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Hollywood Rewind | Mission Impossible: Tom Cruise’s first mission that started it all

It has been over two decades since Tom Cruise-starrer Mission Impossible I first graced the screen. Who knew at the time that the Mission Impossible movies would turn into a franchise behemoth? Gravity defying, big-screen spectacles with an always in-form Cruise at the helm. It was the Brian De Palma movie that started it all in 1996. Since then, there has been no looking back for its hero or even its distributor, Paramount Pictures. With every film, the stunts have gotten crazier, and so has the leading man’s capacity for performing them with finesse.

However, had it not been for De Palma’s larger-than-life vision nearly 25 years ago, everything would have come to naught. In the original film, we see Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and his mentor Jon Voight’s Jim Phelps take on an outrageous mission which (SPOILERS FOLLOW) leads them to Phelps’ untimely death. Post this mishap, Hunt is accused of murdering his boss, so he decides to prove himself innocent by breaking into the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) building in order to retrieve an important file. Here, the makers want you to keep you at the edge of your seats by posing this question — ‘Will Ethan Hunt succeed?’. But in anyone’s mind, who has seen enough hero-driven movies, there is no doubt that Cruise’s Ethan Hunt would pass this ‘impossible’ test with flying colours. What holds your attention here (or had my attention at the very least) are the moves the ‘super’ spy makes leading up to the grand finale.

The crackerjack action set piece that had Hunt breaking into the CIA building remains one of the best action sequences of all times. There were no planes to jump off from, there were no speeding motorbikes, only an actor dangling from a wire and a single drop of perspiration, which, if it fell to the floor, will finish everything. De Palma, a master who knew how to create tension without resorting to gimmicks, ensured that Cruise was not the only one who was sweating in the scene. Along with the climactic action on top of the train, the film reinvented the genre and the actor who will come to symbolise it in Hollywood.

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Bear in mind that this was the mid 90s, resources and capital were not available in abundance, and most of all, the visual effects technology was still more or less in its nascent stage. Despite the obvious lack of these things, which is so crucial to an actioner like MI, the movie went on to become a big success and has spawned six films to date; Cruise had been filming the seventh when he had to halt shoot due to the pandemic.

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Sure, Mission Impossible has flaws. There is little character development and even less detailing as far as the overall script is concerned. The plot proves to be a chaotic mess at times, with reason and logic taking a backseat. Inspite of these drawbacks, the feature achieves what it had set out to do — keep the audience guessing the next step. The villain twist was certainly delicious given the time it was released in. And most of all, we have to thank the OG for giving us a character like Ethan Hunt, who with Mission Impossible: Fallout, proved that he is still the ‘baddest’ badass of them all!

You can watch Mission Impossible on Amazon Prime Video.

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