Saturday, December 31, 2011

Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol

Who here is a huge fan of the Mission Impossible series?

Oh... I don't see all that many hands.  I supposed somebody out there is a rabid fanboy of Mission Impossible, waiting happily for every single release.  I bet somewhere out there a whole gang of people debate all the films on line, and decide which one is the best, and whatever, but I don't see it.  There have been four Mission Impossible movies so far, and even though they've all been moderately successful films, its never felt like a franchise that has really caught the public's imagination.  It definitely never caught mine, every single time I see a new Mission Impossible film I can barely remember what the other ones have been like.  There isn't any deep mythology or complex characters with long histories or anything.  None of the movies even feel similar, they're all just the next Tom Cruise spy-action flick.  Mission Impossible movies are really only the James Bond movies we watch in-between the real James Bond movies.

"Mission Impossible 1" was really good, I thought it was a solidly decent action film.  It has exciting moments, has dark turns, but still was a lot of fun and is worth a rent.  And that's really been the height of the series in ambition and reaction, none of them are classics of the medium.  "Mission Impossible 2" was pretty and flashy, but it didn't feel like even the same franchise.  Inferior, but made exciting by director John Woo at his Woo-iest.  As for "Mission Impossible 3"... that sucked.  J.J. Abrams made a dreary humorless movie that ultimately was really boring.  It felt like Abrams was ramping up the emotions of the series, adding some level of completely flat dramatic relationships and a lot of false emotions, and in the end, the villain gets punked out in an amazing anticlimax.  "Mission Impossible 4:  Ghost Protocol" is yet another shift in tone, being a big huge action film, and that's about it.

So ultimately "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon" isn't all that monumental of a film.  Its an unambitious action movie and it isn't trying to be much more than that.  It is, however, Brad Bird's, Pixar master director of "The Incredibles", first live-action movie.  So its a solid action movie, good for a night at the movies and exactly not one more thing else.  The action scenes are impressive, the character banter is mildly humorous.  Brad Bird shoots straight down the line to exactly "good".

Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt, Superspy extraordinaire.  In "Mission Impossible 3" Tom Cruise had a wife, she's gone, along with the entirety of the supporting cast, except for Simon Pegg's Comic Relief Hacker Guy.  Joining Simon Pegg is The Chick, played by the delicious milk chocolate bar, Paula Patton*.  And Jeremy Renner is Jeremy Renner.  Together this team is caught in a plot by a mad supervillain professor trying to cause World War III, which will create world peace.  The logic behind that isn't well explained, don't worry about it.  So the Kremlin has been blown up, the Superspy agency has been shut down, and the four remaining agents have to stop the mad supervillain from setting off a nuclear missile that will ignite WWIII.

The movie opens with Agent Sawyer getting murdered by Young Mystique.  I should point out that Sawyer from "Lost" makes a very good action star, until he opens his mouth and talks, when his dull Southern drawl ruins it.  Young Mystique is supposed to be a super assassin, but she really only exists in this movie to have a chick fight with Paula Patton.  Now there are a lot of cocktail dresses in this movie, so a cat fight could have lots of male gaze-pleasing potential.  What's this rated?

PG-13! Fuck!  Brad Bird, you ruined the only chance we'll get to see Young Mystique from "X-Men First Class" and Paula Patton tearing each other's dresses off and in the throws of violent passion suddenly kissing and fondling.  When did you lose the creative spark that made "The Incredibles" great?

"Mission Impossible 4", despite its lack of lesbian material, does have a rapid plot that jumps from one good action sequence to another in constant momentum.  The plot and characters may not actually have any depth, but the story keeps moving and the action keeps up.  So the movie is exciting.  The trailers really show up the scene where Tom Cruise climbs the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, and that was awesome.  I really want to climb that building now, I don't know about you people.  Yeah, it was tense and slippery, but it was cool.  So "Mission Impossible 4" will keep you engaged at least.  This is unlike the recent "Fast Five", which was equally a dumb action movie, but had only a fraction of the excitement.

There's also a decent running gag of spy gadgets malfunctioning.  I like to imagine that all the spy gadgets are actually alive and live in their own secret society unknown to humans - the basic Pixar plot.  But the spy gadgets just hate Tom Cruise for some reason.  (Also, one magnetic glove would up being the most expressive character in the whole film.)

I was only bored whenever the movie tried to have emotions or "be about something".  They try to give Jeremy Renner a tragic backstory, and connect him to Tom Cruise's disappeared wife, but I could not care less.  Movie, you're here to make booms, don't pretend like you have a plot.  Or if you wanted a plot, you missed your chance during the hour of interconnected action sequences.  During Jeremy Renner's monologue, I could not have been more bored, and I finally looked down to check my watch.  The ending scene is a bit over-long too.  The movie should have ended the second the Evil Professor Dude died.

The only weird plot hole I found was an odd shot mid-movie.  In the middle of Dubai, the main henchman character is chased by Tom Cruise, and then you discover he's wearing a mask disguise.  Every Mission Impossible movie has these ridiculously perfect masks that characters wear to turn into anybody.  So now you don't know who the henchman really is.  I was hoping he was Tom Wilkinson, who had only been in the movie for exactly one minute beforehand, but no.  It was just the Evil Professor pretending to be his main heavy.  Why?  What did that mean?  Neither of these characters have any real purpose beyond being evil, so why would one pretend to be the other?  They are the least memorable villains I've seen in a long time.  In a movie like this, its moments like this that bug me.  Especially since I was really hoping Jeremy Renner would be a double agent so that at least we'd get a decent third act twist.

So I guess I'll recommend "Mission Impossible 4", but its really my least pressing recommendation.  Its barely good, a less talented director would have made this movie intolerably boring.  Its a fun movie, but that's it.  Its the least a good movie can be.

(Oh, Happy New Year, by the way.)

* Paula Patton, will you marry me?

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