Monday, January 2, 2012

"Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol"

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol - Directed by Brad Bird, written by Josh Appelbaum & Andre Nemec, starring Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, and Jeremy Renner - Rated PG-13

This film doesn't have a villain nearly as cool as the Evil Kurgan, but the action more than makes up for it.

The Mission: Impossible franchise has transformed from complicated (some would say overly so) spy thriller to the go-to series for outrageous action.  Some may prefer the former (the first film is still my favorite, though I’m okay with where the series has gone), but it’s hard not to have a lot of fun with Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.

Ghost Protocol picks up right where the third film left off.  Not story wise, necessarily, but in regards to the action.  Mission: Impossible 3 invigorated the series with its amazing action set pieces, fun tone, and memorable villain.  Ghost Protocol certainly takes the fun tone and action set pieces and amplifies them, though it falls a bit short in the villain department.
The plot of Ghost Protocol is ripe for ridiculous action as the members of Agent Ethan Hunt’s IMF team must stop a nuclear explosion while they themselves are on the run after being blamed for blowing up part of the Kremlin.  To stop the nuclear blast they have to travel all over the world and engage in over-the-top theatrics, like climbing on the outside of the world’s tallest building just to reach a computer. 
If the plot sounds a bit vague, it’s because it is.  I am still not entirely sure what the villain’s true goal was.  That isn’t a fault against the movie, though.  It is probably explained in full spy-lingo detail, it’s just that the action overshadowed the stakes of each situation to the point that it became easy to forget just why the characters were doing what they were doing.  I suppose that is actually what you would call a plot hole, if the reasons are so vague you’re not even sure what they are, but it’s easy to forgive a film that features Tom Cruise running down the face of the Burj Khalifa (the aforementioned world’s tallest building). 
The action is simply astounding.  And when seen in IMAX, it can be nearly overwhelming.  It’s not all big set pieces, though.  The way the action is filmed is easy to follow so you never get that frenetic “who’s punching/chasing who?” feeling that modern action films so often succumb to.  Brad Bird (Ratatouille, The Incredibles), directing his first live action feature, shows that he knows his way around an action scene.  Of course, a film starring Tom Cruise has to show action in a specific way: you have to be able to see Cruise’s face as much as possible.  This isn’t an ego thing, but more about proving to the audience that it is, in fact, actually the actor performing many of the crazy stunts of the film.  Being able to see Tom Cruise’s face isn’t what makes the action better; but if you have to hold the shot long enough and you have to zoom in close enough to tell who the actor is, then you’re also going to get to see the action in a straightforward manner. 
While Tom Cruise is the face of the franchise, he is certainly not alone in Ghost Protocol.  Jeremy Renner steps in as a new, mysterious team member, and Paula Patton and Simon Pegg round out the cast.  Renner does okay, but his character isn’t all that interesting.  There might be some potential in a sequel, but he pales a bit in comparison to the rest of the cast.  Patton is pretty much just there to be the woman in the film.  And Pegg, of course, supplies comedic relief.  It’s that comedic relief that changes the tone a bit. 
Ghost Protocol comes off as an action comedy more often than not, which is not in keeping with previous films of the series.  (The third film starts off very dark, with a menacing Phillip Seymour Hoffman threatening Tom Cruise, while the most memorable beginning moment of this film is a slightly goofy prison break.)  A few laughs are okay in an action film, but some people may be thrown off by just how often the film goes for the comedy.  It does make the film feel a bit more cartoonish than it should be at times, but a lighter Mission: Impossible is simply more entertaining. 
A bit more comedy isn’t that big of a deal, but what is truly unfortunate is the downgrading of the villain.  Michael Nyqvist (the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) is okay but this is one of the most uninteresting villains in recent memory, not just in this series but in movies in general.  He’s just the guy who wants to do bad things and that is it.  The character is a complete letdown, especially since the previous film had such a memorable villain. 
A weak villain isn’t the end of the world, though.  Ghost Protocol is about big action, a few laughs, and that is it.  While there are weak elements, the strong aspects outweigh them so much that you’re not likely to notice problems unless you try to look for them.  Can I remember the villain’s name or even what he looks like?  Nope.  Can I still vividly picture Tom Cruise climbing the tallest building in the world?  I think I could storyboard it if need be.  In an action movie, that’s the way it should be.
 Random Thoughts (SPOILERS)
The gadgets are interesting, ridiculous, and funny at times, even if they do make the movie feel more like another popular spy franchise.  I really dug the that whole fake hallway screen.
Renner makes for a decent addition, though I would prefer Ving Rhames to be part of the team.  I understand that Pegg has pretty much taken over as resident computer guy so Rhames wouldn't have his own thing anymore, but why tease us with a cameo from Rhames at the end?  Just find a way to work him into the movie since his presence made the first three better. 
Can we finally put the disavowed plotline to rest?  How many times is Hunt going to be portrayed as enemy to the States?  Wouldn't they trust this guy at this point?  He's been set up fifty times it seems.  Shouldn't somebody at IMF put out a memo: Hunt is a good guy and always will be.  Also, it's not like their means are limited even when disavowed since the team had an insane amount of resources even though they technically had no support.  How about having Hunt and his team actually remain official agents in the next film?


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