Mission: Impossible (1996)

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Director: Brian DePalma

Cast: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Henry Czerny, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vanessa Redgrave

Screenplay: David Koepp, Robert Towne

110 mins. Rated PG-13 for some intense action violence.

 

Adaptations of popular television series are really tough. How do you condense the best parts of a multi-season run into 90 minutes? How can it be done? Some successful versions, like 21 Jump Street, poke fun at the silliness of the source material. Others, like Mission: Impossible, drastically change the series direction while holding up its most important rules.

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Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, Top Gun, Edge of Tomorrow) has run into a bit of trouble on his newest mission to recover the IMF (Impossible Missions Force) non-official cover, or NOC, list. His entire team has been attacked and Ethan has become framed for the attack. Without long-time team leader Jim Phelps (Jon Voight, TV’s Ray Donovan, Heat) to help protect him, Ethan is now the target of a manhunt set in motion by Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny, TV’s Revenge, The A-Team), and now, with the help of two disavowed IMF agents, Franz Krieger (Jean Reno, Leon: The Professional, Hector and the Search for Happiness) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames, Pulp Fiction, Jamesy Boy), Ethan is out to discover who wants him dead and who has the NOC list.

Mission: Impossible has a somewhat confusing plotline. There is a lot happening all at once, mostly due to the fact that the film went into production without a finished screenplay. Screenwriters David Koepp and Robert Towne were disappointed in the finished product. The original cast of the TV show (of which the film is a sequel) chose not to reprise their roles because they felt that the film was a bastardizing of their beloved property.

I personally found the finished product to be one of the more enjoyable espionage films of the 1990s. Tom Cruise solidified himself as a bona fide action star in a role where he doesn’t fire a gun the entire film. Jon Voight is a great man to take over the role of Jim Phelps from original television actor Peter Graves, who disliked Phelps’ portrayal in the story. I also really liked Reno, Rhames (who would become a staple of the series much like Cruise himself) and Czerny.

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Mission: Impossible contains some truly iconic moments both for the franchise and the action genre in general. The only part of the film that truly irks me is the opening credits (to be fair, I love the opening credits, but the decision to montage important plot points throughout the now-iconic score and opening bothers the hell out of me, but it continues throughout the entire franchise). This is one Tom Cruise property that I can’t wait to see every time there is new installment (except for the second film, but we’ll get to that later).

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

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Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Cast: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson

Screenplay: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

136 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects

 

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a powerhouse that needn’t even be tested right now. After DC/Warner Bros. release their own cinematic universe lineup to follow last year’s Man of Steel, Marvel Studios unleashed their Phase 3 plans involving more films from Thor, Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Avengers, along with a bunch of new properties that will likely destroy most other contenders. With all this news, it is tough to focus on specific individual films, which is a shame, because Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the perfect Marvel movie, as it not only tells a compelling story that works as both a genre film and a superhero movie, and it also stands alone while fueling plot threads for multiple avenues for Marvel to take on in future productions.

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The Winter Soldier follows Steve Rogers (Chris Evans, Snowpiercer, What’s Your Number?) as he continues to adjust to life in the present, working for S.H.I.E.L.D. with Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation, Lucy) under the tutelage of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction, RoboCop). Meanwhile, a plot to attack S.H.I.E.L.D. from within is unveiled and the addition of new foe The Winter Soldier adds multiple new threats to Cap. Rogers is going to have to use new help from Sam Wilson aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie, The Hurt Locker, Runner Runner) and fellow agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders, TV’s How I Met Your Mother, The Lego Movie) to take down the Winter Soldier and save S.H.I.E.L.D.

This movie was awesome. It felt like a separate film much more attuned to 70s espionage and political thrillers than a superhero comic book adaptation. New to the Marvel Directors Club, Anthony and Joe Russo (You, Me, and Dupree) saw the film through a unique lens and decided to forgo CG in favor of practical effects whenever possible (and it shows). The cinematography is engaging and the visual literally POP off the screen (even in 2D). The pacing is perfect. I never once found myself reaching for my phone.

We also get some incredible performances from new Marvel family members Frank Grillo (Warrior, The Purge: Anarchy), Anthony Mackie, and Emily VanCamp (TV’s Revenge, Carriers) as Brock Rumlow, Sam Wilson, and Kate, respectively.

I needed to take a moment to talk about Robert Redford (Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, All is Lost). He just knocks his role out of the park. He plays a very important character, Alexander Pierce, the man in the big office of S.H.I.E.L.D. and he just nails it. For a man without a ton of screentime, Redford makes this film official, and I loved every minute of it.

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In short, Captain America: The Winter Soldier would be a great movie even without all the superheroics. It would be a great mystery on that alone. Add in all the Marvel greats that make this franchise what it is and you have a recipe for not only a great installment (easily among the high points in this franchise) but a damn great time at the movies. Better get two tubs of popcorn, because this popcorn flick is something not to miss!

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Did you suit up or defect? Let me know!

 

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

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