Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

The remarkable franchise that is Mission: Impossible is quite the long-burning fuse. Starting as a television series in 1966, it runs for 7 years, then bides it's time for another 23 until adopted by a Mr. Tom Cruise. Cruise handled with care, consistently releasing mostly solid outings (MI2 is the weak link here by far) every five or so years since 96. So it really shouldn't have been a surprise to me, or anyone else, when 5 years after the third, and best MI yet, Cruise and friends did it again. And oh boy, they have definitely done it.

This time around we find the much aged, but still on-his-game Ethan Hunt (Cruise, but you should know that) in a Russian prison, but not for very long. Agents Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) who has finally graduated to field agent, and newcomer Jane Carter (Paula Patton) break him out to help them try and patch up a failed mission. I won't go into details, but they fail in that too, and the Kremlin blows up. Now things are really bad. The Russians think Ethan's team is behind the bombing, and the entire IMF is disavowed. The Secretary gives Ethan one final mission before being promptly shot in the head by angry Russians. Ethan escapes, along with the high-strung chief analyst William Brandt, (Jeremy Renner, taking over Hollywood one franchise at a time) making a group of four that is the unknowing world's last hope. Their mission? Prevent nuclear war. But, as usual, things are easier said than done, and this Ethan's most impossible mission yet.

If this movie is lacking in anything, it would perhaps be in intensity, or emotional investment. I never felt as involved emotionally as I did in numbers one and three (I seriously did not like two at all) but, I honestly didn't mind. In fact, I've decided it's good, because bits do involve you, but never so much to make you lose the sense of fun and style you're watching. So, take from that whatever you will...
The characters feel real and rounded, with subplots slowly cluing you in on their individual baggage. Including the mysterious absence of Ethan's wife, Carter's recent tragic loss, and the past haunting the secretive Brandt. None of their problems feel terribly important though, because, comparatively, they're not. Even the characters themselves try to put aside their differences and problems until the world is saved.
My brother would probably tell you the plot and it's devices are thin, or just an excuse for a neat stunt. And I suppose it's true, but if you had a choice of watching Ethan riding the elevator, or have to climb up the outside of the tallest building in the world, (yes, that was real!) what would you choose? Even if you had to write a little excuse to make it happen? Yeah, me too, and that is what this movie is all about.
The film's bad guys felt the same way. Never truly hate-able, or complicated, and no good guys surprise you with a betraying turn to the dark side, but again, that's just not the main focus this time around. And though I do wonder if it could have been better if they had spread the focus out more, I really can't say for sure. It might have just made a mess.
As it is, this is rather reminiscent of Director Brad Bird's animated features, like The Incredibles. More mature, sure, but lighthearted, with sparkling scenes that move in a brisk, stylish pace. Bird made the jump to live action with this picture, and he gives it such a fresh feel, you forget it's also totally classic. I say job very well done to him. J.J. Abrams and Tom Cruise also deserve some of that praise, as they shared the producers chair, and obviously work very well together, as previously evidenced by MI3. If they stick together for number five, I'm sure It'll turn out too.

From the very beginning, when Ethan says "light the fuse" and the theme starts in all it's glory, I was grinning from ear to ear, and I can't be sure if I ever stopped. So, take a seat, grab some popcorn, and enjoy the ride! Mission 4 is a consistently solid, upbeat, and packed with quality action; an impossibly good time. Mission... accomplished!

4-and-a-half/5 stars

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