Mission: Impossible vs. Ronin

There’s nothing quite like +200 HP Audis muscling through tight French alleys to get your testosterone flowing.

While anticipating this fall’s Ronin, it’s very easy to see the similarity to Mission: Impossible. Fortunately, I was very relieved to find that the two were also very different.

The Similarities

  1. A team of elite operatives, each specializing in certain areas of expertise, be it weapons, transportation, communications, etc. ? Exotic European setting, complete with car chase scenes and explosions.
  2. Plot twists and a convoluted story.
  3. Jean Reno (he played in both; bad guy in Mission, good guy in Ronin).

The Differences

  1. Character development.
  2. Intrigue under the veneer.
  3. Resolution without tying too many loose ends.

Summary

Mission: Impossible (May 22, 1996)

Release Date: May 22, 1996
Starring: Tom Cruise, Emmanuelle Béart, Jon Voight, Henry Czerny
Genres: Adventure, Action, Thriller
Runtime: 110 min
Original Title: Mission: Impossible
Original Film Language: English
Production Companies: Paramount, Cruise/Wagner Productions
When Ethan Hunt, the leader of a crack espionage team whose perilous operation has gone awry with no explanation, discovers that a mole has penetrated the CIA, he's surprised to learn that he's the No. 1 suspect. To clear his name, Hunt now must ferret out the real double agent and, in the process, even the score.

Cast Mission: Impossible

  • Tom Cruise
  • Role: Ethan Hunt
  • Emmanuelle Béart
  • Role: Claire Phelps
  • Jon Voight
  • Role: Jim Phelps
  • Henry Czerny
  • Role: Eugene Kittridge
  • Vanessa Redgrave
  • Role: Max
  • Ving Rhames
  • Role: Luther Stickell
  • Jean Reno
  • Role: Franz Krieger
  • Emilio Estevez
  • Role: Jack Harmon
  • Kristin Scott Thomas
  • Role: Sarah Davies
  • Ingeborga Dapkūnaitė
  • Role: Hannah Williams
  • Dale Dye
  • Role: Frank Barnes
  • Karel Dobrý
  • Role: Matthias
  • Marcel Iures
  • Role: Alexander Golitsyn
  • Rolf Saxon
  • Role: CIA Analyst William Donloe
  • Ion Caramitru
  • Role: Zozimov
  • Olegar Fedoro
  • Role: Kiev Agent
  • Valentina Yakunina
  • Role: Drunken Female IMF Agent
  • Marek Vašut
  • Role: Drunken Male IMF Agent
  • Nathan Osgood
  • Role: Kittridge Technician
  • Michael Rogers
  • Role: Large man
  • Keith Campbell
  • Role: Fireman (uncredited)
  • John McLaughlin
  • Role: TV Interviewer
  • Andreas Wisniewski
  • Role: Max's Companion
  • Ricco Ross
  • Role: Denied Area Security Guard
  • Mark Houghton
  • Role: Denied Area Security Guard
  • Annabel Mullion
  • Role: Flight Attendant
  • Garrick Hagon
  • Role: CNN Reporter
  • David Schneider
  • Role: Train Engineer
  • Helen Lindsay
  • Role: Female Executive in Train
  • John Knoll
  • Role: Passenger on Train in Tunnel (uncredited)

Trailer Mission: Impossible

Don’t get me wrong. I loved Mission Impossible. I thought, for a big-budget action movie, it had more than enough story and development to keep me duly satisfied. It was directed by Brian De Palma, who also did the unexciting Snake Eyes. Still, I think he was dealt a pretty hard blow by most critics who wrote that one off. Everybody whined about the plot convolutions and cinematic devices.

Awww, grow up! If you thought you were going to see an Oscar-winner, forget going to summer movies. With the dawn of summer comes the understanding that your average movie gets dumber. So with that in mind, I was actually pleasantly surprised that I had to participate that much with Mission in order to follow. That, I like.

And if the commonly cerebral fall line-up of movies holds true, then I think that Ronin fits the bill nicely. It’s the more mature, balanced version of Mission.

Summary

Ronin (September 25, 1998)

Release Date: September 25, 1998
Starring: Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone, Stellan Skarsgård
Genres: Action, Thriller, Crime, Adventure
Runtime: 122 min
Original Title: Ronin
Original Film Language: English
Production Companies: United Artists, FGM Entertainment
A briefcase with undisclosed contents – sought by Irish terrorists and the Russian mob – makes its way into criminals' hands. An Irish liaison assembles a squad of mercenaries, or 'ronin', and gives them the thorny task of recovering the case.

