U2 band members Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton produced their own version of the original theme song. The song went into top ten charts around the world and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. The movie was the third highest grossing of the year. It is the first movie based on the television series of the same name and was followed by two sequels, Mission: Impossible II (2000) and Mission: Impossible III (2006).
Hunt returns to the IMF safe house, where he discovers that fellow agent Claire Phelps (Emmanuelle Béart), Jim Phelps's wife, actually survived the mission. He begins correspondence with Max (Vanessa Redgrave), warning her about the fake NOC list and offering to deliver the real one in exchange for $10 million and a face-to-face meeting with the mole, nicknamed "Job." Max agrees to the deal and gives Hunt a cash advance, which he uses to hire two blacklisted or disavowed intelligence agents: computer expert Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and pilot Franz Krieger (Jean Reno). Hunt, Stickell, Krieger, and Claire infiltrate the heavily fortified headquarters of the CIA in Langley, Virginia, and successfully steal a copy of the full NOC list before escaping to a safe house in London. Once there, Hunt discovers that his uncle and mother have been falsely arrested for drug trafficking in an attempt by Kittridge to lure him out of hiding. This infuriates Hunt, and he contacts Kittridge, who offers to drop the false charges the moment Hunt surrenders to authorities. Hunt stays on the line long enogh for Kittridge to trace him to the London area, then hangs up and finds Jim Phelps standing right next to him.
Phelps, presumed dead in the Prague operation, says that Kittridge is the mole and is trying to tie up loose ends by arresting Hunt. Hunt reflects on this, while mentally piecing together clues he has discovered along the way and concluding that Phelps is the mole, Job. Hunt pretends to accept the story, understanding that Krieger has assisted Phelps, but is still doubtful about Claire's place in the conspiracy. The next day, Max and Hunt arrange to meet aboard the TGV en route to Paris, with Claire and Stickell aboard to provide backup. Kittridge is also aboard, having recently arrived in London and received tickets for the TGV and a video watch from Hunt. Aboard the train, Hunt delivers the NOC list to Max, who directs him to the luggage compartment to find Job and his money. Max then attempts to transmit the NOC list to a server, but Stickell activates a jamming device to prevent the upload. Claire, observing Kittridge's presence aboard the train, vacates her seat and meets with Phelps in the luggage car, confirming her part in the conspiracy. A silent "Phelps" slowly peels his face away, showing it as a mask and revealing himself as Hunt. They are interrupted by the arrival of the real Phelps, armed and demanding that Hunt hand over the money paid to him by Max. Hunt does so, then puts on a pair of glasses with a camera built into the bridge; the image of Phelps' face is transmitted to the video watch carried by Kittridge, giving the latter undeniable proof of Job's true identity.
Claire tries to persuade Phelps not to kill Hunt, but he kills her instead, knocks Hunt down, and climbs up to the roof. Krieger has been following the train in a helicopter and is waiting to extract Phelps. Hunt recovers and follows Phelps, impeding his efforts to escape and tethering Krieger's helicopter to the train as it heads into the Channel Tunnel. The fight continues, with the helicopter now following the train inside the tunnel. The two fight atop the wind-swept train before Phelps disconnects the helicopter from the train and attempts to escape. Hunt follows, leaping onto the helicopter's landing skids and attaching explosive chewing gum to the windshield. The ensuing explosion kills Phelps and Krieger, with Ethan narrowly escaping. Now in possession of the NOC list and Max's true identity, Kittridge reinstates Stickell as an IMF agent and drops his investigation against Hunt, who resigns from the IMF. As he flies home, a flight attendant approaches him and asks, through a coded phrase, if he is ready to take on a new mission.
The film went into pre-production without a script that the filmmakers wanted to use. De Palma designed the action sequences but neither Koepp or Towne were satisfied with the story that would make these sequences take place. Towne ended up helping organize a beginning, middle and end to hang story details on while De Palma and Koepp worked on the plot. De Palma convinced Cruise to set the first act of the film in Prague, a city rarely seen in Hollywood films at the time.
The scene that takes place in a glass-walled restaurant with a big lobster tank in the middle and three huge fish tanks overhead was Cruise's idea. There were 16 tons in all of the tanks and there was a concern that when they blew, a lot of glass would fly around. De Palma tried the sequence with a stuntman but it did not look convincing and he asked Cruise to do it despite the possibility that the actor could have drowned.
The script that Cruise approved called for a final showdown to take place on top of a moving train. The actor wanted to use the famously fast French train the TGV but rail authorities did not want any part of the stunt performed on their trains. When that was no longer a problem, the track was not available. De Palma visited railroads on two continents trying to get permission. Cruise took the train owners out to dinner and the next day they were allowed to use it. For the actual sequence, the actor wanted wind that was so powerful that it could knock him off the train. Cruise had difficulty finding the right machine that would create the wind velocity that would look visually accurate before remembering a simulator he used while training as a skydiver. The only machine of its kind in Europe was located and acquired. Cruise had it produce winds up to 140 miles per hour so it would distort his face. Most of the sequence, however, was filmed on a stage against a blue screen for later digitizing by the visual effects team at Industrial Light & Magic.
The filmmakers delivered the film on time and under budget with Cruise doing most of his own stunts. Initially, there was a sophisticated opening sequence that introduced a love triangle between Phelps, his wife and Ethan Hunt that was removed because it took the test audience "out of the genre", according to De Palma. There were rumors that the actor and De Palma did not get along and they were fueled by the director excusing himself at the last moment from scheduled media interviews before the film's theatrical release.
Apple Computer had a $15 million promotion linked to the film that included a game, print ads and television spot featuring scenes from the TV show turned into the feature film; dealer and in-theater promos; and a placement of Apple personal computers in the film. This was an attempt on Apple's part to improve their image after posting a $740 million loss in its fiscal second quarter.
Despite the large revenues, the film received a mixed reaction from critics and has a 59% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 60 metascore for Metacritic. Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars and wrote, "This is a movie that exists in the instant, and we must exist in the instant to enjoy it". In his review for the New York Times, Stephen Holden addressed the film's convoluted plot: "If that story doesn't make a shred of sense on any number of levels, so what? Neither did the television series, in which basic credibility didn't matter so long as its sci-fi popular mechanics kept up the suspense". However, Hal Hinson, in his review for the Washington Post, wrote, "There are empty thrills, and some suspense. But throughout the film, we keep waiting for some trace of personality, some color in the dialogue, some hipness in the staging or in the characters' attitudes. And it's not there". USA Today gave the film three out of four stars and said that it was "stylish, brisk but lacking in human dimension despite an attractive cast, the glass is either half-empty or half-full here, though the concoction goes down with ease".
The song went to the top 10 on charts around the world, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance in 1997, and was a definite critical and commercial success. Mullen and Clayton were not involved with the soundtrack for the 2000 sequel to the movie.
The song was also in the intro for numerous Cambodian karaoke Laser Discs from Angkor.