Dec 19 2011
Who says Americans can’t have their own James Bond?
What once seemed like an eye-rolling bit of news, that there was going to be a FOURTH Mission Impossible film, has actually been an eye opening experience that perhaps there’s room for another indefinitely long running action film series in our pop culture lexicon.
Bourne is attempting to do the same thing with a fourth installment himself, but Ethan Hunt and Mission Impossible are far closer to the Bond formula, with less overarching plots and focus on realism, and more unreal action sequences and maniacal villains bent on world destruction.
And while Bond has taken a more subdued path as of late, almost looking more like Bourne himself, it appears that Hunt might be ready to take his place as our go-to action hero.
Also, see this in IMAX. Even bootleg IMAX. Unlike 3D, it’s worth the surcharge without question.
It’s an earned spot, and you’ll believe it after witnessing the sheer madness that is Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. It makes its competition look like its standing still with a non-stop sprinting pace from start to finish, and its individual action sequences are so creative and well-executed, it’s like watching a ballet integrated with gunfire and explosions.
It’s not someone like Michael Bay at the helm, thankfully. Rather we have someone who brings a coherence to his action that Bay never quite manages to find. It seems unlikely that Brad Bird, the director of Pixar’s The Incredibles and Rataouille is that guy, but somehow, some way, his years toiling in animation have prepared him to be one hell of an action director.
Mission Impossible as of late has been known for its relatively straightforward plots. The last feature had Tom Cruise chasing after his kidnapped wife, and this one? Why, it’s a madman who wants to blow something up with a nuke.
“CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?”
It’s not the most original story in supervillain history, and if the film has one flaw, it’s that its bad guys seem painfully underdeveloped and at the same time, overpowered. There are only two of them, one being a middle-aged Swedish born Russian nuclear strategist (Michael Nyqvist), and the other, his burly henchman. Between the two of them, they manage to blow up the entirety of the Kremlin, and steal and prepare to launch a full-on nuclear missile. A lot of action movies have this “infrastructure” problem where one or two villains are able to execute these impossibly grand plans without any semblance of support (see Angels and Demons most recently), but it’s particularly glaring here.
It’s just a different sort of unrealism that caught me off guard. I have no problem with Ethan Hunt climbing the side of the world’s tallest building using magnet gloves, but the fact that a paunchy scientist manages to almost destroy the world singlehandedly is a tad annoying.
The “Ghost Protocol” in the title refers to the fact that the IMF has been dismantled by the government after the Kremlin attack, which Ethan (Tom Cruise) and his team are framed for. The only familiar face returning is Benji (Simon Pegg), upgraded from tech support to field agent, but is mostly still just tech support. Then there’s the sexy Jane (Paula Patton), aiming to finish a mission that claimed the life of her agent lover (Josh Holloway), Finally late to the party arrives William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), supposedly a mere analyst, but whose fighting skills prove he’s got a few secrets and eventually boasts an important connection to Ethan.
Despite the chain mail, he’s not secretly a Knight’s Templar.
With only say, a few billion dollars worth of does-not-exist technology, the team has to track down the pieces require to launch the nuke, and while the plot is relatively simple, the means to unravel it is not.
The film is an experience to say the least, particularly in the first few rows of an IMAX theater where the non-stop action will have every muscle in your body tense for a full two hours. The set pieces are amazing, every single one of them, and each action sequence in itself could have been the grand finale of some other movie, but here they’re all strung together in an impossible opera of chaos. Shooting on location in places like Dubai and Mumbai gives the film an authenticity that many other CGI heavy blockbusters lack, and say what you will about Tom Cruise off screen, but on it? His Ethan Hunt is one of our greatest working action heroes.
There were rumors that this film was meant to be a torch passing to Jeremy Renner to continue Cruise’s saga after he departs. Honestly, I hope they keep making more of these with Cruise at the helm, and Renner can tag along if he wants. As there are no real overarching story threads that need to be resolved, just an evil plot and a mission to stop it, there’s no reason they can’t keep this series going indefinitely. And I have a hunch that might be exactly what they’ll do.
4.5 out of 5 stars
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