August 3, 2015

How Auteur Directors Have Kept the 'Mission: Impossible' Franchise Firing On All Cylinders

It's rare that a franchise goes on to make even better films in later sequels, but that seems to be happening with Mission: Impossible.

It's even rarer when that franchise has reached its fifth film, and reviews are positive, which is what we're seeing with the release of Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation (if you haven't seen our interview with the editor of the newest film, Eddie Hamilton, we just released Part 2, and you can find Part 1 here). Instead of hiring the cheapest and newest talent possible — who could then be somewhat easily controlled by the studio — the franchise has instead looked for directors to provide their own signature style to the series. They've gone from Brian De Palma, to John Woo, J.J. Abrams, Brad Bird, and now to Christopher McQuarrie, and in the process have shown that letting experienced directors do their own thing can actually be productive. 

Sean Witzke recently broke down all of these directors and their influences in a new video essay:

Over at Grantland, Sean is asked some great questions, including how the character of Ethan Hunt has changed over the films:

Obviously the directors change in these films, but does the character of Ethan Hunt change? It’s interesting how he’s a bit of Bond — resetting in every film — and a bit of John McClane — someone with a serialized biography.

I don’t think there’s much carried over from film to film, until Abrams started working on them. In III and IV, he’s the same character. What’s interesting to me is that these are the films that saw Cruise turn himself into a franchise. The movies are all snapshots of how he wants to present himself. I think the character in the first two is what’s needed for the film — Bond-style — and then III and Ghost Protocol, you start to get the shape of a person’s life.

It's certainly an interesting take on a franchise rebooted from a 60s TV show, and we are supposedly not going to have to wait too long for the next film, which could shoot as early as next year.      

Your Comment

16 Comments

WAW.....Am I the only one who get so bored with the last mission impossible (after the first 15 minutes) that I am not going to see any further sequel anymore?....the first movie for me was the best and the only one I could recommend to watch...

mmm!!!, probably was the consequence that during the morning of that day I re-watched Jean Renoir masterpieces La Règle du jeu and La grande illusion....so lesson learned, never watch a masterpiece before going to the cinema!!!

August 3, 2015 at 3:09PM

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I think overall critics are soft on Hollywood blockbusters if they aren't completely the worst thing ever. I still think Avatar, Batman: Dark Knight, and Iron Man were the best blockbusters I've seen in this "tentpole era post-2006 era" - very few giant films can get away with subtley and storytelling when they are made for every culture. Also how most of these giant films have scripts that are literally finished the day before shooting doesn't make them easy to shoot. I just learned that about the film Gladiator. Something so fascinating to me - if you have a 100 million dollar plus film, you think all the preproduction would be very ironed out months before principal photography.

August 3, 2015 at 3:35PM

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Ed David
Director of Photography
1718

Ed, You make some very valid points, but blow it by praising 3 films that were terrible! LOL Really? You reckon they were the best?

I'd go for Guardians of the Galaxy, Edge of Tomorrow, and Mad Max 4 (or whatever it was called). Interestingly all 3 stand out as being a bit different to the regular Hollywood product.

August 3, 2015 at 4:44PM, Edited August 3, 4:44PM

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Karel Bata
Director / DP / Stereographer
481

I agree with Ed David, though I had a lot of fun watching "Guardians of the Galaxy". ( I hated "Mad Max Fury Road", as the dumbest MM film in the whole franchise, beautiful to look at but oh so stupid. "Edge of Tomorrow" was better than I expected, but it still felt like a B grade big-tent film to me. )

August 3, 2015 at 10:23PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30059

Karel, wait, did you just say Dark Knight and Iron Man were terrible. To each his own but, LOL is right. Your opinion is vastly different from the rest of humanity.

August 4, 2015 at 2:02PM, Edited August 4, 2:03PM

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Josh.R
Motion Designer/Predator
931

Well Josh, I cherish the fact that my taste does not tally with whatever global opinion poll you may be referring to, and I do hope that's not just BO returns.

;-)

edit: Why are my posts sometimes coming up TWICE? But not the edit?
p.s. It's not 3.42AM here. LOL.

August 7, 2015 at 3:42AM, Edited August 7, 3:46AM

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Karel Bata
Director / DP / Stereographer
481

Well Josh, I cherish the fact that my taste does not tally with whatever global opinion poll you may be referring to, and I do hope that's not just BO returns.

;-)

August 7, 2015 at 3:42AM

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Karel Bata
Director / DP / Stereographer
481

Guardians of the Galaxy made a hell of a lot more money than Iron Man did so it can't just be box office. I enjoyed the three films you praised very much (although I'm getting very tired of Marvel films being nigh-identical to one another).

