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'Mission: Impossible' -- and implausible

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Movie Review

May 23, 1996
Web posted at: 8:45 a.m. EDT

From Carol Buckland

(CNN) -- "Mission: Impossible" kicks off with a nifty title sequence accompanied by the famed TV theme and concludes with a knock-your-eyes-out chase that includes a helicopter, a high-speed train and a tunnel. (739K QuickTime movie)

What happens in between is a mess. It's convoluted and almost incomprehensible. No matter that the screenplay included input from David Koepp ("Jurassic Park"), Robert Towne (Oscar winner for "Chinatown," plus nominations for "Shampoo," "The Last Detail" and "Greystoke") and Steven Zaillian (Oscar winner for "Schindler's List"). The story doesn't hang together, and the cardboard characters do little to plug up the numerous plot holes.


Tom Cruise (who co-produced) stars as Ethan Hunt, a multi-lingual master of disguise whose crack Impossible Mission team is pretty much killed off during a confusing ambush early on in the film. He is wrongfully fingered as a traitor -- a "mole" in the employ of a mysterious arms dealer named Max.

Determined to clear his name and nab the real bad guys, Ethan recruits a couple of "disavowed" IMF agents and goes after a super-secret list of operatives kept inside the super-super-secret and supposedly totally secure IMF mainframe computer in CIA headquarters.

Stuff happens, some of it semi-exciting, a lot of it hard to follow.

Cruise sports pumped up pecs, a crop-top hair cut and a really callow attitude as Ethan. He is as unbelievable as he is humorless.

Jon Voight turns in a stiff, sorry performance as Jim Phelps (yes, gang, that Jim Phelps). Emmanuelle Beart plays Jim's wife, Claire. She's an IMF operative. Ethan supposedly has the hots for her, although you'd never know it from the script or Cruise's performance. Beart's role is tissue-paper thin; so is her on-screen work in this film. Her English leaves a bit to be desired as well.

There are some interesting flashes from Jean Reno and Ving Rhames as Krieger and Luther, the two "disavowed" agents Ethan recruits. Rhames -- who played Marsellus Wallace in "Pulp Fiction" -- seems to have endowed his character with an intriguing interior life. He brings a touch of wit and dimension to his role.

Henry Czerny ("Clear and Present Danger," "The Boys of St. Vincent") gives a funky edge to his mostly lame dialogue as Kittridge, the spymaster who may have set Hunt and the IMFers up.

Triumphing over everything is Vanessa Redgrave as Max, the mysterious arms dealer. She gives a deliciously wicked performance and blows Cruise totally off screen in their two big scenes. She toys with him -- queen cat to his barely adequate mouse. It's almost embarrassing.

Brian De Palma's direction is flashy, although he borrows from a lot of peoples' work. The breaking-into-the-secure-computer-room scene, for example, will seem familiar to anyone who's seen "Topkapi."

The "set" pieces of this film come off like clockwork, but there's no connective tissue -- no story line, no solid characterization, etc. In the end, De Palma's work seems full of sound and visual fury without signifying much of anything.

Put it this way. You may decide to accept this "Mission: Impossible," but I found my attention span self-destructing after the first 30 minutes. (1MB QuickTime movie)

"Mission: Impossible" is rated PG-13, mainly because of violence and some coarse language.

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