Sam Strange Remembers: The Mission Impossible Saga

Hollywood legend Sam Strange tells us about the time he made a series of films based on a 1960s TV show theme song.

Mission Impossible is a series of films I made based on a 1960s TV show theme song. My idea was to make an American James Bond series. Unlike the other would-be American James Bond series, the Bourne Franchise, Mission Impossible would really stick to the Bond formula by making sure each entry stands alone as part one of its very own franchise and therefore have no tension whatsoever.

Mission Impossible I

The first film begins with a cool team of cool people planning a big operation. Our obvious star is Tom Cruise. In this series, Cruise plays  _____ ___, a ___ working for ___. _____ ____ is one of cinema's deeper characters. We know so much about him. For instance, he likes to ____. His favorite drink is ___ ______ ___ ___. He always wears _____ and _-_____. Some spies are stuck up and cold. But not _____. He's always _____ and ____ while remaining  ____________. There isn't much to bridge these films together, so it's good that we establish some recognizable constants early on.

But this is a team movie, so _____ doesn't have to work alone. With him are some girl, some other girl, another girl, and Emilio Estevez. Heading the whole thing up is Leslie Nielson.

We learn something very crucial about the Mission Impossible series right from the opening scene: the good guys can make masks. Bond had gadgets galore, but we have only one: Masks. They don't matter much in the first film, but they get increasingly important as we enter Part Two, and less important again right after that.

Anyway, _____ ____'s team is getting ready to steal what's called a Knock List from some guy at a fancy party. The Knock List is a very important document which identifies every active American spy in Europe in order of sex appeal. One can understand why this would be such a dangerous, yet fascinating piece of intelligence. No one wants it out in the open, but everyone wants to know where they stand.

Unfortunately, someone ambushes the team. I spend a good amount of time letting you get to know the crew for a reason. We have a solid idea that these people really get along with each other and have a lot of history, and they're kind of fun to be around. When they die it means all you get is _____ ____ all the time. It's one thing to take something valuable away from a character to make him sad. It's genius to make the audience feel that loss too. Especially when the most likable one gets stabbed in the face by an elevator shaft designed by the Albino Wizard from Saw. Your heart really goes out for him, as well as for _____ and for the next two hours of your life.

_____ checks in with his ___ overlords and they tell him that he's  under suspicion for killing his team. There's really no basis for this, but one tenant of this series is that ___ is an incredibly fickle, poorly run organization. ____ escapes by blowing up a fish tank containing a shark and to crocodiles who gnaw on ___ stooges while he RUUUUUUUUUNS away.

So now _____ is on his own, but he needs to figure out who killed his team and set him up. To do this he decided to steal the actual Knock List, and whoever tries to buy it is the bad guy.

To do this, _____ finds other ___ guys that have been wrongly accused of killing their own teams. He comes up with a French guy named Seniõr Frenché. He is untrustworthy because he doesn't shave and has the overbite of a rat.

Next _____ finds a true friend for life, ___ ____, hacker code-named C-3pBro. C-3pBro is a cyborg, but not the cool Terminator kind of cyborg. Instead he's a computer expert type of cyborg, which means he spends each movie sitting in vans typing furiously. He's also a bit of a Debbie-Downer, constantly calculating the odds that _____ won't succeed.

With this team in place _____ attempts to steal the Knock List which is currently being held at the ___ headquarters. The room they keep it in is pretty special, as C-3pBro is happy to tell us. If the temperature changes even one degree, all hell breaks loose. Any noise louder than a whisper, all hell breaks loose. Anything touches the floor, all hell breaks loose. I mean it. Like, the whole building will explode.

To pull it off _____ has to dangle in front of the computer and ctrl-c ctrl-v the info onto a mini disk. It goes off without a hitch. I mean, he almost hits the floor at one point and he has to catch his own sweat in his hand, but that's nothing.

Knock List in hand, _____ makes a deal to sell it to the bad guy on a train. Once there, he finds out that his old dead buddy Leslie Neilson is not only still alive, but the orchestrator of everything. Not only that, but Seniõr Frenché is working for him! _____ chases him on top of the train where he must face off with Seniõr Frenché's helicopter. Everything explodes except _____ and the train and the Knock List. A blade almost cuts _____'s head off, but that's nothing.

The other bad guy, the one who wanted to buy the Knock List in the first place turns out to be a lady named Max. I think she gets arrested. Or maybe that was in a deleted scene. Honestly, all I remember from the last twenty minutes of this film is the helicopter blade almost cutting _____'s head off. People say this movie is confusing, but what's so hard to grasp about a helicopter blade almost cutting a guy's head off? Didn't your mom tell you not to sweat the small stuff? If you need to understand every inch of a movie, go watch one you have to read.

(three stars)

Mission Impossible II

In the spirit of other great sequels, Mission Impossible II is actually a prequel, highlighting the early days of ____ ____ to explore how he became such a ____ and _________ individual.

