Impossible Mission Force

Sean Witzke takes a well documented and well argued look at the first four Mission: Impossible movies from an auteurist point of view. The auteur theory, as defined and practiced by the writers of the Cahiers du Cinéma, aims to trace the distinct creative vision and imprint of a film director, even when that director is working within the commercially restrictive framework of, say, a Hollywood production.


That tension between personal creativity and impersonal economics always looms over auteur theory. There are many tales from behind the scenes of blockbusters that indicate that only a handful of directors have the clout to push their vision over the producers’ and the studio’s. But economy and creativity aren’t always at odds. Brian De Palma wanted to end The Untouchables with a fight scene on a train, which proved too expensive to film. He replaced that scene with the iconic Union Station shoot-out that famously featured a tribute to Eisenstein. A decade later, De Palma did get the money to make his elaborate train fight sequence… for Mission: Impossible.


Franchises are even more unforgiving environments for the cinematic auteur. These series tend to be producer-driven, with the director relegated to the role of technician. In this video essay, Witzke makes a convincing case for the M:I franchise, finding evidence of each of the directors’ vision in these movies. His point of how each installment employs Hitchcockian tropes and tricks is particularly interesting.