There’s a lot of action movies out there, so in honor of them all let’s take a look back at “Mission: Impossible” (1996), the most absolutely bonkers production of all time.
Like all highbrow cinema, “Mission: Impossible” must be pondered upon before passing judgment. It’s about relationships, it’s about making Tom Cruise look tall, it’s about insane core strength and stark white rooms, all topics that could be expanded into feature films of their own.
Mostly though, it’s about a spy named Ethan with frighteningly white teeth (Tom Cruise) who works for something called the “Impossible Mission Task Force.” Ethan doesn’t seem very good at his job.
He completely loses his head when most of his team is killed, he has zero snarky catchphrases and he simply refuses to stop spiking his hair, no matter how upscale an event is — a classic 90s move.
But before getting into all that, we need to talk about masks. So the spies have these ultra-realistic silicone masks, making them identical to whomever they’re impersonating. Voice, posture, mannerisms, everything is indistinguishable from the real thing. They’re incredible. And if you think whoever invented those is taking them to the government before “Shark Tank” you’re out of your mind.
Anyways, Ethan bumbles around for a bit trying to steal (or un-steal?) a list of undercover agents or something. He does some yelling, makes some new friends and uses one of the aforementioned masks to discover a betrayal from within his own team and save the day, although it’s pretty unclear what he’s saving it from.
And here’s the twist, the thing that sets “Mission: Impossible” apart — none of that matters, not even a little bit.
The real story is about a plucky, unshaven pilot named Franz Krieger, who is forced into the spotlight due to unforeseen circumstances and shines brighter than the biggest star.
Krieger is a disavowed agent, a bad guy, and he’s working for the other bad guy to betray Tom Cruise. That’s about all we learn about him, seeing as the 90s were not a good time for developing the backstories of auxiliary characters.
But then comes the final showdown, and it’s Krieger time.
His job for the finale is to fly up behind a train and pick up his boss, Jim (honestly the worst villain name). But of course Tom Cruise intervenes and ends up fighting Jim on top of the speeding train, as people are wont to do.
Jim eventually gets to the back and the helicopter is coming up from behind to make the pickup when Tom Cruise grabs the carabiner meant for Jims belt and hooks it to the top of the train, attaching the two vehicles together. And then they get to a tunnel.
Now, the train they’re on is the TGV high-speed train to Paris, with a width of 9 feet, 6.3 inches. Taking into account that the tunnel has two tracks and they probably left some wiggle room, we can safely assume it’s about 30 feet wide, with an inward slope towards the top.
Krieger’s helicopter appears to be one of MD Helicopter’s MD 500 series, which has rotor diameters of around 26 feet or 27 feet, giving him less than five feet to work with.
And he squeezes that bad boy right in, pressure fluctuations be darned.
All this is amazing, yes, but our boy isn’t done yet — another train is heading down the tunnel.
So Franz, of course, just flips the chopper sideways. In an enclosed space. With two trains right next to him. Doesn’t even lose speed.
At this point you might be thinking, “Meh, I could do that.” For sure, but we still got some tunnel left to work with.
Tom Cruise, having completely failed to stop his nemesis, is just kind of hanging on for dear life at the end of the last train car. Franz sees this and, being a self-starting sort of henchman, decides to help his boss out.
He creeps forward, gives the helicopter a little forward tilt, and TRIES TO CUT OFF TOM CRUISE’S HEAD WITH THE BLADES OF A HELICOPTER THAT’S TETHERED TO A HIGH-SPEED TRAIN IN A TUNNEL WITH INCHES TO SPARE ON EACH SIDE AND HE’S LIKE 6 INCHES AWAY FROM SUCCEEDING ARE YOU KIDDING ME.
Unfortunately, Franz blows up (I was too busy yelling at the TV about the precision flying clinic I just witnessed to see how) and the movie ends.
But no matter what, we’ll always have that beautiful, choppily-cut, drawn-out chase scene — Krieger’s Masterpiece, as I like to call it — and nobody can take that away from us.
In conclusion, Franz Krieger from the documentary “Mission: Impossible” is the greatest helicopter pilot in the history of the world. Thank you for your time.
Rating: Tom Cruise gets 0 hair spikes out of 7 and a polite request to chill out; Krieger gets 4 helicopter rotors out of 4, plus 1 (one) gold star for showmanship