But exclaiming The Dark Knight and Iron Man to be terrible films is kind of risky business. Iron Man was basically the first film to convince the masses that comics aren't dorky, and The Dark Knight arguably birthed the modern era of qualitative blockbusters (although very few qualify as this). You may not like them, but there's no denying the quality of the work that went into these films.

I do agree with you though that Avatar is a steaming pile of dogshit. I won't deny the technical achievements but there's absolutely fuck all underneath.

August 13, 2015 at 7:40AM

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Oscar Stegland
DP/Steadicam
1144

André Bazin, where are you?, why did you leave us so soon?, who is going to show us the path now?….probably he is in heaven laughing about these blockbuster…..

August 3, 2015 at 7:55PM, Edited August 3, 7:55PM

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I want a list of all the movies mentioned in this!

August 3, 2015 at 4:35PM

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Jim Stone
Director, editor, writer, dancer
76

THE LIST OF FILMS HE CUT FROM, AKA MUST SEE LIST:
From Russia With Love (1963), dir. Terence Young
Notorious (1946), dir. Alfred Hitchcock
North By Northwest (1959), dir. Alfred Hitchcock
To Catch A Thief (1955), dir. Alfred Hitchcock
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), dir. Peter R. Hunt
Licence To Kill (1989), dir. John Glen
Mission Impossible Rogue Nation stunt featurette
Alien (1979), dir. Ridley Scott
Aliens (1986), dir. James Cameron
Alien3 (1992), dir. David Fincher
Mission Impossible tv series opening credits
Carrie (1976), dir. Brian De Palma
Obsession (1976), dir. Brian De Palma
Blow Out (1981), dir. Brian De Palma
The Fury (1978), dir. Brian De Palma
Greetings (1968), dir. Brian De Palma
Topkapi (1964), dir. Jules Dassin
Gambit (1966), dir. Ronald Neame
Le Femme Nikita (1990), dir. Luc Besson
L’enfer (1994), dir. Claude Chabrol
Pulp Fiction (1994), dir. Quentin Tarantino
Macbeth (1971), dir. Roman Polanski
Chinatown (1974), dir. Roman Polanski
Tomb of Ligeia (1964), dir. Roger Corman
Face/Off (1997), dir. John Woo
Paycheck (2003), dir. John Woo
Hard Boiled (1992), dir. John Woo
The Whip and the Body (1963), dir. Mario Bava
Magnolia (1999), dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
Eyes Wide Shut (1999), dir. Stanley Kubrick
Jerry Maguire (1996), dir. Cameron Crowe
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), dir. Steven Spielberg
True Lies (1994), dir. James Cameron
Thief (1981), dir. Michael Mann
The Third Man (1949), dir. Carol Reed
Castle of Cagliostro (1979), dir. Hayao Miyazaki

August 4, 2015 at 12:15AM, Edited August 4, 12:16AM

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Jim Stone
Director, editor, writer, dancer
76

Thanks for the list Jim.

Happy to see him give JJ Abrams some respect for what I think is the best of the bunch. I was never sure why Brad Bird's film was so liked.

August 4, 2015 at 11:07AM

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Stu Mannion
writer/dir/dp
697

I saw it last night and was totally delighted throughout. From a pure filmmaking level it's so enjoyable, and beautiful to look at. This series has really shocked me with how it keeps escalating in quality in each iteration. It's really true that they are in reverse order of quality from the last to the first (these last two are more of a tie), and they are all good! What's interesting to me is they each set a new benchmark for what is technically possible for an action film in their particular era. That laser break-in scene was amazing in the first, the motorcycle chase in the second, but I bet they look ho-hum by today's standards. Now we get Cruise climbing the Burj Dubai and literally hanging off airplanes.

August 4, 2015 at 12:52PM

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In the next Mission Impossible film, Ethan Hunt (agent and cockney rhyming slang) takes on the persona of a famous actor to infiltrate a dangerous and morally dubious cult at the highest level.

August 5, 2015 at 4:46AM

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Julian Richards
Film Warlord
1347

Christopher McQuarrie? An auteur? No offense to a solid-enough director but... an auteur? When flipping through channels I don't see scenes from Jack Reacher and say, "ah, now there's a unique voice." Not to mention MI3 was JJ Abrams' first movie and shouldn't someone have shot one film before you hire them based on their auteur status--and though it Abrams churned out a nice enough movie, it certainly had a text-book, anonymous blockbuster machine shooting style (can't remember if there were any lens flairs). Anyone could have shot MI3 and it would have looked exactly the same--anyone but an auteur. Whether you like their entries or not, DePalma and Bird were the only ones who brought any distinctive flair to the party.

August 5, 2015 at 9:27PM, Edited August 5, 9:29PM

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J Robbins
610

The third movie in the series is my least favorite.

Maybe it was just so much soft lighting, made it seem too dreamy to me.

August 10, 2015 at 1:57PM

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Kyle Dockum
Videographer and Editor
663