Vanessa Redgrave, sporting a dowdy wig and a wicked gleam in her eye, steals the show whenever she's in it, which is far too seldom.
"Mission Impossible" aborts just after liftoff. In a terrific beginning, an elite group of spies gathers for a new assignment. Intelligent, dedicated, and firm in their loyalties to country and each other, these are people we can enjoy. For about five minutes at a glitzy party in Prague, they do what spies do best--they blend. Then, just as suddenly as they dropped into our lives, our new friends disappear for one reason or another. Their exit destroys the heart of the film.
Now we have just one: Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, a survivor now suspected of being a turncoat. The movie becomes a mole hunt. With a dandy version of the "Mission Impossible" theme soaring in the background, our hero must prove his innocence.
Problems abound. No villain focuses our fear--no Kevin Spacey or John Malkovitch brings dread to our hearts. What an awful vacuum the Russians have left. Without a good bad guy, we need wit or romance. Where are you Sean Connery?
This is a movie badly in need of Connery's outrageous self or Schwarznegger's comic invincibility. Tom Cruise is not bigger than life. Lacking lines that make us laugh or tremble, Cruise does something inexplicable: he smiles broadly, while we look for the source of his pleasure. Don't expect to find it. He's using his smile as a band-aid to cover a vacuum.
This brings us to the fatal flaw--the high-tech disappointment. Without the essential elements of villainy, romance, or fun, we deserve at least the delights of the imagined special devices of the spy trade. Instead, the movie chugs along through an entry level exhibit of cell phones, computers, and references to the Internet. This film needed an inspired techie, and the audience needs something to latch onto once they have given up trying to navigate the chaos of the plot.
Now the good news: three grand visuals and Vanessa Redgrave. Score one for a piece of red and green chewing gum that blows up an aquarium, sending thousands of gallons of water and our hero spilling into the street. And another for Tom Cruise in airborne suspension as he tries to retrieve a crucially important disk from the A drive. A high-speed train chase between London and Paris is moderately exciting but suffers from the pride of its creators, who can't get enough of Tom Cruise's face melting under Mach-force wind.
Vanessa Redgrave, sporting a dowdy wig and a wicked gleam in her eye, steals the show whenever she's in it, which is far too seldom. Redgrave lifts the movie by playing her role with an outsized wink that allows us, at last, to chuckle.
This is supposed to be Tom Cruise's blockbuster summer, but the likable actor just doesn't have the bravado to carry it all by himself. Without the Cold War, it seems, we have nothing to fear but fear itself and our own quite boring selves.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 497
Studio : Paramount
Rating : PG-13
Running Time: 1h50m
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