This should be obvious when we first meet _____. His hair is a long, early 20s mop. He dresses like Neo instead of like an adult. And he has the immature habit of dealing with stress by smiling, sighing, and lightly shaking his head in disbelief. A defense mechanism for the ages, especially ages 12-19.

We catch up with young _____ while he's on vacation climbing an extremely dangerous mountain. This vacation is cut short when famously cold and elusive field agent Dr. Spock jet-packs up to deliver his next impossible mission. Shocked, _____ loses footing and almost falls to his death. Luckily he recovers by smiling, sighing, and lightly shaking his head in disbelief.

The mission is to seduce a young thief so she'll help him recover a biological weapon known as Chimera. ____ travels to a country that is not America and woos the woman by stealing the necklace she's casing out from under her, not really with cool moves, but by rigging the game with electronics. Like his mentor, the highly irregular yet effective Field Agent Kirk, ____ doesn't believe in a no-cheat situation.

When that doesn't win her over, he takes a more direct approach and crashes her car off a steep cliff. As she's dangling over the cold jaws of death, ____ jumps over and saves her life. After that, she's putty in his hands.

That's good because when _____ gets the rest of his briefing from Anthony Hopkins later that night, he finds that his mission is more impossible than normal. Now that the girl is wooed, he must turn her over as a mole to a rogue ___ agent who's trying to get Chimera. Anthony Hopkins doesn't think this sounds too hard: "Go to bed with a man and lie? She's a woman -- she has all the training she needs." ____ doesn't know what to think of this because he's young and does not yet know how to look at women with hatred and disgust.

So he sends her off to fuck the bad guy, played by a digital composite of European actors we'll refer to as Dougray Scott. Like a Bond villain, Scott is a total pussy, but he has a blonde badass in his back pocket. He's in love with the thief, so his emotions are pretty high while she's around. He actually knows she's a mole right off the bat, but keeps her around anyway simply for the sex.

Now that he's whored out his new girlfriend, it's time for _____ to get a team together. Of course, C-3pBro is back to explain how hard it will be to break into places. With him is Simon Pegg as a helicopter pilot / wisecracker type.

It gets complicated at this point. Thanks to some narration at the beginning, we all know that a scientist created Chimera because he needed something for his hero virus, Bocephus, to fight. Now we have to wait for _____ ____ to figure it out.

So he has to capture Brendan Gleeson and put on an old scientist mask to get the info. At the same time, Dougray Scott wears an _____ ____ mask to get the thief lady to admit she's a mole. He already knows she is, but he wants to hear her say it so it will hurt his European heart more.

Once this shit is out of the way, we can finally move on. _____ ____ goes to a lab to destroy all the Chimera in existence. He manages to destroy all but one vial. He could have done better but his moody walking is exasperated by constant slow motion so we can all see the sway of his hair.

Dougray Scott interrupts him by threatening to kill the thief lady, though he doesn't blame her for being a whore: "You know how women are, Mate. Like monkeys they are. Won't let go of one branch till they get a grip on the next." Young _____ ____ says nothing, but internalizes everything.

Anyway, the lady surprises everyone not watching the movie by taking the vial and injecting herself. So now _____ ____ needs to get Bocephus in her body in less than twenty hours or she'll die. He starts by jumping out a window.

Things come to a head on a beautiful tropical island called Australia. Dougray Scott has planted the thief girl deep in Sydney where she will kill everyone with her Chimera unless Brendan Gleeson buys Bocephus. Or sells Bocephus. Or, I'm not really s... PIGEONS!!!

_____ ____ and his team of trained pigeons breaks in on their deal and makes shit hectic. Dougray Scott sends his blonde badass after him. He returns minutes later, carrying a limp and defeated _____ ____. Dougray Scott shoots ____ only to reveal the blonde badass in an _____ ____ mask. As he screams in anger, we cut to _____ ____ RUUUUUUUNING away while ripping away his blonde badass mask, even though it made him look much taller.

He has Bocephus and throws it to C-3PBro and Simon Pegg so they can fly it to the thief girl. ___, however, is unable to get on the chopper.

____ somehow finds a motorcycle. Dougray Scott finds one as well. The two motorcycle at each other, using their motorcycles as bombs that only blow up when smashing against another motorcycle.

Once on the ground, they start with the hand to hand combat. Dougray Scott punches a lot. This does no good against _____ ____, who insists on flip kicking. Lots and lots of flips kicking. Sometimes it's not flips, but twirls. Often cartwheels. He can do this because of the twelve pigeons he's wearing under his shirt.

Eventually, Dougray Scott has been flipkicked enough, and the movie can end. _____ ____ saves the thief girl and when he asks her to say thank you she kicks him in the balls and calls him an asshole. He just smiles, sighs, and shakes his head in disbelief. Women.

(three stars)

Mission Impossible III

Just so you know we're not fucking around, this film begins a bit ahead of time with the murder of ____ ____'s wife right in front of his eyes. This shit's gonna be a little hotter than you thought, motherfucker.

