By Todd Allen
I’ll confess I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from a Brad Bird-directed installment in the Mission: Impossible film franchise. Bird, as you probably know, comes from the world of animation. Most notably over at Pixar, where he was the writer/director for The Incredibles. Honestly, there wasn’t a lot to improve on in his live action debut.
You see the trailers for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and you see the team’s been disavowed. You hear they’re going to the Kremlin. You see Cruise climbing the skyscraper in Dubai. You’re thinking… eh, might be a little bit of formula in this. Well, yes and no.
The traitor in the organization motif has been done to death in the MI film franchise, but this is a different flavor of disavowed we’re dealing with here. This is “everybody knows who you are and they’re looking for you” disavowed. This is “your support network has been dismantled” disavowed. This is “good luck with keeping those gadgets running” disavowed.
Actually, on the gadget side of things, it reminded me a little of “Colonel Sun,” the Kingsley Amis 007 novel where Bond never got around to using his gadgets. This isn’t quite so extreme as that, but there are some limitations put on the tech wizardry.
As a live action director, Bird has a very firm grip on action sequences. Things blow up, people get shot up and fists are thrown all over the place in this one. Towards the end of the film, the actual action gets a little over the top. The final car stunt is perhaps a little too absurd. Cruise is stretching it a little too far, in terms of the beat up hero carrying on. There’s a touch of Wiley E. Coyote to it and you could probably run an MST3K commentary and laugh track on the scene. The thing is, the flow of the scene as it descended into over-the-topness was so smooth, my suspension of disbelief was still held in check. That’s hard to do than it sounds and bonus points to Bird and his editor for pulling it off.
The best sequence for Bird showing off is probably the sequence you’ve seen bits of from the trailers where Cruise climbs the tall building. The angles of the shot are excellent for creating a sense of vertigo in the viewer. The sense of danger is there the hole time, yet, in the midst of all this adrenaline is a slapstick bit with a climbing glove. You’ll know it when you see it. It doesn’t actually break the tension of the scene, partially from how it was shot and partially due to Cruise’s expression of frustration, but it would totally be at home in The Incredibles.
Plot wise, this is a slightly more nuanced “I’ve got to run down the terrorist” script than you’d expect from what should be a summer action-type movie. For things like being disavowed and taking control of the enemy’s computer, your genre expectations are played with a little bit. Oh, there’s still a bit of cheese here and there. The “secret” of Jeremy Renner’s analyst character is straight out of Wisconsin. For the most part, that’s not dwelled on and is functionally used to establish the logical transition from MI 3 to Ghost Protocol. Had that aspect been played up, I would have liked the film a lot less.
Cruise is… well, Tom Cruise in a Mission: Impossible flick. A little more unusual for a Cruise action movie, there isn’t a romantic subplot shoved sideways into it and that’s such a pleasant change. Simon Pegg reprises his role from MI3, with his tech having gotten promoted to field op. This role is on the understated side for Pegg. Rookie spy who geeks out, but is still a field op. Rounding out your heroes are Jeremy Renner as an analyst who accidentally ends up with the IMF team and Paula Patton as the final IMF agent.
This is an above average action movie with a little more espionage plotting in it than you might expect. Highly recommended for fans of action movies and spy flicks where things blow up.
Now, as to that Dark Knight Rises trailer. I am informed there are three of them floating around the IMAXs. Version one is what I saw: dominated by Bane blowing up a football field (which I will henceforth refer to as the Hines Ward trailer). Version two is supposed to be dominated by Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon in a hospital bed. Version three is the 6 minute “prologue.”
What I saw looked good, with one exception: there a scene with convicts holding rifles above theirs heads, walking out of what I presumed to be the blown up outer wall of a prison, that’s cheesy beyond belief. You see Bane in costume. You see Anne Hathaway, but she’s not in costume. Looks like the Batmobile gets some hovering/flying capabilities, too.
My initial impression is the main plot will be Bane invading Gotham. Catwoman looks to be the secondary plot and could have some political overtones, since Hathaway’s voiceover is about the rich spending all that money and not leaving anything left for anyone else.
Other than the cheesy shot, it looks pretty good.
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.