Saturday, May 06, 2006

Mission: Impossible

I watched Mission: Impossible the first last night while working. I think it's held up very well and it's remarkable how much Brian DePalma has stamped himself all over it - I mean, he does it in the same obvious ways he always does (and God bless him for it), but it certainly didn't seem so at the time. It seemed like another Untouchables/Casualties of War effort at quality, cold, impersonal quality. But in addition to a setpiece that hasn't lost an ounce of impact a decade later, it is such a Brian DePalma film. It isn't terribly smart - although we like DePalma for his brilliance, not his intelligence - but it does everything that he does and does them extremely well. I remember watching it in high school and being the only person who wasn't confused by the plot - not because I figured anything out, but because I'm DePalma's ideal audience member, registering the self-referentiality without holding it against him and granting him those leaps in logic ("leaps" perhaps being too mild a word) because I like being carried along a story like that. I just didn't pay attention to the parts that didn't make sense.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself comparing Tom Cruise to the cartoon characters in that Robert Zemeckis movie I avoided so vehemently, The Polar Express. The "Uncanny Valley" theory describes likenesses that come very close to reproducing the real thing, but of course aren't the real thing. CGI animators figured out early on that making the design and movements of characters too close to real human movements, is, well, pretty damn creepy. Tom Cruise is like that. He performs all the actions required of an actor/human being, but there's something about his performances, loud or emotive as they may be, that just isn't right. He's like an acting machine, with a hollowness that allows in neither bits and pieces of actual humanity, nor the stylized cartoonisms animators adapt to sidestep the valley. He creeps me out.

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