Sunday, January 1, 2012

Mission: Impossible -Ghost Protocol

Jeremy Renner and Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible -Ghost Protocol

*** out of ****

Here it is: An Action Movie!
The Mission: Impossible movie series has been a vessel for film directors to have a little exercise in their abilities for action and spectacle with little consequence except for giving people a fun time at the movies. No one is truly invested in the series protagonist Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and no one needs to be. We're simply watching an able-bodied actor perform stunts and survive impossible odds. The investment in these films is over how well the action and thrills are executed. Mission: Impossible -Ghost Protocol is exactly what I needed it to be.

Brian De Palma, John Woo, and J.J. Abrams have had their hand in this franchise and now one of today's greatest directors in the world of animated cinema brings us a fun-filled intensely choreographed action spectacular. Brad Bird had a talent in his animated films for evoking great performances through naturalistic voice actors and subtle character-driven animation choices. In live action, he brings weight and gravity to some seriously cartoony ideas.

The highlight of this film is in Dubai where Hunt has to climb the side of the worlds tallest building. You have to give a lot of credit to an animation director who knows how easy it is to simulate such a thing with today's digital tools but doesn't. He also brought IMAX cameras along for the ride.

Of course there are plenty of CGI special effects, but like the other movies in this series, only the best. ILM's John Knoll who supervised the groundbreaking train scene in the first one returns to deliver more eye candy including a chase scene in a sand storm.

Simon Pegg is funny. Paula Patton is drop dead gorgeous. Jeremy Renner adapts to any materiel he is given like the professional he is. And of course Tom Cruise runs, climbs and does that intense look that make people afraid for those in his personal life.

J.J. Abrams who directed the last movie returned to produce this one. Abrams and Bird make a great team. They produce action which feels like a relief from the current shaky-cam kinetic editing method. Things feel coherent like they actually bothered planning how one shot would connect to the next. The other mission accomplished here is making this outing more of an ensemble piece. In the first two films the scenes where Ethan Hunt worked with a team seemed seldom. The 'team' aspect of Mission: Impossible is important given that the TV series it was based on was always about a team on a mission. They've lived up to that expectation with this movie and avoided Hunt being James Bond for the most part.

I really don't think anyone ever intends to make put a profound twist on this franchise. All of the entries have threatening ideas of global catastrophe but play it safe by creating enemies and issues that have little to do with current events. Attempts to breathe a little emotion and personal understanding of who Ethan Hunt is may seem a little irrelevant but a noble effort to treat the audience like humans. The point is have fun and forget about it.


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