|Date of birth:||c. 1939|
|Date of death:||1996|
|Place of death:||Channel Tunnel|
|Cause of death:||Killed by Ethan Hunt|
|Affiliation:||Impossible Mission Force|
|Profession:||Head of the IMF|
|Expertise:||Able to fake his death in order to avoid suspicion while engaging in a conspiracy|
|Played by:||Jon Voight|
|First appearance:||Mission: Impossible|
|Last appearance:||Mission: Impossible (1998 video game)|
|“||Well, you think about it, Ethan, it was inevitable. No more cold war. No more secrets you keep from yourself. Answer to no one but yourself. Then, you wake up one morning and find out the President is running the country without your permission. The son of a bitch, how dare he. Then you realize, it's over. You are an obsolete piece of hardware, not worth upgrading, you got a lousy marriage, and 62 grand a year.||”|
–Phelps revealing himself as the mole., Mission: Impossible
James "Jim" Phelps (c. 1939–1996) was the main antagonist in the 1996 film Mission Impossible and its 1998 accompanying video game. He was a rogue director of the Impossible Mission Force who tries to orchestrate a conspiration.
Phelps fought in the Korean War (at an unknown rank in an unknown branch of the United States Armed Forces) and worked (in an unknown job) for Pan American Airlines before entering government service.
As a former government operative, Phelps formed the Impossible Missions Force from a former elite Special Forces squad led by Lieutenant Colonel-turned Dr. Daniel David Briggs, Ph.D., late of Army Intelligence. Eventually, Phelps took over Briggs' position as the field leader for the core IMF team.
Treason of the IMF
By 1996, Phelps has become disillusioned as he believes he is no longer necessary, despite having served his country for over four decades. By this time, he has married a much younger woman named Claire, and has been given an entirely new team.
Finally snapping, Phelps convinces Claire to go along with his plan to sell the sensitive IMF information to an arms dealer, Max, for a large sum of money and frame rookie team member Ethan Hunt, who looks up to Phelps as a father figure. Specifically, Jim planned to sell a classified list of of Non Official Cover or NOC agents. To accomplish this, Jim planned to steal a NOC List that was being housed at an embassy in Prague that was supposed to be stolen by someone else. As such, Jim's IMF team was dispatched to Prague to gain proof of the theft and locate the buyer and arrest them.
Jim and his team quickly developed a plan whereby the team would infiltrate the embassy with Ethan Hunt in disguise accompanied by Sarah Davies carried out the physical mechanics of the plan while the rest of the team provided support in one form or another with Jim overseeing the mission remotely from the group's safe house.
In order to steal the NOC list for himself and kill the rest of his team, Phelps hires disavowed IMF pilot Franz Krieger to help carry out the murders. Jim, Claire, and Krieger successfully kill off three of their teammates as well as their target. In order to fake his own death, Jim called an abort order, telling his agents to fall back with Jim leaving the safe house to meet Ethan at a nearby bridge. Jim quickly reports to Ethan via comm-link that he is being followed. Jim fakes being shot and falling into the river below which Ethan sees via video link.
Phelps then has Claire return to use her charms on Ethan, who has been successfully framed for the murders, as well as being the mole. Ethan concocts a plan to avenge the rest of the team and clear his own name by catching the real mole and stopping him, as well as Max. As the NOC list the team recovered in Prague was the fake one, Hunt decides to steal the real list in order to draw the mole out of hiding. After making a deal with Max in exchange for some money, Ethan hires a couple of disavowed agents for his mission. He chooses computer expert Luther Stickell, while Claire "suggests" Krieger.
Revealing his True Colors
After Ethan's plan succeeds, the IMF has his family framed for drug trafficking. After Hunt uses a payphone to alert the IMF of where he is (London), Phelps reveals himself to Ethan, claiming he survived getting shot. He then names IMF Director Eugene Kittridge as the mole. However, Phelps had underestimated Ethan, who is able to quickly determine that Phelps himself is the mole, and that he hired Krieger to pull off the murders, though he remains unsure if Claire was involved. When Hunt asks why "Kittridge" would do such a thing, Phelps uses his own reason: that he had believed he was becoming "a worthless piece of hardware not worth upgrading" due to the end of the Cold War. Hunt returns to the hotel his team is using for a temporary base of operations and, clearly distressed over what he has learned, lets Claire seduce him.
Final Showdown and Death
The next day, aboard a high-speed train, Phelps, realizing Ethan had likely figured him out, hides as he watches Hunt reveal that Claire has in fact committed treason. By this time, Hunt has given Max the real NOC list and is having Stickell use a jamming device to prevent Max from uploading it. After a tense standoff in one of the rear luggage cars (during which Phelps takes the money from Ethan), Hunt reveals that he was wearing a pair of glasses with microcameras in his pocket protector, exposing Phelps to Kittridge. Claire reveals she feels guilty about what she has done and tries to prevent Phelps from killing Hunt, causing Phelps to kill her instead. An enraged Ethan then gives chase to Phelps, who is using suction cups to make his way along the top of the train to the end, where Krieger is flying a helicopter to make their escape.
During the fight, Ethan manages to hook the tether of the helicopter to the train, forcing Krieger to pilot his helicopter into the Channel tunnel. After freeing the tether, Phelps motions for Krieger to simply pick him up with the bottom of the helicopter. However, Ethan hops onto the helicopter as well, and plants a piece of explosive chewing gum (a relic of the Prague mission) onto the helicopter, before jumping back onto the train. The gum causing an explosion which kills Krieger, and causes the helicopter to fall onto Phelps, crushing him to death.
To be added.
Phelps appears as a friendly man during the beginning of the movie and a father figure to Ethan, but in reality he's a ruthless murderer and a traitor.
- Skilled Tactician: Phelps was able to fake his death in order to avoid suspicion while engaging in a conspiracy.
- Skilled Combatant: He was also able to fight with Ethan Hunt.
Behind the Scenes
- Some fans, as well as many cast members of the Mission: Impossible television series were upset when they learned that Phelps would become an irredeemable antagonist in the 1996 film. Because of this, Peter Graves, who portrayed Phelps in the original series, turned down the chance to play Phelps in the film. In addition, Greg Morris, who played Barney Collier, was so disgusted, that he left before the film's end. Therefore, most of the show's fans considered the film series based on the original television series to be non-canon because of this.
- A few fans have even speculated that the Jim Phelps of the TV series and the film series are actually different people using the same name (similar to the popular fan theory that the various James Bonds are all different agents), with the film Phelps 'replacing' the original at some point when Phelps became too old or injured to continue acting in the field, Voight's Phelps inheriting the name and reputation of the original. The fifth film "Rogue Nation", appeared to suggest the IMF is indeed the same IMF as in the TV series, implying the same canon origins, and this has strengthened the theory that "Phelps" may have been replaced.