs him to the baggage car to find his money and Job. Claire arrives in the baggage car to meet with her husband, revealing her complicity as she suggests that they leave with the money and let Ethan take the blame. Jim suddenly peels his face away, revealing himself to be Ethan in disguise. They are interrupted by the arrival of the real Jim Phelps: unhinged, armed and demanding that Ethan hand over the money. Ethan does so, but then slowly puts on a pair of glasses from the original operation in Prague, with a camera built into the bridge. The image of Jim, alive, is transmitted to the watch Ethan sent to Kittridge, exposing Job's true identity.
Claire tries to intervene, but Jim kills her and climbs up to the roof of the train, while Krieger, also revealed as a traitor, approaches in a helicopter to extract him. Ethan follows him onto the roof, impeding him and tethering Krieger's helicopter to the train, dragging it into the Channel Tunnel. In the tunnel, Jim leaps to the helicopter. Ethan follows, climbing the helicopter's landing skids and attaching another piece of explosive chewing gum, a final relic of Prague, to the windshield. He leaps back to the train just as the ensuing explosion kills Krieger and Jim is crushed in between the copter remains and the tracks.
Now with custody of the NOC list, Max, and Job's true identity, Kittridge reinstates Luther and Ethan as IMF agents. He also drops his investigation against Ethan, who resigns from the IMF. As he flies home, a flight attendant approaches him and asks, through a coded phrase, if he is ready to take on a new mission.
- Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt
- Jon Voight as Jim Phelps
- Emmanuelle Béart as Claire Phelps
- Henry Czerny as Eugene Kittridge
- Jean Reno as Franz Krieger
- Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell
- Kristin Scott Thomas as Sarah Davies
- Vanessa Redgrave as Max
- Ingeborga Dapkūnaitė as Hannah Williams
- Karel Dobrý as Matthias
- Dale Dye as Frank Barnes
- Emilio Estevez as Jack Harmon (uncredited)
Paramount Pictures owned the rights to the television series and had tried for years to make a film version but had failed to come up with a viable treatment. Tom Cruise had been a fan of the show since he was young and thought that it would be a good idea for a film. The actor chose Mission: Impossible to be the first project of his new production company and convinced Paramount to put up a $70 million budget. Cruise and his producing partner, Paula Wagner, worked on a story with filmmaker Sydney Pollack for a few months when the actor hired Brian De Palma to direct. They went through two screenplay drafts that no one liked. De Palma brought in screenwriters Steve Zaillian, David Koepp, and finally Robert Towne. According to the director, the goal of the script was to "constantly surprise the audience." Reportedly, Koepp was paid $1 million to rewrite an original script by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz. According to one project source, there were problems with dialogue and story development. However, the basic plot remained intact.
The film went into pre-production without a script that the filmmakers wanted to use. De Palma designed the action sequences but neither Koepp nor Towne were satisfied with the story that would make these sequences take place. Towne ended up helping organize a beginning, middle and end to hang story details on while De Palma and Koepp worked on the plot. De Palma convinced Cruise to set the first act of the film in Prague, a city rarely seen in Hollywood films at the time. Reportedly, studio executives wanted to keep the film's budget in the $40–50 million range, but Cruise wanted a "big, showy action piece" that took the budget up to the $62 million range. The scene that takes place in a glass-walled restaurant with a big lobster tank in the middle and three huge fish tanks overhead was Cruise's idea. There were 16 tons in all of the tanks and there was a concern that when they detonated, a lot of glass would fly around. De Palma tried the sequence with a stuntman, but it did not look convincing and he asked Cruise to do it, despite the possibility that the actor could have drowned.
The script that Cruise approved called for a final showdown to take place on top of a moving train. The actor wanted to use the famously fast French train the TGV but rail authorities did not want any part of the stunt performed on their trains. When that was no longer a problem, the track was not available. De Palma visited railroads on two continents trying to get permission. Cruise took the train owners out to dinner and the next day they were allowed to use it. For the actual sequence, the actor wanted wind that was so powerful that it could knock him off the train. Cruise had difficulty finding the right machine that would create the wind velocity that would look visually accurate before remembering a simulator he used while training as a skydiver. The only machine of its kind in Europe was located and acquired. Cruise had it produce winds up to 140 miles per hour so it would distort his face. Most of the sequence, however, was filmed on a stage against a blue screen for later digitizing by the visual effects team at Industrial Light & Magic.