So story-wise, Mission Impossible III is actually the first direct sequel to Mission Impossible I, and like many sequels, it takes place twenty years later. _____ ____ is all mission impossible'd out, so he's looking to settle down with a really nice twenty-year old nurse played by Michelle Monaghan. (In the script his bride was eighteen, but Michelle Monaghan's real life sister Emma Stone was unavailable, so I had to up the character's age.)

We re-enter _____'s life at his engagement party where uses his ___ skills to make sure everyone's happy and their drinks are full. In fact, he's so on top of things that it starts to creep people out, so he calls his buddy C-3pBro to help take drink orders while he pretends to be a normal person instead of the greatest human ever.

_____ and his bride don't have many things in common, but we do find out that they're both orphans. Her parents died in an auto accident, while his died of old age. They both also agree that name brand is way better than generic.

These days _____ ____ is no longer an active ___. Instead he's just a trainer. But then he learns that his best cadet, Agent Felicity, has been captured. He has special feelings for her because she was the first agent he ever sent out into the field, and he lost his virginity to her as a result (the thief lady from Part Two had quick hands, but she could never steal THAT!).

Since things are personal _____ insists on being a part of the rescue team which this time includes C-3PBro, Simon Pegg, and someone called Maggie Q, who never, ever travels without her mute little sister, Maggie U.

They break in and rescue Agent Felicity, but the bad guys put a bomb in her head and it goes off. This changes things because _____'s specialty is getting REALLY pissed off when girls he likes are put in danger. So now he's got to see this through to the bitter end. C-3pBro tells him to let it go, but he cannot. C-3pBro also tells him to break up with his girlfriend. That reminds him to return home and marry her.

Their wedding takes place during the 14th hour of her hospital shift. It's a big moment for the franchise because we finally find that _____ ____'s middle name is _______. A couple of her patients die as they're exchanging cute, impromptu toy rings, and a couple more while they're doing it in the medicine room, but every nurse must learn to cope with losing patients lest the job rip them apart.

Now that they're married, _____ tells her he needs to be gone for a while and won't tell her why. Agents aren't allowed to divulge mission information, otherwise he'd explain that he's leaving her to avenge the death of the other woman he loved.

_____ and his crew go to The Vatican to steal a tubby arms dealer who breathes through his mouth because he's going to sell something called the "Rabbit's Foot" and somehow that's the key to doing something. Masks are involved, as are explosions and arguments in a form of Italian which pretty much consists of naming different pastas and quoting Super Mario.

The crew makes some masks, and everything goes without a hitch. But it turns out pretty immediately that this tubby guy they stole is something of an anomaly. Once he opens his mouth it becomes clear that he's the bad guy of a much more serious and R-Rated action movie than Mission Impossible III. This unnerves _____ greatly. He tries not to show it, but this is some real out-of-his-league shit.

Sure enough, as soon as they try to transport the guy a bunch of badass motherfuckers come to rescue him with harrier jets and tanks and Alan Moore superheroes. They blow the shit out of everything and kill tons of innocent people and _____ ____ has no idea what to do. He looks to C-3PBro for advice, but he's can't answer because he's frantically trying to hide the pants he just shat.

____ knows one thing, though: Tubby Mouth Breather is going to kidnap his wife. Once he does this he has leverage to make _____ go steal the Rabbit's Foot for him, which is in Shanghai. So instead of going to save her, he just heads to Shanghai and learns about it on the way.

Stealing the Rabbit's Foot is relatively easy, so easy that I forget how it all goes down. _____ swings from one building to another, but all I remember from that is that it requires doing math on a window like in The Social Network. Oh, that's right. We didn't film this part.

Did I mention that ___ thinks _____ is a bad guy again? Well they do. Fuck it, it doesn't matter.

Anyway, _____ has the Rabbit's Foot and gets captured by Tubby Mouth Breather. To make sure he delivered the real Rabbit's Foot, they put an explosive in _____'s brain and shoot his wife in front of him. This makes him so mad and serious that he's suddenly shocked into an R-Rated action film. Now he knows what to do.

_____ escapes and RUUUUUUUUNS to where Tubby Mouth Breather is hanging out (it's just down the street, really). The two of them have a balls out fight. You'd think they wouldn't be evenly matched because of the villain's tubbs, but they are because the bomb in _____'s head gives him such a bad headache that he can only fight with his elbows.

Eventually the fight goes outdoors with Tubby on top of _____, well out of reach of his elbows. This is all part of the plan, though. Soon enough, a semi-truck comes along and, because the driver is Asian, smears Tubby all over the grill while safely driving over _____ ____.

Quickly _____ electrocutes himself, thus shorting out his noggin-bomb before it blows. This kills him, but C3PBro arrives just in time to save his life. _____ embraces his friend. And just to show that a little of that old spark is left in him, he gives us one last smile, sigh, and shakes his head in disbelief. It's such a beautiful sight that we freeze frame that fucker and roll credits.

(three stars)