It begins as it means to go on: with a bang. A fuse is lit and the credits literally explode in a rapid-fire barrage of images and music. After a trailer that promised so much, this is, thankfully, a summer blockbuster that really delivers.
A revisitation of the famous 60s TV series with that impossibly cool theme tune and a cachet of catchy catchphrases ("This tape will self destruct..." etc), this treats its inspiration with just the right amount of respect, while at the same time managing to reinvent the premise of a group of undercover agents, working in what is now the Cold War-less 90s.
The plot is a contortionist's delight: a spider's web of stolen computer disks, moles, mayhem, double-crosses and murder that begins in Prague with Cruise's Ethan Hunt and his Impossible Missions Force (including Beart, Emilio Estevez and Kristin Scott-Thomas), under the direction of Jim Phelps (Voight in the Peter Graves role), called in to intercept a traitor and a disk containing the identities of every Western spy in Europe. When the mission goes awry and his team is annihilated, Cruise suspects he's been set up, only to find himself accused of being the mole. As Washington, London and finally the Channel Tunnel all go by in a blur, the rest of the film is taken up with Cruise, aided by Béart, all lips and tits, out to prove his innocence.
There are, of course, gadgets galore, Cruise peeling off various cool disguises, and that piece of music at regular intervals. De Palma, undisputed master of the set-piece, pulls out all the f-stops this time around, with edgy camera angles and a series of extended tension-building nerve-jangling sequences - including one in a white-walled vault resembling something out of 2001, where Cruise is suspended on wires above a touch sensitive floor.
At a little under two hours this fair zips by, but when the script, by David Koepp and Robert Towne, moves from action to plotting and concerns itself with upping the levels of paranoia, you'll be left scratching your head trying to decipher the twists within twists within twists.