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It’s been five years since we last saw Tom Cruise’s physics-defying superhero secret agent Ethan Hunt on screen, and we couldn’t be happier that he’s returning. The “Mission: Impossible” franchise could stack up against any other series of films on the basis of sheer escapist fun, and this weekend (in select theatres) we finally get the long-gestating fourth “Mission.”
This time, Ethan and company will be bigger, brighter, and louder than ever before, thanks to a nationwide pre-release on IMAX screens. To commemorate this occasion, we’re looking back at the best moments in the first three films. They may not be the most “impossible” scenes, but they’re damn cool, and if they can’t get you excited for Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, nothing will.
5. “Now I’m Out” — Mission: Impossible III
If you asked me to show you one scene—just one—that sums up the character of Ethan Hunt, it’s this one. Put the guy in a sticky situation (like he is here after rescuing Keri Russell from captors), and easily gets himself out. And sometimes, like this instance, he even manages to be clever about it.
4. Making a Mask — Mission: Impossible III
I love this scene not because it’s integral to the plot, or because it’s a particularly brilliant escape. Rather, it’s a reward for big fans. You’ve suspended your logic for us many times, so here’s a thank you — a glimpse behind the curtain, so to speak.
3. Switcheroo — Mission: Impossible II
Mission: Impossible II seems to have a “love it or hate it” kind of following. There are plenty of people, like myself, who really appreciate director John Woo’s stylish action scenes, while others bemoan the director for losing control of the plot and relying on a lot of contrivances. One major story-related complaint is the reliance on the famous mask switcheroos. This one, however, is just plain badass. It leads to the film’s climax and feels particularly epic, despite being telegraphed a mile away.
2. Countdown — Mission: Impossible III
Each film in the “Mission: Impossible” series begins with a stirring prologue. If I included honorable mentions on this list, two of them would absolutely be introductory mission in the first film and the rock scaling from the second. The start of the third film, however, takes the cake. It sets a great structure to the film and prepares us for an awesome showdown between Cruise and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
1.) Close Call — Mission: Impossible
Though it’s probably the weakest film in the series, Mission: Impossible contains one of the most iconic scenes in modern action-film history. Seeing Ethan dangle an inch from the floor is the absolute height of tension. Seriously, if this doesn’t have you on the edge of your seat, you should probably check your pulse.