Mission: Impossible (1996)


Ethan Hunt and his team are tasked with the retrieval of top secret documentation that, if in the wrong hands, could risk the legends of all the CIA's best undercover men and women. When the job goes sour it is revealed that a mole in the organisation is planning to sell the list of agent identities to the highest bidder. Hunt must unmask the mole before any further lives are lost.

Vital Statistics
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Running Time: 110 minutes
Budget: $70,000,000
Box-Office (Domestic): $180,981,856
Box-Office (Foreign): $276,714,503

Directed by: Brian De Palma
Produced by: Paul Hitchcock, Tom Cruise, Paula Wagner
Written by: David Koepp, Steven Zaillian, Robert Towne
Music by: Danny Elfman

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"Well, you think about it Ethan, it was inevitable. No more cold war. No more secrets you keep from yourself. Answer to no one but yourself. Then, you wake up one morning and find out the President is running the country without your permission. The son of a bitch, how dare he." - Jim Phelps

Cast & Characters

Ethan Hunt
Tom Cruise

Jim Phelps
Jon Voight

Franz Krieger
Jean Reno

Claire Phelps
Emmanuelle Béart

Vanessa Redgrave

Sarah Davies
Kristin Scott Thomas

Eugene Kittridge
Henry Czerny

Luther Stickell
Ving Rhames

Frank Barnes
Dale Dye

Prague, Czech Republic; Langley, Virginia, USA; London, UK; Paris, France.

Mission Impossible was the debut project of Cruise/Wagner Productions - of which Tom Cruise was the founder in collaboration with Paula Wagner.

Borrowed from the television series, the title refers to both the central agency, the Impossible Missions Force - a division of the CIA in this case - and the willingness of their agents to tackle and complete the hardest espionage tasks.

The Bond Connection
Ethan Hunt, like 007, is a civil servant with adapt skill at tackling the far fetched and seemingly "impossible" feats of espionage. The films utilise a high quantity of technology and gadgetry whilst the missions themselves take both secret agents around the world.

Mission Impossible was filmed at Pinewood studios and on the 007 Stage.


Above: Hunt stages a break in to CIA headquarters.

Production Notes
Just as it seemed that Paramount Pictures were unable to make a feature-length "Mission: Impossible" flick, Tom Cruise approached the company with a tempting offer. When a deal was struck for an $80 million budget, Cruise set to work seeking a director to helm his first dabble as producer. Sydney Pollack worked together with co-producer Paula Wagner to craft a story whilst Cruise approached Brian De Palma - the famed director of "Carlito's Way", "The Untouchables" and "Scarface".

It would take a fair number of re-writes in order to get a script the team was happy with, and contributions from screenwriters Steve Zaillian, David Koepp, Robert Towne and Willard Huyck. Whilst in pre-production, Cruise coaxed the executives at Paramount into a "big, showy action piece" that nudged the budget.

The final script called for a high-octane action sequence on the TGV in France. The production company was given the cold shoulder by the French authorities but when Tom Cruise himself visited the TGV administrators and shouted them a glitzy meal, the deal with struck. The majority of the sequence, however, was shot against a blue screen at Pinewood Studios. For the sequence, Cruise sought out a wind tunnel system that would make the sequence appear as real as possible. The only machine of its kind in Europe was located and acquired. It produced winds up to 140 miles per hour so it would distort Cruises' face. Once the basic shots were in the can it was over to ILM to touch up the sequence.

While filming the famous scene where Tom Cruise drops from the ceiling and hovers inches above the ground, Cruise's head kept hitting the floor until he got the idea to put coins in his shoes for balance.

The formidable task of lighting Prague at night presented cinematographer Stephen H. Burum and his crew with a complex array of logistics. Two miles of riverfront on either side of Prague's historic Charles Bridge had to be predominantly backlit in order to best evoke an atmosphere of old Europe. The preparation, alone, consumed some two weeks before the 12-day shoot along the banks of the Vlatava river even began. Eleven generators were used to power hundreds of lights, and so impressive was the end result, amateur and professional Czech photographers appeared in droves, eager to capture their city's nightscape as it had never been seen before.

There were rumors that Cruise and De Palma did not get along and they were fueled by the director excusing himself at the last moment from scheduled media interviews before the film's theatrical release.

Capsule Reviews
"De Palma is the most hermetic of American film-makers; combine that with the pressure to deliver a mainstream blockbuster and you've got a recipe for superficiality. Despite the snags, De Palma remains a virtuoso puppet-master, pulling the strings taut in a nail-biting robbery sequence." -- Time Out

"That great sense of choreography from the TV series comes beautifully into play as the IMF agents take their respective positions-on the stairwell, in an elevator and in a car outside. But as they close in on their mark, something goes horribly wrong. The all-important disk is suddenly "in the open," which is to say, up for grabs." -- Washington Post

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