Turns out that the Mission: Impossible franchise is a rich text

For a reason I can’t quite explain to myself, I recently watched all six Mission: Impossible movies.

Movie clapboard with the top partially open and popcorn spilling out on a yellow background.
The embodiment of a popcorn flick. I snacked so much while I watched these movies. (Photo by GR Stocks on Unsplash)

I don’t have a long and storied history with these movies. I hadn’t even seen them all before. I don’t have strong feelings about Tom Cruise. Action isn’t particularly my genre. It’s just that one night I watched Ghost Protocol (the fourth movie of the M:I oeuvre one for the uninitiated) because it was on Hulu. And when it was over I thought, What if I just watched all these movies?

So that’s what I did.

As it turns out, I am in extreme danger of becoming mildly obsessed with the Mission: Impossible franchise. Not because I thought the films themselves were so amazing but because…I don’t know. Because 2020 and 2021 were hard and my brain has permanently rewired itself in some really weird ways?

For anyone who finds these movies enjoyable, I actually would recommend watching them all right around the same time. My method was watching one a week (sometimes splitting one movie up over the course of two nights). So it took me about six weeks to finish them all. Really just about the perfect timeframe for digestion.

I think that this watching method made my experience with Fallout (the latest movie, released in 2018) more enjoyable because I was already on the lookout for all the tropes. When certain things happened, I laughed way more than I should have. Just because all the other movies came to mind so vividly.

Because this is a personal blog and I can do whatever the heck I want, I’m basically planning a series of content about Mission: Impossible (I told you, I might have a problem). It seemed a waste to dedicate 12+ hours of my life to watching these movies only to boil it down into a basic ranking, so I won’t be doing that. (Also, not convinced I have a favorite. They’re a team effort, really.)

Instead, I want to write an article about how each movie is kind of its own genre while still fitting within the same action scope. Each movie really does have its own personalized take on the same stuff, which I found progressively more fascinating at the franchise progressed. I want to cover some of the best and worst moments by thinking about best stunts, best heists, worst use of Ving Rhames, etc.

There definitely needs to be a discussion on how women are used in these movies for sure. (Spoiler alert: They are generally not used well.)

DVD cover for Mission: Impossible movie collection with the first six films.
Will I own this DVD one day? No, seems unlikely. But in my heart? Yes. (Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.)

And then I’ll see what else shakes out in the process. Will I do a full six article series to coincide with each film? Not on purpose. Will I watch the new one when it’s released? Oh yes. Unfortunately, I think I’m now a Mission: Impossible person. (The only thing more confusing than that is why the abbreviation for the second movie is M:i-2. Why the lowercase “i”? Why mix your punctuation in such a way? Who approved this!?)

For anyone unfamiliar with the movies or anyone who is only familiar with some of the more famous moments (okay, the famous moment where Tom Cruise* is hanging from a string in a white room), I thought I’d start with a little primer. Some common Mission: Impossible tropes. If you find these things vaguely charming and you like action movies, you might want to try them! On the flip side, if you find these things obnoxious, it’s best to steer clear.

List o’ tropes:

  • Masters of disguise – These movies are full of disguises. And masks! I love a mask scene every time in happens and am more delighted the more ridiculous the reveal is. Anyone could be anyone! Did you check to see if they’re wearing a mask?
  • Tom Cruise running a lot – I think it’s fairly common knowledge at this point that Tom Cruise loves to do his own stunts. He also likes to run fast on camera, I guess. He does it in every movie. And he has a very specific gait. My husband and I laughed every time he did it.
  • The big twist – These are big, dumb action movies, but they’re also spy thrillers. So there’s always a twist about the bad guy or what happened or who did what. By the end of the series I got really good at predicting these right before they happened.
  • Random big name actors you want to be on screen more – Anthony Hopkins is in M:i-2. Huh? Laurence Fishburne is in M:i:3. Excuse me? Tom Wilkinson is uncredited in Ghost Protocol. Keri motherfrickin’ Russell is in Rogue Nation and Angela Bassett is in Fallout! Why does Angela Bassett have less screen time than Superman! It doesn’t make sense!
  • Funny stunts – Some of the stunts in these movies are very cool. Some of them are eh. Some of them are really funny. Whether because they’re over the top or purposefully comedic. One of my favorites is Tom Cruise driving a car off a ledge in a parking garage to crash it like twenty feet below. Or getting sucked in a plane when the door opens. Or nearly getting a helicopter blade to the throat. Or being in a car that rolls like eight times. My God. These movies are funny.
  • The impossible mission moment – There’s always the overarching “your mission, if you choose to accept it” for the movie. The impossible mission moment goes beyond that. There’s some kind of information the team needs and to get it they have to break into a facility with extremely advanced security measures. This ends with Tom Cruise dangling from a string in a white room or holding his breath underwater for three minutes or setting up a screen the projects the hallway behind him so the security guard doesn’t notice as he pushes it closer to the desk.
  • Tom Cruise struggling to move after getting the absolute crap kicked out of him – There’s a moment in every movie where Tom Cruise has done something reckless and has been completely physically wrecked by it. And then he really painfully and agonizingly tries to move around afterward. It’s great.
  • The theme song – Obviously. I’ve had it stuck in my head for weeks. Some of the movies in the franchise use it better than others (shoutout to M:i-2 for the worst but funniest version), but it’s always there. And you can never stop it.

There you go! Interested but don’t want to watch them all? I’ll put out a list at some point in the nearish future that breaks down the general overall feel of each movie so you can pick your poison. Cerebral spy thriller, stupid early 2000s action nonsense, gritty reboot, light spy romp, the brooding one? Don’t worry, there’s a flavor that’s right for you.

Check back in for non Mission: Impossible related content at some point in the future. I’ll get there.

*I should mention that the character’s name is Ethan Hunt and everyone else in the movies will remind you of this by saying his name approximately 10,000 times each movie. But one of the aspects of the movies that’s so fun is they’re also about Tom Cruise playing spy. So we’re sticking with the name of the real guy.

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