Mission: Impossible 3
Mission: ImpossibleThe one that started it all. A failed mission to steal top-level CIA information leaves Jim Phelps's (Jon Voigt) entire team dead - except for Hunt. Suspected to be a mole in the IMF and on the run, Hunt tries to prove his innocence to steal confidential information they couldn't get in the first place and discovers surprising twists about his previous mentor. The movie's technology and action definitely shows its age, but the film has an interesting noir style and starts the thread of running gags (the theme song, masks, a drinking game to Ethan being disavowed, bad-ass female sidekicks) that's fleshed out in future installments. Not only did it put Hunt on the map as a fictional spy icon, it kicks off the amazingly crazy stunts Cruise would continue creating.
Mission: Impossible 2
Mission: Impossible 2 is so bad, it's good. Hunt is tasked with capturing a fellow IMF agent Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) that's gone rogue because he wants stock options and world domination. Teaming up with a notorious thief and Ambrose's ex-lover Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton), the duo try to stop Ambrose from selling a deadly virus to the highest bidder. If the first movie is "guilty" of showing its age, director John Woo wins for being the most extra. Ultimately, Woo creates his ideal sequel for Face-Off, replacing Nicholas Cage/John Travolta's shenanigans with exploding sunglasses, masks (masks and more masks), L'Oreal hair, and Cruise suggesting he almost gets stabbed in the eye. None of the action scenes are normal in this movie, and Newton is the most sane aspect of the entire story. It's difficult for me to say this is one of my favorites, as the elements surrounding the "love triangle" are sexist in nature, but this is a pure action movie that has no gripes about being a pure action movie. And sometimes that's fun enough for me.