Sunday, August 12, 2018

Ranking the Mission: Impossible franchise

Ranking the Mission: Impossible franchise
Tom Cruise was already a breakout star in the 1980s with movies like TapsRisky Business, Top Gun, and Rain Man under his belt. Heading into the '90s, Cruise was on his way to take over the box-office and change the action genre forever with a little movie called Mission: Impossible. Starring as IMF agent Ethan Hunt in 1996, he started a franchise that twenty-two years down the road is still going strong. Honestly, it just doesn't feel like a proper summer at the movies without Cruise headlining this thrilling franchise that just keeps getting better and better. With the release of the sixth movie (read my review here), I'm ranking the Mission: Impossible series.  How would you rank the franchise so far? Feel to let me know in the comments!

Mission: Impossible 3

Mission: Impossible 3

J.J. Abrams directs his first feature-length film, and to be honest, it's not a bad debut as we get a taste of his future obsession with lens flare. Hunt leaves the IMF for a life of normalcy, having fallen in love and planning to marry his fiance Julia (Michelle Monagahan). He'll do anything to protect his personal life, but his relationship easily becomes a target for Owen Davian who uses Ethan to track down a bio-hazardous super-weapon. The story nor direction is necessarily bad in Mission Impossible 3, it's just more of the awkward phase of the series - not over the top like the first two movies and not as memorable as the future installments. The shining element of the film, more than the stunts for a change, is developing Hunt's romantic life, which becomes a foundation for the following films to build off of.

Mission: Impossible

The 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

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.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

The Mission Impossible series made a commitment to make each movie a stand-alone as much as possible, but Rogue Nation follows up on Ghost Protocol's story and style to make it one of the best. The IMF is dismantled by the CIA despite saving the Western hemisphere from nuclear war. On his own with his team, Hunt searches for the highly trained operatives behind the Syndicate, an organization trying to establish a new world order through terrorist attacks. Rogue Nation becomes a culmination of the movies so far - it's a flashy blockbuster but still has the noir style of the first movie. Plus, you can't go wrong with Isla Faust, played by Rebecca Ferguson. ICONIC.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout

Mission: Impossible - Fallout

While the first four movies jumps from mission to mission, Mission: Impossible - Fallout is a direct follow-up to Rogue Nation. When Soloman Lane, the man behind the Syndicate escapes, Hunt must race against time to stop him from igniting massive destruction. I didn't think it could get better than Rogue Nation, and then Cruise comes back with director Colin McQuarrie and does it again. This is the first time where Hunt's actions to save the world come back to haunt him in the worst ways imaginable, so the stakes have never been higher. Back with familiar faces like Benji and Ilsa, and new foes August Walker (Henry Cavill), the story is refined, exciting, and action-packed as its ever been before.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

After the awkward phase of Mission Impossible 3Ghost Protocol gives new life to the series. The IMF has been disavowed and Hunt with his team have to stop an assassin Sabine Moreau (Lea Seydoux) from exchanging Russian nuclear launch codes with a nuclear strategist (Michael Nyqvist) who wants to start a war between Russia and the U.S. Just when you think a fourth movie might be too much, this one is action-packed and draws on character development for Hunt's squad with Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, and Simon Pegg. Also, it brings back Hunt's L'Oreal hair, has an awesome fight scene between the female spies, and Cruise scaling the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai. This installment is not only the most contained, but it has big stunt pieces that don't usurp the movie; it draws supporting characters in for Hunt that the first three movies struggled to do (and creates my favorite crew of the series), and it kickstarts the two movies following it. The only thing it's missing is masks.

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