Sunday, December 18, 2011

Choose to Accept Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

   After John Woo's crapfest Mission Impossible II, the already-getting-tired series took a new direction as TV wonder boy J. J. Abrams took the helm. It was a great success: Ethan Hunt's adventures turned darker and more serious, predominantly due to Abram's directing efforts and Philip Seymour Hoffman's scary turn as a villain with no mercy. (Is there any other kind in films like these?) For Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (MI:GP), Abrams and his producing company handed over the franchise to another exciting director, Brad Bird, making his first live-action film after three animated classics: The Iron Giant and Pixar's The Incredibles and Ratatouille. The jump to real life is a smooth one: Bird and the new and returning cast have created one of the most exciting, vertigo-inducing, action-packed films of the year.
     You've all seen the advertising (and the movie poster to the right). It has Cruise dangling off the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, wearing gloves that would make Spiderman shoot sticky white stuff. I almost shot out a different bodily fluid because of some of the incredible IMAX-camera-shot scenes that are not for the faint of heart if you're not a big fan of heights. It's the movie's best action set piece, and MI:GP is full of them: an elaborate prison break set to the soothing voice of Dean Martin, a break-in to the inside of the Kremlin in Russia (involving some of the most creative gadgetry seen in these types of spy films), a lavish party set in a mansion in Mumbai--they're all here, and they're all, particularly in IMAX, breathtaking to behold.
     The plot is typical and not especially important, which is one of the few detriments of the film. It involves the typical foreign baddie looking for nuclear codes, nuclear devices, nuclear anything. The world will end unless the IMF team stops it. It's not hard to imagine the climax of the film involving a countdown and a missile flying through the air. It does, however, have one cool twist: after a bombing at the Kremlin in Russia, the U. S. Government initiates "Ghost Protocol" (hence the title), in which they denounce any undercover agency. The IMF team is alone and in the dark.
     That leaves Hunt to lead his team through various exotic locations of the world. The characters are more interesting than typical: Simon Pegg is back in the role of Benji, and he gets to flash much more than his wit this time around (though he is the most amusing of the characters). Paula Patton is the feisty, big-breasted Jane who is out for revenge after her lover--another agent--is killed by a woman assassin. Nothing like a little girl-on-girl. Jeremy Renner, who lately seems to be great in any scene that he acts in, is the best new addition; he's a calm bad-ass with secrets that plays as a nice foil to Cruise's more frantic, nervous Ethan Hunt. They all have integral roles in each action set-piece, playing off of each other like a cast that has been together through numerous sequels.
     You would never guess that this was Brad Bird's first live-action directorial movie. But it does make sense: many animated films have high-action (particularly the ones that Bird has directed in the past). Like The Incredibles, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is, at times, incredible. But like all action spy films, some things are ridiculous and some things are predictable. But you don't walk into a theater and buy tickets to this movie expecting to be surprised or expecting the subject matter to be very serious. You walk in wanting your pulse to jump higher and your eyes to look in awe and wonder. On that account, Mission Accomplished.     (B+)

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