Mission improbable

These are trying times. Wall Street sunk like an elevator yesterday as the interminable convulsions of the current banking/housing correction grind along.


We’re pretty sure Osama Bin Laden isn’t dead yet – which means he’s still cowering in that cave, waiting for his hellfire missile and wishing he’d never messed with George W Bush.


Who knows when touchy Vladimir Putin will decide the next journalist, rival, or sovereign nation isn’t holding its mouth right, dispatch the problem faster than you can say “Polonium 210,” all the while whining about belligerent Poland having the gall to install protective anti-missile shields within their borders. (By the way, what is it about non-aggressive defensive measures that make Putin so crazy? I bet beekeeping suits and safety goggles drive him apoplectic.) 


And now, as if there isn’t enough bad news out there, I hear that Jon Voight will portray the father of our country, George Washington, in a new Hollywood motion picture, “An American Carol,” which debuts next month.


That’s right. Voight was once again entrusted with the character of a beloved American icon – even after what he did to Jim Phelps, the main character of the 60’s television show, “Mission Impossible.” Voight portrayed Phelps in a 1996 movie called something like “High-Tech Rambo With Ripped-Off Theme Song” that was spuriously touted as Mission Impossible’s big screen reincarnation.   


Now I’ve heard it all. Why don’t they just appoint Reverend Jeremiah Wright special ambassador for inner city race relations?  Or place Captain Joseph Hazlewood in command of a nuclear submarine? Or put Representative John Murtha in charge of troop morale in Iraq? 


Because, in a fine piece of character evisceration, Voight’s version of Phelps apparently swapped brains with a psychopath in between the television show and motion picture, because when re-introduced on the big screen, he was no longer a dedicated patriot but a cowardly, murderous traitor.



In Voight’s defense, I suppose that he, along with everyone involved with the Mission Impossible movie and sequels, never actually watched the television version.


If so, they would know that instead of all-about-me Tom Cruise monopolizing the screen with mindless fist fights, explosions, and gunfire, The Impossible Mission Force (IMF) of the TV show carried out complex plans, revealed to a thinking audience in deliciously graduated stages as they used ingenious tools to manipulate their quarry’s perception of their world. Then as the villains turned on each other and their schemes imploded from within, Phelps and his team would fade into the background. 


Putin, for example, would have been a cinch for the IMF. They could have tricked him into thinking he was on a submarine in the Baltic Sea when al-Qaida attacked Israel and Europe with Iranian nuclear weapons. Poland, however, was spared because of the anti-missile shield that Putin had found so threatening. At least that’s what he thinks until he is discovered inside a plywood submarine mock-up in Moscow, begging the Poles for sanctuary over a fake radio.


Or they could manipulate him into a catfight with Russian President Demitri Medvedev after he trounces him in the first round of an IMF-staged “Sexiest Russian Alive” contest.


I could think of many other scenarios, but one way or another, by the ending credits I guarantee there would be no more gas pipeline blackmail, bombers to Venezuela, nuclear secrets to Iran, and peace would reign in the Caucasus. And all in one hour, minus commercials. 


That’s why I’m still miffed at Voight. I realize that he has made some sensible comments lately regarding presidential candidate, Barack Obama’s big-government liberalism and the importance of not losing our nerve in the war on terror. I realize that he has shown a reasoned perspective of the true dangers and perils that face us – a balanced outlook that is not easy to find in Hollywood these days. 


Sensible and reasoned, yes. But sensible and reasoned doesn’t power up any self-destructing Aiwa TP-30 in my book.

(This piece was originally posted on the Oregonian web site)

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