To help you navigate the choppy digital waves, here are The Globe’s best bets for streaming, with this week’s special edition ranking all six of the previously released Mission: Impossible films to prepare for the new release of Dead Reckoning Part One (which fits between Fallout and M:I III on this list; full review here).
1. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
After revisiting the entire M:I series on Paramount’s new Blu-ray collection – as much a steal as any of spy hero Ethan Hunt’s top-secret thefts – it’s more clear than ever that the sixth edition, Fallout, is the franchise’s high-water, or perhaps high-altitude, mark. During the production of the 2018 sequel, Cruise should have died a dozen times over. Relying heavily on practical stunts (no green-screen technology here), the sixth film in the M:I franchise asks Cruise to leap from tall buildings, ride a speeding motorcycle through Paris without a helmet (against traffic), dangle from a helicopter before piloting it into a 360-degree barrel roll, and perform a high-altitude, low-opening 200-miles-per-hour free-fall jump from a moving plane 25,000 feet in the air. (That last feat took 106 takes.) Cruise emerged from Fallout with only a broken ankle. And, it should be noted, the most thrilling, entertaining, stand-on-your-feet-this-is-bananas blockbuster in recent memory
2. Mission: Impossible III (2006)
There is a curious amount of dislike out in the M:I fan-verse for this J.J. Abrams-directed sequel. Maybe it’s from John Woo die-hards upset that Abrams righted the ship after the rather disastrous M:I 2. Maybe it’s because certain audiences just didn’t care for Abrams’s injection of personal melodrama into the proceedings, with the film introducing Michelle Monaghan’s Julia as the fiancée of Cruise’s hero Ethan Hunt. Perhaps it was Abrams’s approach to action, with his set-pieces executed from a decidedly street-level perspective – when a missile hits a patch of highway, the camera is rattled just as much as Ethan. Or maybe it’s the addition of comedy to the series, with the buddy dynamics between Hunt and teammates Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg) placed front and centre. But all of those elements are what make M:I III such a franchise-saving delight, paving the way for directors Brad Bird (Part 4) and Christopher McQuarrie (Parts 5, 6, 7 and the forthcoming 8) to scale things way, way, way up. Plus, Abrams’s entry boasts the best villain of the series by an impossibly wide margin: Philip Seymour Hoffman’s blithely callous arms dealer Owen Davian.
3. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
If Ghost Protocol isn’t the best M:I film, then the fourth entry certainly boasts the best M:I trailer – a rocking 2½ minutes of head-shaking action sound-tracked by a fist-pumping Eminem track. And yeah, the movie itself is pretty grand, too, with director Brad Bird (a Pixar veteran) and Cruise sensing an opportunity to go big, tall and wide with the series. From its opening prison break sequence to the vertigo-inducing Burj Khalifa scene, Ghost Protocol is the opening salvo in Cruise’s long debate with Death itself. It’s also rather funny to watch today knowing that, at the time of the film’s production, there was the shockingly strong rumour that co-star Jeremy Renner might somehow be able to pick the series up from Cruise.
4. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
When director Christopher McQuarrie joined the M:I franchise with this 2015 entry, so much of the series’ main elements were already cast in bronze. There was Hunt’s group of (sometimes interchangeable) tech-savvy buddies and their constant tendency to “go rogue,” a power-mad villain who was after some doohickey or another, and a jaw-dropping stunt or three. So as excellent as Rogue Nation is, it feels just a bit lesser-than because it remixes preconceived elements rather than invent its own. The film gets bonus points, though, for introducing a cool-as-ice Alec Baldwin into the mix as a U.S. government honcho. Make that a million bonus points, actually, for also adding Rebecca Ferguson’s enigmatic assassin Elsa Faust, too.
5. Mission: Impossible (1996)
Just as the Fast & Furious franchise started its gargantuan life as a humble street-racing flick, it is wild to look back and realize that the stunt-packed M:I series was spawned from a knotty Brian De Palma thriller (yes, and a television show, but c’mon). Then again, maybe it’s not too surprising, as the 1996 film is still a knockout, messy and divine. De Palma’s European sensibilities collide with Cruise’s American exceptionalism in all the right ways, and the film is jammed with master classes in scenery chewing, thanks to Jon Voight, Henry Czerny, Jean Reno and Emmanuelle Beart.
6. Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)
Many brave, foolhardy and contrarian souls have tried to reclaim John Woo’s M:I sequel as a secret masterpiece. But even the most die-hard fan of the Hong Kong master has to admit that this film is a noble failure – bombastic in the most pleasure-stripped manner. Today, the film is perhaps most notable for making history in all the wrong ways: Not only did it seriously derail Woo’s Hollywood career and almost kill off the nascent M:I franchise, but it also cost co-star Dougray Scott the role of a lifetime (the actor was set to play Wolverine until M:I 2 shooting delays compelled X-Men producers to cast some guy named Hugh Jackman).