Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Man on Film: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

After back-to-back films in the franchise that could easily be classified as bad*, Tom Cruise & Co. enlisted Brad Bird from the Pixar stable of directors. Despite the fact that he was stepping out of the world of the animated film for the first time, Bird succeeded in righting the ship.

*I suppose M:I:II could have been all right if one had never seen Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious, from which the entire plot is essentially stolen...

Now, if you have seen any of the other Mission: Impossible films, you know what you're getting. The one thing that is consistent throughout is that the films send the team down a path with unpredictable twists and turns in which information (at least from the standpoint of the audience) is often doled out after an event to clarify what has passed. It is an effective means of keeping the audience on edge but is, on the basest of levels, manipulative.

While Ghost Protocol does not break the chain of manipulation, it is more interesting along the way.

I could prattle on about various plot points but doing so wouldn't be of much use. Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) are back with Agents Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), and they're off doing their crazy-ass shit. Luckily this one culls all the unintelligible/uninteresting nonsense from the previous installments, treating the viewer to a relatively taut 133 minute action flick.

The high point of the film is the absolutely insane scene on the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The sequence is one of the most affective action scenes in recent memory. Having not even seen it on IMAX, it is intensely nerve wracking and actually induces physical discomfort while watching it while no blood is shed. The fact that Cruise does these stunts himself is nuts. There are other action sequences of note, particularly the one that pits Cruise against the team's nemesis in the film Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) in that vending machine cylindrical parking tower in Mumbai, but the Burj Khalifa scene is exhilarating.

It's so exhilarating in fact that by the end of the film and the lifting of nearly all emotional weight that had been carried throughout the first two hours of the film in one fell swoop you don't even care that you spent that much time worrying about something that didn't matter. That's certainly a credit to the film. It's been nearly a week since I saw it, and I'm still pretty goddamned enamored with that balls to the wall scene on the side of the world's tallest building.

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