Reviews - Mission: Impossible

Review #1 by the Groovy Yak

I remember buying this CD right after I saw Mission: Impossible in the theater. I wasn't really listening to the music while I watched the movie. (I was too busy asking my friends around me about the plot!) BUT, I trusted Danny Elfman. I knew I'd hear a score full of really cool action cues. When I finally listened to the CD that I had just purchased, I was very disappointed. Sure, tracks 2, 15, 17, and 18 were cool, but I thought the rest of the CD sucked. (Do professional reviewers write that word in their reviews? I guess I'm not professional.) I loaned it to one of my friends and didn't see it until the beginning of the winter semester (January 97.) I had just watched the movie again on video and suddenly I took an interest in the soundtrack. I got it back from my friend and paid closer attention to each track. Soon I found that I was addicted to this soundtrack. I was in love with EVERY SINGLE TRACK!
There is a moral to this story, children. I've read many different reviews and have had discussions with people who have said that this soundtrack is a major disappointment. However, I strongly disagree. I think many people did the same thing that I did. They only listened to the "BIG FINALE" tracks and paid no attention to the other 40 minutes of the CD. Mission Impossible is COMPOSED BRILLIANTLY. Danny gives us a magnificent blend of orchestral and electronic music. He does a good job of imitating Lalo Schifrin's style. He uses his own heroic theme that follows Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) around the world and spares us from hearing the Mission: Impossible theme a billion times. When he does use the Mission : Impossible theme at the end, the viewer/listener really appreciates it.
I won't go through each track and tell you what makes them awesome (a few tracks do get a tad monotonous) but I just want to mention track 10, Betrayal. It's very different from the other tracks. Elfman combines the choir-like sounds of Edward Scissorhands with bass guitar. It's has a very haunting sound to it and works great in the movie.
This is a superb CD that should not be missed by ANY Elfman fan. AND, for those of you who made the same mistake I did and left this CD on your CD rack collecting dust, I suggest you give Mission: Impossible a second chance.
Rating: * * * *

Review #2 by Ian Davis

Reviewing a score that's as 'spot on' as this is one of the most tedious processes mankind has yet to evolve. It takes all the fun out of dissection, all the blood and guts threaten to remain neatly tied up, rather than dangling from the autopsy table.
And Elfman's hurriedly completed score for Mission: Impossible (written in his busiest year, after Alan Silvestri's attempt was rejected) is the ne plus ultra of irritatingly perfect film music. The composer judged accurately the film's emphasis on atmospheric set-pieces and sweaty tension, above the usual blockbuster gung-ho style. Schifrin's original music for the 60's series is revamped for the opening titles (track 2, reprised to great effect as Cruise gets his own back in the 'copter finale, track 18) and more is incorporated (from 'The Plot') into his own music throughout the score.
Thematically compact, the music succeeds in fitting tightly with the action and character psychology, enhancing the viewer's participation in the film without being considered as anything but a 'part' of it. This is no 'popular' soundtrack: its 'tuneful' moments are plot-related, and they come precisely at times when Mission's intricate plot-weavings need least scrutiny.
Elfman's debt to Herrmann (rather like director De Palma's to Hitchcock) reaches the heart of his style here: in addition to the slightly acidic string playing style that flourished in Dolores Claiborne (following Herrmann's derision of classical Hollywood warm, vibrato-drenched swoonings), Elfman finds a Stravinskian sense of rhythmic supplety, mixed with uncompromisingly brittle harmonies. The rhythmic side (Elfman includes a veritable battery of percussion, used for both rhythmic and timbral effect) is especially important in giving the film its nail-biting tension (see for example the 'cuckoo' motif in track 1, that for all we know could symbolize a cuckoo in the nest or a cuckoo clock marking time), but also boosts the driving force of its finale-from the strident rising 4-note motif of the TGV (is this an inversion of Herrmann's main motif in Cape Fear) to the frenetic cacophony preceding the Schifrin theme's triumphal return in the final cue. This accentuation of rhythm over all other musical thought (harmony, melody, leitmotif thematicismů) is something Herrmann pioneered in North By Northwest-which, incidentally, includes train journeys, a plane chase (substitute for helicopter and combine them for effect), a dashing but confused hero, and was rounded off by an ambitious set-piece finale!
The CD? This is mature Elfman (no sign of goofiness or gothic or fairytale), and like cheese it can take getting used to. No Elfman fan could live without it and retain credibility. It may be a hard piece to get to know (and I don't advise it without having watched the film at least twice beforehand), but it has an invigorating momentum behind it that sets it apart from any other recent score.
FAVOURITE MOMENT: Forget the CD-watch the greatest (successful) musical master-stroke since Psycho as Elfman leaves the central NOC-list stealing scene in heart-stopping, claustrophobic silence. And then boggle as the music follows the CIA employee's realization that something is wrong. Dramatic genius-who cares whether the director or the composer is most to be congratulated: the result is electrifying.
Rating: * * * *

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