Day 348 - 12/14/09 - Movie #348
BEFORE: Well, it only took me 13 years to get around to this one - and as a bonus, back-to-back Jon Voight appearances!
THE PLOT: An American agent, under false suspicion of disloyalty, must discover and expose the real spy without the help of his organization.
AFTER: Jon Voight plays Jim Phelps, who was the lead agent on the TV show of the same name, formerly played by Peter Graves in those classic opening scenes where the tape would self-destruct. Without giving too much of this movie's plot away, it's carefully crafted to replace Phelps with his protege, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and to let everyone know that this isn't your father's spy story. The old TV show would famously feature a revolving-door cast of agents, that most often included a disguise expert (Martin Landau), a tech guy (Greg Morris), a muscle-man (Peter Lupus) and, um... the "woman" (Barbara Bain).
This movie starts out with a very similar group of agents - and the initial mission is to recover a stolen list of U.S. spies working in Europe and their code names. But it turns out the mission is a dodge, designed to root out a mole in the IMF, and the list was never in danger. Since Ethan Hunt survives the mission, he is thought to be the mole.
But here's where the movie lost me - to prove his innocence, Hunt assembles a new team of former agents to break into CIA headquarters and steal the REAL list - which he had falsely been accused of trying to steal. Huh? Wouldn't that make him guilty of doing the EXACT same thing that he knows he is innocent of? Doesn't that, in essence, make him the mole that he's accused of being? Isn't it, like, illegal to break into the CIA and steal something, even if you've got good intentions for using that thing?
You probably know the famous iconic scene with Cruise suspended from wires, trying to get the disc from the computer room - but the context around it, the reason for him being there, makes exactly zero sense. So I have to call "Shenanigans" on the movie after this point, especially the extremely improbably stunts and explosions in the climactic scenes, involving a high-speed train and a helio-copter.
You can tell the movie was made in 1996, because Hunt uses Usenet to contact the buyer who's interested in the list. USENET? Yeah, I just knew all those alt.sex rec.forums were fronts for terrorist groups and arms dealers...but was there really ever a user group devoted to the Bible's Book of Job? And not just one, but several, since Hunt spends all night sending random e-mails to the moderators of different Bible groups. Right... Apparently it was really tough to be an international man of mystery before they invented the World Wide Web.
Furthermore, if Hunt had no intention of letting the arms dealer transmit the coded list - why not just give up a disk with a bunch of random, real-looking names on it? Why risk everything by giving them a copy of the real, actual list and putting American spies' lives on the line? This is like the Valerie Plame scandal, only 100 times worse!
Supporting work by Emmanuelle Beart, Ving Rhames, Jean Reno, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Vanessa Redgrave. But why was Emilio Estevez, who played the tech expert in the film's first mission, completely left out of the credits?
RATING: 4 out of 10 floppy disks