Cast Ronin

  • Robert De Niro
  • Role: Sam
  • Jean Reno
  • Role: Vincent
  • Natascha McElhone
  • Role: Deirdre
  • Stellan Skarsgård
  • Role: Gregor
  • Sean Bean
  • Role: Spence
  • Jonathan Pryce
  • Role: Seamus O'Rourke
  • Skipp Sudduth
  • Role: Larry
  • Katarina Witt
  • Role: Natacha Kirilova
  • Michael Lonsdale
  • Role: Jean-Pierre
  • Ron Perkins
  • Role: Man with the Newspaper
  • Féodor Atkine
  • Role: Mikhi
  • Daniel Breton
  • Role: Sergi's Accomplice
  • Amidou
  • Role: Man at Exchange
  • Jan Tříska
  • Role: Dapper Gent
  • Bernard Bloch
  • Role: Sergi
  • Léopoldine Serre
  • Role: Arles Little Girl
  • Dominic Gugliametti
  • Role: Clown Ice Skater
  • Alan Beckworth
  • Role: Clown Ice Skater
  • Tolsty
  • Role: The 'Boss'
  • Gérard Moulévrier
  • Role: Tour Guide
  • Lionel Vitrant
  • Role: The 'Target'
  • Vincent Schmitt
  • Role: Arles Messenger
  • Julia Maraval
  • Role: Girl Hostage
  • Laurent Spielvogel
  • Role: Tourist in Nice
  • Ron Jeremy
  • Role: Fishmonger (scenes deleted)
  • Steve Suissa
  • Role: Waiter in Nice
  • Katia Tchenko
  • Role: Woman Hostage
  • Dyna Gauzy
  • Role: Little Screaming Girl
  • Lilly-Fleur Pointeaux
  • Role: Little Girl
  • Dimitrij Rafalský
  • Role: Russian Interpreter
  • Gérard Touratier
  • Role: Ice Rink Security Guard
  • Christophe Maratier
  • Role: Armed Police Officer
  • Pierre Forest
  • Role: CRS Captain
  • Henry Moati
  • Role: Bartender
  • Cyril Prentout
  • Role: Mikhi's Bodyguard
  • Vladimir Tchernine
  • Role: Russian Mechanic
  • Amanda Spencer
  • Role: Little Girl
  • Frédéric Schmalzbauer
  • Role: German Tour Guide
  • Lou Maraval
  • Role: Arles Little Girl
  • Nader Boussandel
  • Role: Weapon Seller (uncredited)
  • Hélène Cardona
  • Role: Police Dispatch (voice) (uncredited)
  • Lee Delong
  • Role: (uncredited)
  • Norbert Ferrer
  • Role: Ambulance Man Nice (uncredited)
  • Veronique Blanc Meyere
  • Role: Natacha Kirilova's Assistant (uncredited)
  • Christine Musset
  • Role: Natacha Kirilova's Assistant (uncredited)
  • Chuck Riley
  • Role: Narrator of Theatrical Trailer (voice) (uncredited)

Trailer Ronin

Ronin did all that its predecessor accomplished, yet without all the pyrotechnics, save an extravagant car chase scene. Incidentally, the film was shot masterfully by French cinematographer Robert Fraisse, whose work include a bunch of, well, French stuff and the American Seven Years in Tibet.

Ronin was directed by John Frankenheimer, who most notably brought us The Manchurian Candidate, the bold shocker of the 60s. While very different stories, you can definitely see his painter’s stroke at work here. There’s the air of government intrigue and power espionage. Also by Frankenheimer, and equally displaying his talent, is the eerie Seconds which is due to be remade later next year.

There’s one thing that’s perhaps the most definable characteristic of Ronin that makes it a slightly better movie than Mission: there’s a lot left to the imagination. There’s limited information, even after everything there is to know is revealed. We never get to find out what’s in the case. We never really get to know who these men are, especially DeNiro’s character.

Herein lies the personification. The case isn’t just the object of everybody’s murderous greed. It’s really a symbol of the people in the film. DeNiro’s character in particular reflected the mystique of “the case.” He’s ex-CIA… or is he? He can be trusted… or can he? Throughout the movie, the other characters are constantly trying to figure him out.

Sam: “If there aren’t any doubts, there is always doubt. That’s the first thing they teach you.”
Vincent: “Who taught you that?”
Sam: “I don’t remember. That’s the second thing they teach you.”

Hitchcock called this film device, the object of a thriller’s pace and mystique, a “McGuffin.” Roger Ebert probably said it best that inside the case was most likely the suitcase from Pulp Fiction, which got me to thinking. For movies that dealt with obtaining, stealing, or selling particular items of luggage, I was reminded of a couple of other films (all of which are pretty good flicks):

  1. Pulp Fiction – the strange escapades of Samuel Jackson and John Travolta with their mysterious suitcase.
  2. Sneakers – the “ultimate code-breaker” little black box that every government, agency, and operative killed to get their hands on. Lot’s of government intrigue and spy-vs.-spy.
  3. Se7en – “What’s in the (expletive) box?!” Not a covert agent movie, but nevertheless I couldn’t help think of this quote during Ronin as DeNiro is basically asking the same thing in a couple different scenes.

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