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Your Mission, should You Choose to Accept It – Revisiting Mission: Impossible


Since Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation was released, I decided to revisit the film series and rank the films in order of enjoyment for me. Plus I had no idea that my wife never saw the first 2 movies so it certainly was perfect timing. I’ll tackle the movies in theatrical release order then at the end give my personal rankings

Mission: Impossible (1996) Directed by Brian De Palma


The first film is closest in spirit to the original television series. It presents itself as a spy thriller and the elements that made the show fun to watch are presented here. De Palma really did a fantastic job in bringing this to the big screen, at the same time a new audience who had never seen the show (I was 11 when this came out). Aside from some changes to the character of Jim Phelps, this is a taut and pretty engaging spy thriller with great set pieces and who can forget this moment: 

De Palma’s films to me always seem to exist slightly one off of the rest of reality and Mission: Impossible is no different. Although taking place in real world locales, they feel almost like an alternate version of those locations. The tension builds, the action is good and it’s the only one in the series where Cruise feels like a spy. The rest of the series did not take on this style, but I would certainly welcome it back.

Mission: Impossible 2 (2000) Directed by John Woo 

This was the first film in the series I actually saw in theaters. I remember watching it and being totally thrilled from beginning to end. I thought it was going to go down as one of the defining action films ever. I was 15 years old. After seeing it again, at age 30, I see how the mind plays tricks on you. 

John Woo’s style is totally prevalent throughout the film, but that’s not really the issue. I can appreciate the stylistic changes as we will see it becomes a staple of the franchise. The problem is that it takes itself way too seriously. The film’s threat of a deadly virus never feels real enough. I think that is due to a weak antagonist who is worst than Bond’s worst villain. The romance has no chemistry which takes away any emotional investment we may have. Ethan is a  superagent and never feels in danger. The camera lets us know this many times. Plus we get no tension during the break-in of the pharmaceutical company because the score is in the way so much. And the rock vibe of the theme is annoying as well.

I thought this movie was wall to wall action, but it’s not even that. However when we do get to the action it’s fantastic. It’s still an ok enough of a ride for a bored Saturday afternoon if it’s on TV.

Mission: Impossible III (2006) Directed by J. J. Abrams 


I saw M:I 3 twice in theaters and once when it was released on DVD. After this recent viewing, I forgot how good this installment was. J.J. Abrams is in the director’s chair this time around and like his predecessors De Palma and Woo, his style is felt throughout. 


Ethan is now an IMF instructor and engaged to a nurse named Julia (Michelle Monaghan) who is unaware of his true work. He is thrust back into the field when a former protege is kidnapped by arms dealer Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman). The focus of the film involves the hunt for the “Rabbit’s Foot” a macguffin if there ever was one. 

Believe it or not this the most personal film in the series as we get to see two of Ethan’s relationships center stage. His and Julia’s and his relationship with his protégée Lindsey (Keri Russell). Even though Lindsey has short screen time, you can see the turmoil on Ethan throughout as he internalizes responsibility. If she fails it is because he failed to train her properly. This carries over into the climax of the film when he has to instruct Julia in how to use a gun to protect herself. There actually is a bit of character development here that isn’t prevalent in the rest of their series. 

Fantastic action sequences, character development and Ethan’s most terrifying antagonist make the third film a huge improvement over the second.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) Directed by Brad Bird 


Ethan’s fourth mission is certainly an action extravaganza. Here he and his team are blamed for an international incident and are on the run with no backup or government backing. They have been disavowed and work to clear their name.

This film has a lot of fantastic action sequences. An awesome sandstorm scene and a scaling of a really tall building in Dubai are the highlights for me.

Cruise and Pegg return from M:I-3 and we are introduced to Renner’s Brandt and Paula Patton as Jane Carter. In addition to some awesome action, we see the team dynamic with Ethan more than previous films. As the series goes on I begin to see Ethan as more of a selfless character as opposed to being a fictionalized avatar of Tom Cruise.  

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015) Directed By Chrisopher McQuarrie

Check out the DeaconsDen review of the 5th film Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Series Rankings: 

5) Mission: Impossible 2

4) Mission: Impossible (A hard decision as I really love this one.)

3) Mission: Impossible 3 (Difficult to place this and the first one. I forgot how good this one actually is.)

2) Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

1) Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol

There you have it folks. The DeaconsDen coverage of the Mission: Impossible series. For having so few films over a long period of time, it very manages to keep fresh. I hope that the sixth installment is as fun as all the others have been.

2 responses to “Your Mission, should You Choose to Accept It – Revisiting Mission: Impossible”

  1. Good stuff! I still stand by MI:2. I know it generally takes a beating and the criticisms are valid. But I never find myself bored or disappointed in it.

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