The first few times I saw this, I thought it was really intricate and complex, and that I'd be lost if I wasn't paying absolutely 100% attention. Well, I'm older now, and I rewatched this last night, and I must say that, even though it is still a tight and intelligent spy thriller, this film is actually pretty straight forward for the most part, with a fairly standard plot. You still have to pay attention, but it's not nearly as complex and intricate as I used to think.
Die hard fans of the series had lots of issues with how certain characters were portrayed and how things were done, but I can't really weigh in on that aspect. Though the broad plot (a hunt for a mole who tries to betray the company due to disillusionment) is nothing new, and the film is rather light on subtext, it's all done with tons of style, energy, and competance. Brian DePalma is at the helm, but it seems like many of his big flashy trademarks are downplayed, and used more subtly, which is fine by me even if it shows that anyone else could have been in charge instead of him.
There's some big action scenes, one of which gets a bit too over the top, but, as good as all this is done, where the film shines is with the mood, tone, atmosphere, and the building of suspense and tension. The film has very much the feel of a slick, updated film noir quality about it, especially in the first act setpiece with all the shots of foggy streets and heavy backlighting. The real highlight of the film though, is the incredible sequence at Langeley where agent Ethan Hunt is suspended from a ceiling trying to steal valuable information from a heavily protected computer. Everytime I watch this sequence, no matter how many times I've seen it, it really holds up, and the only way it could have been more suspenseful would be if it was all done in a single take.
The cast are well chosen and they all put in some good work. Say what you want about Cruise, but he is a good choice and pulls off the part pretty nicely. Emmanuelle Beart makes for a sultry femme fatale, Jean Reno and Ving Rhames each bring some charisma and humor to things, and having Jon Voight in your film is always a good idea.
Give this one a watch. It's a real fun and entertaining ride, and Danny Elfman's score blends in nicely with Lalo Schifrin's classic theme song.