Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A new Mission: Impossible?

According to this Yahoo article, Sumner Redstone is attempting to get back in the Tom Cruise business. After famously 'firing' the actor from Paramount two years ago, Redstone is now claiming that he would welcome Cruise back to Paramount, especially if there was a Mission: Impossible 4 in the cards. The firing was complete garbage, of course. Cruise and Redstone mutually chose to not renew Cruise's production deal with Paramount months before the public 'firing' and Redstone simply used the issue as a power play against those above and below him in the studio chain (a bit of a simplification, I admit).

Since that time, neither party has done all that well for themselves. Paramount has copious egg on its face as a result of the Dreamworks merger/buy out and the HD-DVD mess. To boot, they built a can't miss summer slate that will net them almost no money (Iron Man is financed by Marvel and Indiana Jones 4 is financed privately by George Lucas). Aside from Tom Cruise's copious image issues, his somewhat ballsy attempt to reboot United Artists has been bumpy since inception. The underrated Lions For Lambs out-and-out bombed and Valkyrie has been moved from summer to fall to February 2009. At this point, they may need each other.

On the other hand, the idea of another Mission: Impossible is an appealing one. Each of the three films, warts and all, have been completely unique by virtue of differing and vastly different filmmakers.

The first (and best) Mission: Impossible was a Brian DePalma movie through and through. It still holds up as a stunningly low-key and moody summer tent pole film, a movie that captures the paranoia and loneliness of espionage in a way that surpasses even the first two Bourne movies (to say nothing of the terrible third Bourne film). The second entry was a goofy romantic epic that felt like John Woo was almost spoofing himself. Its reputation has not grown in stature, but it remains a lush, fun, epic action film. I'm not as much a fan of the third one, although I seem to be in the minority. J.J. Abrams' feature film debut cribs too much content from Alias and I had a hard time believing that these brutally professional spies would risk national security to save the wife of a fellow agent that they barely even know. Still, it IS a J.J Abrams film through and through (alas it feels more like seasons 3 and 5 Alias as opposed to seasons 1 and 2).

I love that each film is uniquely in the style of its auteur. I enjoy the franchise because it truly is a director's franchise. Frankly I couldn't care less if Cruise starred in these films or not. As long as each sequel allows a different visionary director to take a crack at the big-budget spy genre, it's a series worth keeping.

Scott Mendelson

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