Friday, December 16, 2011

MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE GHOST PROTOCOL (review)





















Produced by Tom Cruise, J. J. Abrams, Bryan Burk
Written by André Nemec and Josh Appelbaum
Based on Mission: Impossible by Bruce Geller
Directed by Brad Bird
Starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, 
Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist, Vladimir Mashkov, 
Samuli Edelmann, Anil Kapoor, Josh Holloway,
Léa Seydoux, Tom Wilkinson


The incoherent and crazy drama leading into each new “Mission: Impossible” adventure seems to always mirror the plots in each film.

You never know what is going on, there are no real solid facts, and  just like the craziness you see unfolding on screen, you soon find yourself accepting that anything is possible. The incoherence this time around was near defining. So much so that until the time of the first teaser trailer, my head was spinning all over the place with a bunch of possibilities that left nothing short of utter skepticism on my part. Thankfully any doubts I had got quickly washed away to the unmistakable beat of Eminem’s anthem to human resilience, “I Won’t Back Down.” It was a statement just as much as it was a perfectly choreographed glimpse into what lied ahead.

I can honestly say now I should have had more faith in everyone involved.

Like the movie, I am just going to get right into it.



We quickly come to discover that poor Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has been incarcerated in a no doubt disease infested Russian **** hole prison.

You are not really going to have time to marinate his situation before Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), along with new team member Jane Carter, (Paula Patton) are doing tech magic and destroying everything in the general radius of Ethan and effectively busting him out of jail in spectacular fashion. By the time you figure out what is going on there, and were talking really quickly here, they are off again on a new op that has them attempting to stop a potential nuclear terrorist by obtaining information located in the Kremlin. The Kremlin, as you know from every trailer and tv spot, gets blown to smithereens rather abruptly and before you can blink again the team is shouldering that blame. The Secretary of the IMF (Tom Wilkinson) drops the situation on us and Ethan alongside his chief analyst, Will Brandt (Jeremy Renner). He then gets a wicked case of lead poising from some pissed off Russians (In another nifty sequence that I wish hadn’t been ruined in multiple pre-release trailers) and just like it is off to the races.

Seem a bit convoluted and choppy?

That was intentional and done almost on purpose on my part.

Do we honestly really need to know what is going on with any clarity?

Hell no. Just shut up and go with it. Quick and brutal as junkyard dog is how I would describe this in relation to the other films in the franchise. Oh yes, it just rattles your cages and keeps barking. Fights are brutal and staged beautifully. Nearly every sequence ups the previous ante all the way into the utterly drool inducing Mumbai finale. This is the best thing about this franchise that never alters between films. Each movie is somehow completely separate of the previous efforts while maintaining existence in the same universe. Less the returning characters, and the revolving plot line, not a single element is similar between films aside from the significant plot holes. I enjoy that element because it immediately does away with any expectations I might have in regard to previously existing content.

For example: I didn’t even associate the continued existence of Julia Hunt until she was mentioned.

Mind you, there is still a complete lack of originality spread out between villains and overall plot. Forget about overall logic and reason again with this one. Not everything is to be celebrated here.

Truth be told, we are likely way past that possibility of seeing that change four movies in. I really do not mind that continued element at this point. In fact, the only thing I can really bitch about here is the fact that Michael Nyqvist (The Millennium Trilogy) is all but wasted again. He has basically nothing to do in his portrayal of special forces trained chemical weapon holding lunatic, Kurt Hendricks, except ooze badass stupidity and take a seat next to our primary characters.

That, however, is an overall forgivable error in regard to the whole. Simply because everything your watching seems fresh and paced brilliantly enough that you really don’t have time to think about what is lacking in the plot. It keeps moving and engaging you away from the flaws almost to perfection.

I have to give the main crew credit here for that.

Brad Bird does some seriously impressive work for a first time live-action director. He handles his beats, pacing, performances, and action in such impressive form it makes me wonder what he could do with any number of other huge projects in the works at various studios. From there you have cinematographer Robert Elswit, known mostly as Paul Thomas Anderson’s preferred D.P., taking a quantum career leap with this film. His work is almost entirely the reason your so engaged. This is a beautifully shot movie outside of just the action. It just looks and feels impressive watching it all unfold against what should be an amazing 50 minutes of IMAX footage. (Which, for the record, I did not get to see in my DIGITAL PROJECTION ONLY advance screening.)

