was one of the best action blockbusters of the 1990s, deriving a quality unique amongst its peers from the tension between Brian De Palma's directorial stylisation and the overriding presence of its star and producer, Tom Cruise. Cruise plays Special Forces agent Ethan Hunt, disavowed as a traitor by his own superiors and forced to uncover the true mole to prove his innocence. The original 1960s television series provides not only the wonderful musical motif, but also the layered complexity of false realities and masked identities, which are revealed with the playful conjuring of a Russian doll.
This was Cruise's last movie as an angst-ridden youth (next stop was Jerry Maguire and the trials of family life) and he presents Ethan Hunt as caught between his heroic physical prowess and a trusting emotional na¨vety that is painfully punctured by the treachery of those around him. Hollywood heavyweights Jon Voight (Heat) and Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction) are both excellent in support, while the remaining cast reads like an identikit of European cinema, including Emanuelle Beart, Kristin Scott Thomas and Jean Reno (Leon).
De Palma's trademark set-pieces include a giant exploding fishtank in Prague, a helicopter chase through the Channel Tunnel, and, most notably, a break-in to steal a vital disc from CIA headquarters in Langley. The moment in the latter when, in almost complete silence, Cruise dangles precariously from a cable and just catches a bead of sweat before it triggers the floor alarm is as sublimely exhilarating as any in American movies of the last 10 years. --Steve Napleton