Mission: Impossible (also known in the Blu-ray release as M:I) is a 1996 American actionspy film directed by Brian De Palma, produced by and starring Tom Cruise. Based on the television series of the same name, the plot follows Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his mission to uncover the mole who has framed him for the murders of his entire IMF team. Work on the script had begun early with filmmaker Sydney Pollack on board, before De Palma, Steven Zaillian, David Koepp, and Robert Towne were brought in. Mission: Impossible went into pre-production without a shooting script. De Palma came up with some action sequences, but Koepp and Towne were dissatisfied with the story that led up to those events.
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is the 'point man' of an Impossible Missions Force (IMF) team led by Jim Phelps (Jon Voight). The team is ordered to prevent the theft of the non-official cover (NOC) list from the American embassy in Prague. The mission goes wrong: Hunt sees Phelps, via Phelps' video glasses, being shot, and Phelps' wife Claire (Emmanuelle Béart) die in a car bomb, and the rest of the team is quickly eliminated, leaving Hunt the only surviving member. Hunt later regroups with IMF director Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny) to debrief, but learns that the job was a setup and the NOC list was a fake to lure out a mole within IMF, who IMF believed would sell the NOC list to an arms dealer known as "Max" as part of "Job 314." As Hunt is the only member left, Kittridge suspects him of being the mole. Hunt creates a distraction to enable himself to flee before capture.
Hunt returns to the Prague safe house and realizes "Job 314" refers to the Bible verse, Job 3:14, with "Job" as an agent of Max. Claire arrives at the safe house, explaining that she escaped the car bomb after Phelps ordered the then-remaining team members to abort the mission and walk away (orders which Ethan had ignored). Hunt is unsure at first, but Claire's reaction to the news of her husband's death convinces him to trust her. Hunt is able to communicate with Max via email, and arranges a meeting. Hunt is taken to Max (Vanessa Redgrave), and warns her the NOC list she possesses has a tracking device that will lure the CIA there, while promising to deliver the real NOC list for $10 million and the identity of Job. Hunt, Max, and her agents escape just as a CIA team arrives, and Max agrees to give Ethan a small upfront payment for the list in gratitude for warning her.
Hunt recruits two disavowed IMF agents: computer expert Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and obsessive pilot Franz Krieger (Jean Reno). The four successfully infiltrate CIA's headquarters in Langley, Virginia and steal the real NOC list before fleeing to London, though their theft is detected by Kittridge. Kittridge arranges for Hunt's mother and uncle to be falsely arrested for drug trafficking and provide wide media coverage of it, forcing Hunt to call Kittridge. Hunt times the call to allow the CIA to trace him to London before hanging up, but when he is done, Hunt is surprised to find Phelps nearby.
Phelps recounts the story of how he survived the shooting, naming Kittridge as the mole who set them up in Prague. Though he verbally agrees, Hunt realizes that Phelps is the mole and Max's "Job." Hunt also suspects Krieger had killed the other IMF members on the Prague job, but remains unsure whether or not Claire was involved. Hunt makes arrangements with Max to exchange the NOC list aboard the TGV high-speed train to Paris the next day, while sending tickets for the train to Kittridge.
On the train, Hunt remotely directs Max to the list. Max verifies the list and gives Hunt the keycode to a briefcase containing his payment along with Job in the baggage car. Ethan then calls Claire and tells her to meet him in the baggage car. Meanwhile, Stickell uses a jamming device to prevent Max from uploading the data to her servers. When Claire reaches the baggage car, she finds Phelps there, telling him Ethan will arrive shortly. She questions whether killing Ethan is a good idea, since they'll need a fall guy if they want to take the money for themselves. To Claire's surprise, Phelps then reveals himself to be Ethan in disguise, exposing her as a co-conspirator. Moments later, the real Phelps arrives and takes the money at gunpoint. Hunt dons a pair of video glasses that relays Phelps' existence to Kittridge, proving Hunt innocent of being Job and the mole.