The filmmakers delivered the film on time and under budget with Cruise doing most of his own stunts. Initially, there was a sophisticated opening sequence that introduced a love triangle between Phelps, his wife and Ethan Hunt that was removed because it took the test audience "out of the genre", according to De Palma. There were rumors that the actor and De Palma did not get along and they were fueled by the director excusing himself at the last moment from scheduled media interviews before the film's theatrical release.
Apple Computer had a $15 million promotion linked to the film that included a game, print ads and television spot featuring scenes from the TV show turned into the feature film; dealer and in-theater promos; and a placement of Apple personal computers in the film. This was an attempt on Apple's part to improve their image after posting a $740 million loss in its fiscal second quarter.
Original cast 
Several cast members of the original 1966–73 TV series reacted negatively to the film.
Actor Greg Morris, who portrayed Barney Collier in the original television series, was reportedly disgusted with the film's treatment of the Phelps character, and he walked out of the theater before the film ended. Peter Graves, who played Jim Phelps in the original series as well as in the late-1980s revival, also disliked how Phelps turned out in the film. Graves had been offered a role playing Phelps, but turned it down when he learned his character was going to be revealed to be a traitor.
Martin Landau, who portrayed Rollin Hand in the original series, expressed his own disgust concerning the film. In an MTV interview in October 2009, Landau stated, "When they were working on an early incarnation of the first one — not the script they ultimately did — they wanted the entire team to be destroyed, done away with one at a time, and I was against that. It was basically an action-adventure movie and not Mission. Mission was a mind game. The ideal mission was getting in and getting out without anyone ever knowing we were there. So the whole texture changed. Why volunteer to essentially have our characters commit suicide? I passed on it." He added, as a condemnation of the writers, "The script wasn't that good either."
Box office 
Mission: Impossible opened on May 22, 1996, in 3,012 theaters—the most ever up to that point—and broke the record for a film opening on Wednesday with US$11.8 million, beating the $11.7 million Terminator 2 made in 1991. The film also set house records in several theaters around the United States. Mission: Impossible grossed $75 million in its first six days, surpassing the previous record holder, Jurassic Park, and took in more than $56 million over the four-day Memorial Day weekend, beating out previous record holder, The Flintstones. Cruise deferred his usual $20 million fee for a significant percentage of the box office. The film went on to make $180.9 million in North America and $276.7 million in the rest of the world for a worldwide total of $457.6 million.
Critical response 
The film received mixed to positive reviews from critics and has a 61 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 60 metascore for Metacritic. Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars and wrote, "This is a movie that exists in the instant, and we must exist in the instant to enjoy it." In his review for The New York Times, Stephen Holden addressed the film's convoluted plot: "If that story doesn't make a shred of sense on any number of levels, so what? Neither did the television series, in which basic credibility didn't matter so long as its sci-fi popular mechanics kept up the suspense." USA Today gave the film three out of four stars and said that it was "stylish, brisk but lacking in human dimension despite an attractive cast, the glass is either half-empty or half-full here, though the concoction goes down with ease." However, Hal Hinson, in his review for The Washington Post, wrote, "There are empty thrills, and some suspense. But throughout the film, we keep waiting for some trace of personality, some color in the dialogue, some hipness in the staging or in the characters' attitudes. And it's not there." Time magazine's Richard Schickel wrote, "What is not present in Mission: Impossible (which, aside from the title, sound-track quotations from the theme song and self-destructing assignment tapes, has little to do with the old TV show) is a plot that logically links all these events or characters with any discernible motives beyond surviving the crisis of the moment." Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "B" rating, and Owen Gleiberman wrote, "The problem isn't that the plot is too complicated; it's that each detail is given the exact same nagging emphasis. Intriguing yet mechanistic, jammed with action yet as talky and dense as a physics seminar, the studiously labyrinthine Mission: Impossible grabs your attention without quite tickling your imagination."
