The 1996 film "Mission: Impossible" is, with the exception of a convoluted plot, far-and-away superior in every respect to it's 2000 sequel. This is due in no small part to Danny Elfman's contribution (compared to the drivel that Hans Zimmer wrote for M:I 2 - and I LIKE Zimmer!). This is one of the first scores in which one begins to hear Danny Elfman in his truly mature style. The entire score is built on a small amount of musical motives or cells from which Elfman develops a seemingly endless amount of musical material that makes this score interesting from both an "I-work-well-for-the-film-I-was-written" film perspective and a composition perspective (I'm a composer, of course I pay attention to these things, too!).
The CD is a first-rate listen and is full of wonderful orchestral/electronic colors (a hallmark of the Elfman technique). Every track is wonderful and the CD never gets old. It is dense and complex and isn't overly melodic. That's not necessarily Elfman's style, though. He'll take a cell of 4 or 5 notes and string them together in different ways to work out his material. Also, what I found so wonderful about both the score in the film and the album is Elfman's decision (probably not entirely his) to limit the usage of Lalo Schifrin's original theme. I think that this lent the film a sense of "we're not trying to rely too heavily on our predecessor" atmosphere and it paid off wonderfully. For much of the score Elfman chooses to rely on his own ideas and several cues where certain bits of music from "The Plot" from the original TV series show up (although not much). That being said there are several standouts on the album. "Sleeping Beauty" starts off with a nice nod to Schifrin's music for the TV series with clipped militaristic percussion. "Red Handed" is simultaneously moody and urgent with a wonderful version of Schifrin's theme interpolated nicely rather than just going for the jugular and quoting it directly (this score is more subtle than that). "Mole Hunt" is a tension-wrought suspense cue in which Hunt and Kittridge begin their game of cat-and-mouse. "Betrayal" is without a doubt the most haunting and beautiful cue on the album with orchestra, women's chorus, and an electric bass providing an insistent, repetitive pattern - a truly beautiful sound. "Train Time", "Menage a Trois", "Zoom A", and "Zoom B" constitute the energetic climax of the film with some great, if bombastic, action writing. "Zoom B" is where Elfman finally let's it all hang out with his version of the "Mission: Impossible Theme". Overall it captures perfectly the sense of the original series and the genre of the '60s spy-thriller in general.
I've had this CD in my collection ever since it came out shortly after the film and I still make time to listen to it on a regular basis. Every time I listen to it I just sit there and, when it's finished playing, wonder where the last 53 minutes went. It always leaves me wanting to hear more. It may take some time to develop a sense of just how complex and dense and wonderfully creative this score is. However, the time spent appreciating it will be time well spent. This score is truly a masterpiece of Elfman's oeuvre.