With his cover blown, Phelps tries to kill Ethan but Claire intervenes and Phelps kills her. He then tries to escape with the money by climbing to the roof of the train, where Krieger is waiting with a helicopter with a tether. Despite the high-force winds caused by the high velocity, Hunt and Phelps fight atop the speeding train. At one point, Hunt is able to connect the tether to the train itself, forcing Krieger to pilot the helicopter into Channel Tunnel after the train. Hunt is able to place a piece of explosive chewing gum — a relic of the Prague mission — on the outside of Krieger's helicopter windshield, killing Phelps and Krieger. Aboard the train, Kittridge arrests Max and recovers the NOC list before it can be sent. Afterward, Kittridge reinstates Hunt and Stickell as IMF agents, but Hunt resigns. As he flies home, a flight attendant approaches him and asks, through a coded phrase, if he is ready to take on a new mission.
Paramount Pictures owned the rights to the television series and had tried for years to make a film version but had failed to come up with a viable treatment. Tom Cruise had been a fan of the show since he was young and thought that it would be a good idea for a film. The actor chose Mission: Impossible to be the first project of his new production company and convinced Paramount to put up a $70 million budget. Cruise and his producing partner, Paula Wagner, worked on a story with filmmaker Sydney Pollack for a few months when the actor hired Brian De Palma to direct. They went through two screenplay drafts that no one liked. De Palma brought in screenwriters Steve Zaillian, David Koepp, and finally Robert Towne. According to the director, the goal of the script was to "constantly surprise the audience." Reportedly, Koepp was paid $1 million to rewrite an original script by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz. According to one project source, there were problems with dialogue and story development. However, the basic plot remained intact.
The film went into pre-production without a script that the filmmakers wanted to use. De Palma designed the action sequences but neither Koepp nor Towne were satisfied with the story that would make these sequences take place. Towne ended up helping organize a beginning, middle and end to hang story details on while De Palma and Koepp worked on the plot. De Palma convinced Cruise to set the first act of the film in Prague, a city rarely seen in Hollywood films at the time.Reportedly, studio executives wanted to keep the film's budget in the $40–50 million range, but Cruise wanted a "big, showy action piece" that took the budget up to the $62 million range. The scene that takes place in a glass-walled restaurant with a big lobster tank in the middle and three huge fish tanks overhead was Cruise's idea. There were 16 tons in all of the tanks and there was a concern that when they detonated, a lot of glass would fly around. De Palma tried the sequence with a stuntman, but it did not look convincing and he asked Cruise to do it, despite the possibility that the actor could have drowned.
The script that Cruise approved called for a final showdown to take place on top of a moving train. The actor wanted to use the famously fast French train the TGVbut rail authorities did not want any part of the stunt performed on their trains. When that was no longer a problem, the track was not available. De Palma visited railroads on two continents trying to get permission. Cruise took the train owners out to dinner and the next day they were allowed to use it. For the actual sequence, the actor wanted wind that was so powerful that it could knock him off the train. Cruise had difficulty finding the right machine that would create the wind velocity that would look visually accurate before remembering a simulator he used while training as a skydiver. The only machine of its kind in Europe was located and acquired. Cruise had it produce winds up to 140 miles per hour so it would distort his face. Exterior shots of the train were filmed on the Glasgow South Western Line, between New Cumnock, Dumfries and Annan. Most of the sequence, however, was filmed on a stage against a blue screen for later digitizing by the visual effects team at Industrial Light & Magic.
The filmmakers delivered the film on time and under budget with Cruise doing most of his own stunts. Initially, there was a sophisticated opening sequence that introduced a love triangle between Phelps, his wife and Ethan Hunt that was removed because it took the test audience "out of the genre", according to De Palma.There were rumors that the actor and De Palma did not get along and they were fueled by the director excusing himself at the last moment from scheduled media interviews before the film's theatrical release.
Apple Computer had a $15 million promotion linked to the film that included a game, print ads and television spot featuring scenes from the TV show turned into the feature film; dealer and in-theater promos; and a placement of Apple personal computers in the film. This was an attempt on Apple's part to improve their image after posting a $740 million loss in its fiscal second quarter.