American Film Institute recognition:
This film utilizes the original Lalo Schifrin television theme music. However, originally Alan Silvestri was earmarked to do the incidental music and had, in fact, recorded somewhere around 23 minutes of the score. During post production, due to creative differences, Silvestri's music was rejected and replaced by new music by composer Danny Elfman. Silvestri's music does exist and bootlegs of this have been released on CD. In addition, clips of the film with the original Silvestri score in appropriate places were available on the Internet. According to some sources Silvestri had to quit because of Tom Cruise.
U2 bandmates Larry Mullen, Jr. and Adam Clayton were fans of the TV show and knew the original theme song well, but were nervous about remaking Lalo Schifrin's legendary theme song. Clayton put together his own version in New York City and Mullen did his in Dublin on weekends between U2 recording sessions. The two musicians were influenced by Brian Eno and the European dance club scene sound of the recently finished album Passengers. They allowed Polygram to pick its favorite and they wanted both. In a month, they had two versions of the song and five remixed by DJs. All seven tracks appeared on a limited edition vinyl release.
The song entered the top 10 of music charts around the world, was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance in 1997, and was a critical and commercial success.
Score album 
Elfman's score was released on June 28, 1996 by POINT Music. Some of Elfman's cues are also included on the soundtrack album.
- Sleeping Beauty (2:28)
- Mission: Impossible Theme – Lalo Schifrin (1:02)
- Red Handed (4:21)
- Big Trouble (5:33)
- Love Theme? (2:21)
- Mole Hunt (3:02)
- The Disc (1:54)
- Max Found (1:02)
- Looking For "Job" (4:38)
- Betrayal (2:46)
- The Heist (5:46)
- Uh-Oh! (1:28)
- Biblical Revelation (1:33)
- Phone Home (2:25)
- Train Time (4:11)
- Menage a Trois (2:55)
- Zoom A (1:53)
- Zoom B (2:54)
- Portman, Jamie (May 18, 1996). "Cruise's Mission Accomplished". The Gazette (Montreal). p. E3.
- Penfield III, Wilder (May 19, 1996). "The Impossible Dream". Toronto Sun. p. S3.
- Green, Tom (May 22, 1996). "Handling an impossible task A 'Mission' complete with intrigue". USA Today. p. 1D.
- Brennan, Judy (December 16, 1995). "Cruise's Mission". Entertainment Weekly.
- Wolff, Ellen (May 22, 1996). "Mission Uses Sound of Silence". Variety.
- Enrico, Dottie (April 30, 1996). "Apple's mission: Hollywood Computer ads take new turn". USA Today. p. 4B.
- 'Mission: Impossible' TV stars disgruntled, CNN, May 29, 1996.
- "Interview with Maggie Q". CNN. November 14, 2007.
- Martin Landau Discusses 'Mission: Impossible' Movies (blog), MTV, October 29, 2009.
- Thomas, Karen (May 24, 1996). "'Mission' is successful, breaks Wednesday record". USA Today. p. 1D.
- Hindes, Andrew (May 24, 1996). "Mission Cruises to B.O. Record". Variety. p. 1.
- Weinraub, Bernard (May 28, 1996). "Cruise's Thriller Breaking Records". The New York Times. p. 15.
- "Mission: Impossible". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
- Ebert, Roger (May 31, 1996). "Mission: Impossible". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
- Holden, Stephen (May 22, 1996). "Mission: Impossible". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
- Clark, Mike (May 22, 1996). "Should you decide to accept it, plot works". USA Today. p. 1D.
- Hinson, Hal (May 22, 1996). "De Palma's Mission Implausible". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
- Schickel, Richard (May 27, 1996). "Movie: Improbable". Time. Retrieved 2009-05-21.
- Gleiberman, Owen (May 31, 1996). "Mission: Impossible". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-05-21.
- AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains Nominees
- "Climactic train scene with the original Alan Silvestri score", YouTube, Google.
- Thaxton, Ford A; Larson, Randall D (17 February 2009), "Composer Alan Silvestri Disavowed", Soundtrack Magazine (EU: Run movies) 19 (74).
- Gunderson, Edna (May 15, 1996). "U2 members on a 'Mission' remix". USA Today. p. 12D.
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- Mission: Impossible at the Internet Movie Database
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- Mission: Impossible at Rotten Tomatoes
- Mission: Impossible at Metacritic
- Mission: Impossible at Box Office Mojo
- Mission: Impossible at The Numbers