The stunt work was sensationally spectacular, and Tom Cruise did much dauntless derring-do. But what I remember most vividly about my first exposure to “Mission: Impossible” at a 1996 L.A. press junket were the heated arguments among a group of my fellow critics.
Some of them were positively incensed that the heroic lead character in the popular 1966-73 TV series that inspired the film had been reconstituted in Brian De Palma’s big-screen reboot as a treacherous turncoat. Indeed, a few malcontents went so far as predicting the film would be angrily rejected by likeminded fans of the source material — and probably shrugged off by whippersnappers with no memory of the original show.
Which, of course, is exactly what happened. Not.
This week marks the 25th anniversary of the release of “Mission: Impossible,” the first entry in what has turned out to be the second-longest running movie franchise (after “Star Trek”) ever spawned by a live-action television series. And while there have been better and lesser sequels, Tom Cruise’s charismatic portrayal of Impossible Missions Force agent Ethan Hunt — a character turbo-charged by alternating currents of ice-cold calculation and death-defying spontaneity, selfless loyalty and self-assured snark — has been a reliable constant for a quarter century.
My mission — and I’ve decided to accept it: Slightly revise rankings of all six “Mission: Impossible” movies that I originally prepared for Variety three years ago. At least one film has been moved up a notch, after I was able to re-watch and reappraise certain titles during the extended Covid-19 lockdown. For the most part, though, I have remained consistent. Just like Ethan Hunt.