Next up are Applebaum, Nemec, and McQuarrie. What can you say expect they didn’t really have to bring the goods here. That said, there are so many great character nuances in between all the holes in the script that you almost feel like you might have been reading something just as impressive as the movie itself. I hope to someday solve that mystery myself. Sadly for now the script will just remain another unicorn. (I did say the same thing about MI:3 only to finally get a hold of the script last summer.) I could go down the line with the major crew members from here briefly nitpicking my hatred for Michael Giacchino‘s work as usual. Sadly there really is no point to doing so. This was a solid effort from all those involved and I have nothing but respect for the output here. Especially on the actors side.

To be honest, this really is a total team effort, unlike any of the other films.

We got brief bits of unity in the previous film and yet still maintained the overall Ethan Hunt show in the progress. These characters and the actors meshed together so perfectly here you almost wish they could stick with this core for future films. Don’t get me wrong here and start thinking this not still the Tom Cruise show on whole. Say what you want about Cruise, his efforts here are utterly seamless and never questionable.

Both Cruise, and Ethan Hunt by extension, have seemingly have matured  into action gods in the span of these four films. He carries his role beyond what anyone ever expected him capable of even just a few short years ago. The already famed stunt down the Burj Khalifa Tower is absolute vertigo educing insanity made even more insane with the knowledge that Cruise did most of the stunt work himself. Say whatever you want about the man himself, as far as movie stars go, there is no denying he is the genuine and fearless to boot. The guy just sucks up the screen and spits it out like no other actor working today.

Keep the man for all I care, just leave the actor and I am happy.

This is not to suggest in any way that he is alone in this effort.

Much like the last film, the spotlight is on Ethan Hunt, but in no way relegated to just him. I have to give major props to Simon Pegg here. He single handedly takes this from a good movie to a great one by adding much needed humor and adding a bit of the “Nicholas Angel” badass vibe as well. Benji’s quips with Brandt alone are worth the price of admission here. Just the same, I can’t mention Brandt and not praise Renner for turning what might have been a one-dimensional character into a multi-layered question mark of a character. Brandt seems like a very young Ethan Hunt almost perfectly timed to our memories of the first film. His reactions and lack of experience in the field is evident but in no way dampening. Renner pulls this uncertainty off in impressive fashion while constantly maintaining a formidable presence.

I am not going to comment on his possible taking over of the franchise for multiple reasons. That speculation would have no place here in any situation. I am resolved to stay on point. (Pun intended.)

I can honestly say the weakest link here is Patton.

She is with no question an amazingly beautiful creature. That cannot be debated. She pulls off the layers of emotion and physicality just fine. Her character is by no means the throwaway that Maggie Q’s was in the previous film. She has a purpose here and her character even has a driving force. Which is refreshing to say the least in the franchise as far as female characters are concerned. The problem here is she fails to admit sexuality in a way that Lea Seydoux (who plays one of the central villains, Sabine Moreau.) aces without even trying. When called to seduce a character, she comes off as forced and uncomfortable in her own skin almost. Seydoux on the other hand oozes feminine sexuality just walking in direct contrast. Maybe I am just nitpicking the comparison here as this issue could be character related and I just did not associate it as such at the time.

However, it was something I noticed that took me out of it a bit. Then she started beating the crap out of people and I immediately couldn’t give a crap again. The main cat fight between Carter and Moreau is sure to be replayed to death by film geeks for years to come.

I enjoyed this movie for exactly what it was.

I don’t want to lament the greatness of the sandstorm sequence, various hanging plot lines, or anything else for that matter. I will leave that joy for you all to experience for yourselves. This is a ridiculous balls-to-the-walls action epic. Just turn off your brain and enjoy it. The last time I had this much mindless fun in a flick was The A-Team.

I am still mourning that failure.

We should all hope this one has a better financial ending. It is easily the best popcorn film of the year, IMHO.



Dr. Notorious is the questionably sane soul behind soon to be re-launching (Jan. 1st)  sister blog C.G. (aka Cinematic Glamorama.) He will return shortly with a “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” review.

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