A Taste-based Analysis of the Mission: Impossible Franchise

Jules Caldeira
August 15, 2023

To date, Paramount has released seven Mission: Impossible films, earning $3.5 billion globally and garnering critical acclaim, averaging 71 on Metacritic and 81% on Rotten Tomatoes, with the latest film - Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning, Part One – sporting an 81 and 96%, respectively. But it wasn’t always this way. In 1996, the series debuted to tepid reviews, even though it earned the third-highest global box office that year. So what changed? Enter Katch, rappelling from an air duct, to help analyze what led critics to finally see what audiences see.

For 27 years, people have enjoyed these films. They’re high-suspense spy thrillers filled with gunfights, starring Tom Cruise in his iconic role as Ethan Hunt. Brilliant and courageous, he leads his squad on missions often circling themes of moral uncertainty punctuated by instances of betrayal. These are tense and energetic battles showcasing elaborate effects and stunts and for fans of action-thrillers, it’s no wonder this franchise has thrived.

The first three films, however, bring something different to the series. Each with a director known for their unique vision, together they start the franchise with a less-than-cohesive tone, stifling the audience from fully settling in, as there isn’t a consistency to expect. They also feature attractive and sexualized actors. 2 and 3 particularly focus on this, and while there’s still plenty of action, sexy leads and couples’ stories might not fit here as well as in Mr. & Mrs. Smith. These films also feature detestable leads, with the villains having larger roles. As audiences viewed Hunt’s exploits, they were likely less interested in following them, preferring to witness his triumphs.

With Christopher McQuarrie helming Rogue Nation, a consistent tone developed between films, and the stories became more character-driven along with the plot, following the hero’s journey rather than the squad or any villain. Though the IMF is still integral to the missions, we’re seeing more of Ethan’s story unfold, as a leader and a person, giving him a depth that audiences find appealing.

Despite differences within the franchise, every film is a success, as can be seen already with Dead Reckoning, Part One, and audiences will surely flock to its thrilling conclusion, to be released next year.

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