Find The Wrong Man? Sounds like a Mission Impossible.

Movies watched:  The Wrong Man, Mission: Impossible, Mission: Impossible 2, Mission: Impossible 3, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Where watched:  Home

Time:  105 minutes, 110 minutes, 123 minutes, 125 minutes, 133 minutes, 131 minutes

Total elapsed time:  1 day, 19 hours, 53 minutes

I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man so i could post a rather detailed analysis on my alfredhitchblog site.  When watching the Hitchcock movies, I often watch the films (or at least sections of the films) multiple times.  So I wondered, should I count multiple viewings of the same movie in my cumulative time total?  I decided against it.  At any rate, The Wrong Man is a very good, and very underrated Hitchcock movie.  If you want to learn more about it, check out my alfredhitchblog review here.

I then watched all 5 Mission:  Impossible movies in a row.  (Not all in one day, but over the course of a week).   This is my favorite action movie franchise, by far.  Each movie has a different director, each one has it own look and feel.  And there are no duds in the series.  So here are some random observations on the movies in the series.

mission1

The original Mission:  Impossible is often mentioned as the slowest-paced entry in the franchise.  Yet it set the template that has been followed in every successive film.   There is a break-in, or heist, at a high-security facility, and there is at least one high-speed chase.  I’m a big fan of Brian DePalma, and although he is often guilty of the style-over-substance claims made about his movies, he often has a style worth watching.  Someone who saw the later entries in the franchise first would probably be bored with this movie, because it is a bit slower paced.  But the story never lags, and the characters are all interesting.

The head of the IMF changes in each movie.  In this entry he is played (quite well) by Henry Czerny.

I won’t say who the “bad guys” are in this one, in case someone hasn’t seen it, because identities are not what they seem.

Team members:  Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emilio Estevez, Ving Rhames, Jean Reno.

As the franchise-launching movie, this film made almost half a billion worldwide (big money in 1996), and while not perfect, it is Mission:  Enjoyable.

mission2

Mission:  Impossible 2 could not be more different from the first film.  John Woo has a very distinct aesthetic, and it is all on display here:  the doves flying in slow motion, the two-fisted handgun shooting, the balletic motorcycle chases.  The first movie was shot in a cold, muted color palette.  The sequel has a deep, rich tone.

The plot of this movie owes a nod to Alfred Hitchcock.  The idea of a woman seducing a bad guy to obtain information is borrowed directly from Notorious.   On the movie’s commentary track, John Woo also says that the car chase sequence between Tom Cruise and Thandie Newton was inspired by Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief.  

The head of the IMF:  Anthony Hopkins

The bad guys:  Dougray Scott, Richard Roxburg

The team:  Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, John Polson, Thandie Newton

Crazy stunt actually done by Tom Cruise:  rock climbing, high-speed motorcycle chase

This is the lowest-rated movie in the franchise on Rotten Tomatoes, currently sitting at 57%.  While Woo’s slo-mo shots and flying doves get old in a hurry, the movie is engaging, and actually better than I remember it.   This is Mission:  Congenial

mission3

It’s kinda weird to think of Mission:  Impossible 3 as J.J. Abram’s directorial debut.  Who would’ve believed that he would go on to revive the two most popular sci-fi franchises in movie history.   He definitely has a sure hand here.   Ethan Hunt, the IMF agent played by Tom Cruise, is married in this installment, to the beautiful Michelle Monaghan.  She thinks he works for the Dept. of Transportation.  Boy, is she in for a surprise, when Hunt’s professional and personal world’s collide.   The stakes are much higher when Cruise is fighting to rescue his wife.

The head of the IMF:  Laurence Fishburne

The bad guys:  Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eddie Marsan

The team:  Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Maggie Q, Simon Pegg, Billy Crudup

This movie is currently rated at the very modest 70% on Rotten Tomatoes.  I think were it made today it would be rated higher, because it is a very good movie.  Philip Seymour Hoffman is the best villain in the franchise to date.  The relationship between Ving Rhames and Tom Cruise is solidified with the banter they have during the mission.  The film looks great, and the stunt sequences are fantastic.   It also has a very high re-watch value.

Mission:  Rewatchable

mission4

Brad Bird was a bit of a shocker to direct this movie.  He had only directed animated movies up to this point.  Granted, they were all fantastic (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille), but handing him the reins to this franchise was still surprising.  All he did was direct the best movie in the franchise to date.  This time around, the IMF is disavowed, and a handful of “ghost” agents must try to prevent a world catastrophe, and clear their names.   This is the longest movie in the franchise, but doesn’t feel like it.  It is engaging from the first minute to the last.

IMF director:  Tom Wilkinson

Bad guy:  Michael Nyqvist

Team members:  Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton

Crazy stunt actually done by Tom Cruise:  Climbing, and hanging off of, and running down the side of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.  This sequence, shot in 70mm, is one of the greatest action sequences ever filmed, and is beyond breathtaking on the big screen.

My only (very minor) quibbles with this movie:  Ving Rhames character Luther appears only in cameo.   I also thought it was a missed opportunity not bringing back either Maggie Q or Jonathan Rhys Meyers from MI3.  That being said, this is an incredible movie.

Mission:  Exceptional

mission5

I went to see this movie with some trepidation.  It seemed like Brad Bird’s installment could never be topped.  Also, Christopher McQuarrie was known more as a screenwriter than director.   Would he be able to handle it?  Yes, he would.  This movie has the most repeat characters of any movie in the series.  Basically Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, and Ving Rhames are the team now.  This time Cruise is after the Syndicate (who was mentioned at the very end of MI4), a creation of the original TV series.

McQuarrie quite rightly realized that he couldn’t top the Burj Khalifa sequence from the last movie, at least in terms of spectacle.  So he didn’t try.  He went in a different direction.    Of course Cruise does some crazy stunts.  But the centerpiece of this movie takes place in the Vienna Opera House, and it is one of the best sequences of the entire franchise.  Sean Harris, in the role of Solomon Lane, the head of the Syndicate, is a great villian, arguably the best in the franchise.  Hopefully we haven’t seen the last of him.

This film has the best look of the series.  Academy Award-winning cinematographer Robert Elswit lit this film brilliantly.  It doesn’t have the look of a “typical” action movie.

IMF head:  Alec Baldwin (he’s actually the CIA director, but the CIA absorbs the IMF in this movie)

Bad guys:  Sean Harris, Jens Hulten

Team members:  Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Ferguson

This movie does not surpass the last entry in the franchise, but it does not try to.  Christopher McQuarrie has made a movie that is as exciting, and entertaining as any other in the series.

Mission:  Spectacular

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