OPINION: The Mission: Impossible Series Ranked
With Mission: Impossible - Fallout having been released to much applause and monetary gain, it seems writing an article with a title with the word “worst” in relation to the Mission: Impossible franchise feels disingenuous. After all, it’s arguably the most consistently reliable action series on the market. A group of films so dependable, that even the weaker installments are still perfectly solid popcorn flicks. Now then, from worst to best, here’s my ranking of the franchise I once so lovingly described as “the thinking man’s Fast and Furious”. Let’s begin, shall we?
6) Mission: Impossible 3
Many tend to list II as the nadir of the franchise (and wrongfully so). For my money, the third outing in this franchise has to be the weakest of the bunch. Yes, Philip Seymour Hoffman is the best antagonist this series had up until Fallout and it did kickstart J.J. Abrams’ film career. That having been said, it’s still not a very good film (or even a very interesting one). None of the big set-pieces are memorable, it’s kind of boring and, similar to real life, the attempts to make Tom Cruise anything more than superhuman don’t pan out very well. Still, out of all the other action flicks from the mid-2000’s, this is still preferable to the Bourne movies or whatever else was being offered at the time.
5) Mission: Impossible 2
Mission: Impossible 2 is a film that can be easily criticized for a lot of things. For a film that clocks in at only 123 minutes, the length seems bloated and a lot of the film feels compromised. Oh yeah and this ties with Ghost Protocol for having the least interesting villain out of all the movies. Granted, a lot of this can be attributed to the creative clashing behind-the-scenes and John Woo’s original three hour plus cut of the picture potentially receiving an R rating; but, when it works, it really works. How can anyone hate a movie that starts with Tom Cruise conquering a desert mountain, receiving his mission from a pair of sunglasses that explodes mid-air transitioning into the opening credits? There’s enough of that kind of adrenaline-fueled nonsense to keep things fun to distract from the flaws. Also, it’s still worth discussing in the pantheon of both the franchise its apart and the filmography of its director.
4) Mission: Impossible
Pretty much all of these movies are signature pieces of the directors who work on them and this one is the clearest example of that. What can be expected of a late-90's spy thriller from suspense maestro Brian De Palma? Old-school film-making tricks remixed into a new age? Check! Strange camera angles that make each scene more intense? Check! Split-diopter shots? You bet that’s a check! Seeing veteran directors work their magic on tent-pole releases is a wonderful novelty that’s becoming increasingly scarce in the modern movie-going landscape. Outside of all that film nerd gushing, this is still a well-executed spy thriller that helped start a whole series. Anyway, and the Langley computer heist is still one of the most iconic sequences of its era for a good reason.
3) Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Speaking of great directors, Brad Bird’s take on an M:I picture raises the bar higher than the first three films (even if his signature moves are a little more subtle). Michael Giacchino provides a terrific score and the whole cast is fantastic. Finally, scaling the numerous floors of the Burj Khalifa has to be the single greatest setpiece in the whole series. It’s suspenseful, well-paced, and really stands out in a film that has some marvelous action beats (such as the Kremlin break-in, the opening prison fight and the final confrontation in a rotating parking lot). Oh yeah and Tom Cruise dashes away from a cataclysmic sandstorm proving he is indeed superhuman.
2) Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
How exactly does one follow up something as well-done as Ghost Protocol? By going even bigger, that’s how. Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust is the most interesting character out of the whole series, with motivations and that make her more than a standard femme fatale. It has the best cinematography, the best editing, the best storytelling, the best choreography, and the best directing out of all these films ...or at least that was the case up until last weekend.
1) Mission: Impossible - Fallout
As was established earlier, this has been a series that treats a supreme mastery of technical craft as a badge of honor and this is easily the peak of that. It’s a great continuation of the story from Rogue Nation and even better as its own thing. Despite being the longest of the bunch, it has the tightest script with exquisitely economical storytelling and fantastic pacing that never feels too rushed or glacially slow. It’s the only successful attempt to grow Ethan Hunt as a character beyond being an excuse to make Tom Cruise look cool and Henry Cavill absolutely kills it in a role that can’t be discussed too much right now for fear of spoiling what the film has up its sleeve. It’s just a stone-cold stunner. End of story.
And, there you have it. Agree? Disagree? Discuss your thoughts in the comments below. Fade out!