|One Fine Piece of Action|
I have no experience with the Mission: Impossible movies prior to Ghost Protocol. In fact, I'm not entirely sure I've even seen a movie with Tom Cruise in it before Ghost Protocol. The man's always been just outside my film library; for example, where some would stop at Top Gun, I stop at Con Air and Executive Decision. My personal formula for "the perfect action film" is Die Hard, and while many great action films have broken that mold, I generally seek out films more similar to it.
But I was definitely impressed by the reception of Ghost Protocol, and so I made a point of catching it in theaters. Doing no digging up on the series before this point, I quickly found myself up-to-speed with the lifestyle of Agent Hunt and the world of Mission: Impossible. This is a film universe where someone can jump off a rooftop, shoot two guys, and then simply have a giant inflatable landing pad in their backpack; this is also a film universe where that is a relatively innocuous gadget to be carrying, as large-scale facial masks that completely take on the contours and details of someone else's face (and eyes!) are an accessory available to the ousted good-guys.
To summarize the film, Hunt is freed from a Moscow prison to stop a terrorist seeking nuclear launch devices. He is blamed for said terrorist's attack on the Russian capital, and his agency is shut down and denied by the American government. With limited resources and team members, Agent Hunt's new mission ("should he choose to accept it") is to clear the name of his agency and stop the terrorist responsible before world war breaks out.
What makes the film special is its ability to make you question how the characters could ever possibly win. Especially in the Dubai sequence, the complications stack in such a ridiculous manner that, while it's still clear that Hunt will not die in the sequence, there is a good chance he will probably fail. The film uses tension in a brilliant way, using brilliant cinematography to exemplify the fact that its characters are not divine supermen (and one superlady, if we're being proper.) There are definitely moments near the film's end that beg the question, "What if this film is incredibly morbid and they just fail?," and the film's finale rewards tension and expectations nicely. The film's action setpieces fit one's expectations as well; while they're not as over-the-top as many of today's action films (or action video games, as it were) they still impress, and they keep the characters more realistic than their counterparts in Uncharted or The Adventures of Tintin.
I think one of the things that surprised me most was the consistency of the characters that appeared throughout. There's never a sense that one of the protagonists is "wasted," and they all get opportunities to shine. Simon Pegg is the obvious standout of the supporting cast as Benji Dunn, but he is still very much Simon Pegg as he is in most roles. Jeremy Renner also manages to impress with an uncharacteristic performance the more reserved William Brandt. Excellent, too, is Léa Seydoux as a sexy French assassin who, unfortunately, exits the film about halfway through. The only character wasted is the lead villain (Michael Nyqvist,) who fails to leave much of an impression.
Impressions are definitely lacking in the new Mission: Impossible, though; while the movie was certainly quite a bit of fun while I was in the theater, few specific moments of the film resonate with me, and it ultimately stands out as one of the weaker action films of 2011. While none of it aggravates me like parts of The Adventures of Tintin, little impresses me quite the way Fast Five, Harry Potter, or X-Men: First Class did. The film has its share of great scenes and great shots, but none of them echo the pure joy of the heist scene in Fast Five, the scale of the Battle of Hogwarts (or Gringotts, for that matter) in the second part of Deathly Hallows, or the menace of Michael Fassbender in the South American bar sequence in First Class. Ultimately, it's worth seeing, but I doubt it'll enter many people's gallery of favorite action films.
Here's What You Missed: Mission Impossible
Here's a recap of the first three Mission Impossible movies, if you choose to accept it.
Trailer 3: Mission Impossible: Ghost Impossible
Renner! Cruise! Dubai! Catch the fever!
Trailer: Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol
Brad Bird's live-action directorial debut looks...pretty damn cool, actually.
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