Mission: Impossible

on May 22, 1996 by Susan Lambert
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   The mission: Turn a hit, hip '60s television show into a $100 million, mega-ton blockbuster hit. Make it big. Keep it tight. The team: Superstar Tom Cruise--pointman producer and midwestern-suave James Bond wannabe, Ethan Hunt. He's good with the ladies, easy on the peepers, able to leap from speeding trains to speeding helicopters in a single bound and still keep his hair looking good. Director Brian De Palma--prone to overkill and shameful imitation, but knows how to pace a movie and keep the pressure on his characters. He pulls out all the stops to create tension here that is too often artificial, albeit effective to an audience that doesn't think too hard. Beautiful and pouty Emmanuaelle Beart ("Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud") will be the requisite intriguing French girl, but don't give her anything to do, she's a girl after all.
   Last of all, Henry Czerny ("Clear and Present Danger"), "Pulp Fiction's" Ving Rhames and Vanessa Redgrave ("Howards End") are the supremely talented back-up team who can produce magic out of thin air, wringing intriguing performances out of comic book characters.
   The obstacles and pitfalls to watch: "Runaway Train's" Jon Voight, as Jim Phelps, is a great actor in the wrong role who's simply not up to the physical and star-studded requirements. Good set-pieces, particularly the CIA headquarters heist, are fabulously wrought and milked to great effect, but a sense of real danger is missing from the film. Thick with plot, but thin on story, this mission proves that $64 million dollars can buy you one heck of an elaborate television episode. Of course, despite some clever twists of comic book fun, the impact of the movie will self-destruct five seconds after you see it, but it sure makes a nice wisp of smoke when it goes. Starring Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart and Henry Czerny. Directed by Brian De Palma. Written by David Koepp and Robert Towne. Produced by Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner. A Paramount release. Action. Rated PG-13 for some intense action violence. Running time: 112 min
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