The first of the MI series may be simple-minded in it's dramatic aspects, but apart from the masterful direction of the action/suspenseful sequences, the film is playful in details and visual/narrative analogies (Corpses, trench coats, chairs and rooms) and there's a delightful Henry Czerny playing as IMF head of operation, which reminds me of Hitchcock even more than De Palma's directorial style does.
I'm not a big De Palma fan but in many ways he was an inspired choice to bring MI to the big screen. He brings to it his customary cinematic self-consciousness, constantly playing with audience expectations and spy/heist tropes so that you can never be quite sure how seriously he is playing it. In this context Cruise's performance - straight, serious and intense - is perfect: a really enjoyable combination.
A film to watch for its set pieces, all undeniably De Palma...the first half hour is perhaps the most classical of his work in this, and it's no surprise the action finale works least of all. He plays with his usual techniques of deception, which work well in a spy world, but he is not a director I need doing big-budget films. The basic principles of what this franchise becomes are all here.
I've always enjoyed this. Some really fun set pieces. What DePalma does is not easy, and that's why the sequels are not as satisfying. I love the international cast and the way the film plays out. The sequence in the tunnel at the end, with the chopper blade coming close to Cruise's throat, is classic.
I was well annoyed that MUBI programmed that. Yet, owing to a day off sick, I really enjoyed the film. Jean Reno is terrible, Tom Cruise is not too annoying yet, the technology is a bit ridiculous and the script not great. All in all, all that considered, it is surprising that the whole is pretty watchable.
Well, on the plus side it's a jolly romp, and it does have Jean Remo in, which is always good news (see also "Ronin"). On the negative side the final action scene stretches the suspension of disbelief - which has been vital already - beyond breaking point. Oh and the blurring of Internet and Usenet is hilarious: all those lovely newsgroups. Take me back!