Ranking the Mission: Impossible Films

The Mission Impossible flicks are up there with the Alien and Fast/Furious series for best franchises in film history. I have ranked the films here.

6. Mission: Impossible III

I have a lot to say about this one so watch out.

It is absolutely hilarious that JJ Abrams’ role in Hollywood is that of the studio stooge who comes into a franchise which has perception issues with the audience and is said to be in need of a reboot to varying degrees. With that directive, he flattens out the uniqueness of each world he drops into and thus decreasing the risk that things could go so badly that the film creates any negative word of mouth from the masses.

It is absolutely hilarious that JJ Abrams’ role in Hollywood is that of the studio stooge who comes into a franchise which has perception issues with the audience and is said to be in need of a reboot to varying degrees. With that directive, he flattens out the uniqueness of each world he drops into and thus decreasing the risk that things could go so badly that the film creates any negative word of mouth from the masses.

Wisely though (and uncharacteristically so), JJ stayed away from the franchise mostly after this entry. His failures with Star Trek and Star Wars were a result of him not recognizing his own strengths and long overstaying his welcome.

The film is far from worthless though. The aspect of it that will and does age best is its role in the development of the Ethan Hunt character with regards to his larger arc. In the first film, he was a fully committed innocent believing in the cause the United States Government told him to believe in. It was an experience that made him grow cynical. Naturally, in the second film, he is much more lost and aimlessly questioning who he wants to be. The events of that film made him believe in himself enough that we meet him here convinced he can build a new life with himself and be a stay-at-home agent.

Ethan learns here though that he has a sickness and he is always going to do what he does. Which leads us to what the film series has become: a Tom Cruise superhero franchise that comes up with amazing ideas for students and then tries to build films around them. It’s great.

 

5. MI:2

There are two huge things going for this film’s favor. One, it really feels unique in the grand scheme of this franchise, and franchises are always more interesting when each film feels distinct from one another. There is probably no reality when they can pull some Alien shit and switch genres from film to film, but adjusting tone and look from film to film has helped to keep these Cruise vehicles interesting for literally decades. Secondly, the film truly feels like an appropriate follow-up to the first film. Ethan Hunt here is clearly not the same man he was before. He is a bit more jaded and cynical about the institutions he is serving. It’s also before though he has fully given up on a better life for himself beyond his mission. It’s far from a perfect film though. It’s number one problem is despite Thandiwe Newton’s very best efforts, there is nothing one can do to make Tom Cruise into a sexual being at least in the traditional Hollywood blockbuster sense. He oozes the opposite of that. That causes those scenes to fall flat.

 

4. Rogue Nation

This movie is so fucking weird and awkward yet they have the key ingredients in place by this point that they can churn out these movies for years and still be great fun. Unlike DePalma’s work in the first film, the weirdness and awkwardness feels less like an unsettling tone purposely done to create tension and more like incoherent filmmaking in McQuarrie’s less sure hands. That being said though, there is a lot of cool shit in this film that more than compensates for the awkwardness of the pacing. Tom Cruise’s scaffold battle with a giant while an opera goes on actually stood out the most in the regard: such a weird scene…but it was very cool! Some stuff falls flat though like the very lame underwater sequence that goes against the ethos of this series as a whole. There are also a lot more attempts at humor here and some fall fairly flat. If the humor of Ghost Protocol was derived from the film acknowledging how nuts these movies are and having everything go wrong, they tried to create humor here from winking at the camera to acknowledge that everything is going to go fine in the end. Overall, this was just a very uneven if quite watchable entry in the series.

 

3. Mission: Impossible

This film is so fucking weird and unsettling and fun and unlike anything that does or could get made today. There is just a pure feeling of awkwardness all throughout this one. That feeling of being uncomfortable greatly helps the movie though as it used to create so much tension and a true sense of danger for the characters. It also grounds the film in a sense of reality that makes the ridiculousness seem plausible. There was also just top notch casting, setpieces, and stunt coordinating to really make this feel like one of the most unique blockbusters ever.

 

2. Ghost Protocol

A flick so great and successful that the idiotic plan to replace TOM CRUISE with JEREMY RENNER in this franchise was completely and utterly scrapped. The tone and pacing of this film is genuinely bizarre but in a welcoming way that makes the film stand out even more in retrospect as different. While the budget of course is quite large and there are clearly some big set pieces, there are a number of “economy” scenes that really rely on humor, tension, and a subversion of expectations that help this one stay fresh and feel different within its own movie and in the larger picture for the franchise as a whole. The key motif to this film is that their fancy gear keeps fucking up over and over again. It gives the film a real unpredictable feeling and makes it just an absolute joy from beginning to end despite its imperfections. (It also serves as a strong contrast to Rogue Nation where the running gag is that so many things go right but somewhat randomly.)

 

1. Fallout

This. Movie. Rules. Tom Cruise jumped out of a plane. Tom Cruise flew a helicopter in a helicopter chase. Henry Cavill cocked his arms like they were actual guns. Paramount forced Henry to keep his facial hair for no discernible reason that led to some magic in Justice League. The Wolf Blitzer scene. It truly feels like the ultimate version of what these films can be.

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