Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Mission : Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Though there is tension in Brad Bird's "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol," the stakes for the most part feel glazed over. The heroes and the villains feel so far removed from what they're to affect (missiles blowing shit up) that the film is only engaging on the level of their immediate actions. I suppose that's sort of obvious, but the remove at times is large enough to be disconcerting: for one, a character is thrown out of a window and the film soon forgets her significance in the plot, even though she's said by Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) to be an "asset," and for another, the Kremlin's getting totally trashed is pretty underplayed.

I've only seen Brian De Palma's original "Mission: Impossible," which I largely enjoyed a while back, so I can't impart except via a small bit of outside knowledge about any cross-series references. This one is mildly satisfying, if not entirely morally coherent, mainly due to the magnetism of the four main actors, playing the last remaining agents of the IMF. It's fun to watch Cruise (even after all the freakouts he's had offscreen), and Paula Patton is solid in the only main female role of the film. But it's especially enjoyable to see Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg in somewhat irregular roles. Renner was very impressive in the excellent "Hurt Locker" a couple years back, so I'm already attuned to his talent; to see him kick ass in a different sort of action picture is a pleasure. And previously to now I just couldn't stand Pegg, beloved for his Edgar Wright and Nick Frost collaborations. I'm glad that he's finally found a good vehicle for his jokiness; he makes much of the film in my opinion.

Maybe I was overexposed to the material going in, but I feel less impressed than most at many of the talked-about scenes. The sustained Dubai section is masterfully executed looking at it as a whole, but in certain bits (especially with Cruise scaling the wall) it doesn't live up to expectations. (I did appreciate the last car chase a lot, though.) There's less to the whole film than there appears to be, disappointingly enough, with a bland bad guy who turns out to be played by none other than Mr. Swedish Mikael Blomquist, Michael Nyqvist. And, with the smiley, airbrushed coda, the surreal tidiness of the film and the mission is jolted to the next level (read: not a good place). "M:i-4" is an appealing venture (I smiled), and a sometimes aesthetically pleasing one (Robert Elswit has some good moments shot-wise), but not ultimately a worthwhile one. The actors click, valuably; little else does. C+

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