Actor Greg Morris, who portrayed Barney Collier in the original television series, was reportedly disgusted with the film's treatment of the Phelps character, and he walked out of the theater before the film ended. Peter Graves, who played Jim Phelps in the original series as well as in the late-1980s revival, also disliked how Phelps turned out in the film. Graves had been offered a role playing Phelps, but turned it down when he learned his character was going to be revealed to be a traitor.
Martin Landau, who portrayed Rollin Hand in the original series, expressed his own disgust concerning the film. In an MTV interview in October 2009, Landau stated, "When they were working on an early incarnation of the first one — not the script they ultimately did — they wanted the entire team to be destroyed, done away with one at a time, and I was against that. It was basically an action-adventure movie and not Mission. Mission was a mind game. The ideal mission was getting in and getting out without anyone ever knowing we were there. So the whole texture changed. Why volunteer to essentially have our characters commit suicide? I passed on it." He added, as a condemnation of the writers, "The script wasn't that good either."
Mission: Impossible opened on May 22, 1996, in 3,012 theaters—the most ever up to that point—and broke the record for a film opening on Wednesday with US$11.8 million, beating the $11.7 million Terminator 2: Judgment Day made in 1991. The film also set house records in several theaters around the United States. Mission: Impossible grossed $75 million in its first six days, surpassing the previous record holder, Jurassic Park, and took in more than $56 million over the four-day Memorial Day weekend, beating out previous record holder, The Flintstones. Cruise deferred his usual $20 million fee for a significant percentage of the box office. The film went on to make $180.9 million in North America and $276.7 million in the rest of the world for a worldwide total of $457.6 million.
The film has a 61% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 60 metascore for Metacritic. Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars and wrote, "This is a movie that exists in the instant, and we must exist in the instant to enjoy it." In his review for The New York Times, Stephen Holden addressed the film's convoluted plot: "If that story doesn't make a shred of sense on any number of levels, so what? Neither did the television series, in which basic credibility didn't matter so long as its sci-fi popular mechanics kept up the suspense." USA Today gave the film three out of four stars and said that it was "stylish, brisk but lacking in human dimension despite an attractive cast, the glass is either half-empty or half-full here, though the concoction goes down with ease." However, Hal Hinson, in his review for The Washington Post, wrote, "There are empty thrills, and some suspense. But throughout the film, we keep waiting for some trace of personality, some color in the dialogue, some hipness in the staging or in the characters' attitudes. And it's not there." Time magazine's Richard Schickel wrote, "What is not present in Mission: Impossible (which, aside from the title, sound-track quotations from the theme song and self-destructing assignment tapes, has little to do with the old TV show) is a plot that logically links all these events or characters with any discernible motives beyond surviving the crisis of the moment."Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "B" rating, and Owen Gleiberman wrote, "The problem isn't that the plot is too complicated; it's that each detail is given the exact same nagging emphasis. Intriguing yet mechanistic, jammed with action yet as talky and dense as a physics seminar, the studiously labyrinthine Mission: Impossiblegrabs your attention without quite tickling your imagination." The film was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Written Film Grossing Over $100 Million.
This film utilizes the original television theme music by Lalo Schifrin. However, originally Alan Silvestri was earmarked to do the incidental music and had, in fact, recorded somewhere around 23 minutes of the score. During post-production, due to creative differences, Silvestri's music was rejected and replaced by new music by composer Danny Elfman. Silvestri's music does exist and bootlegs of this have been released on CD. In addition, clips of the film with the original Silvestri score in appropriate places are available on the Internet. According to some sources Silvestri had to quit because of Tom Cruise.
U2 bandmates Larry Mullen, Jr. and Adam Clayton were fans of the TV show and knew the original theme music well, but were nervous about remaking Lalo Schifrin's legendary theme song. Clayton put together his own version in New York City and Mullen did his in Dublin on weekends between U2 recording sessions. The two musicians were influenced by Brian Eno and the European dance club scene sound of the recently finished album Passengers. They allowed Polygram to pick its favorite and they wanted both. In a month, they had two versions of the song and five remixed by DJs. All seven tracks appeared on a limited edition vinyl release.