Monday, January 2, 2012
Movie Review: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
In case you haven't seen the trailers, GP follows Ethan Hunt and his team as they race against time to take down a terrorist codenamed Cobalt who is trying to incite a nuclear war. An attempt to ascertain Cobalt's identity at the Kremlin ends in a disastrous explosion which the IMF is blamed for, causing the President to invoke the titular "Ghost Protocol" and disavows the entire IMF. However, Cobalt's plans are continuing and Hunt and his team (now deemed rogue agents) must continue their mission to stop Cobalt with no backup of any kind. And that's where a lot of the comedy comes from.
See, it's easy for a trained agent to complete assignments when they have the backup of their agency, funding, and all the high-tech gadgets a person could want. But when all of that is removed, everything becomes slightly more dangerous and a hell of a lot more difficult. Mix that concept with the one thing that spy movies always gloss over (that these agents are PEOPLE with all the normal reactions of people to extreme situations) and you get a surprisingly effective, very subtle vehicle for comedy. Take for example the section of the movie that takes place in Dubai.
In MI2, I thought it was a stroke of genius that the villain of the piece had a psychological profile of Ethan Hunt and explained why Hunt always seemed to favor acrobatic solutions to infiltrations. In MI4, when trying to capture an agent of the above mentioned terrorist, Cobalt, they run into a problem with taking over a building's security network. Dunn (played by Simon Pegg) brings up the "slight wrinkle" of having to get into the server room from the outside because he didn't have enough time to hack the servers. Now, the building in question is the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world at over 820 meters high. And Hunt has to go outside and climb up to the 130th floor to access the server room. While Tom Cruise is not delivering a punchline per se, his portrayal of Hunt's reaction to that "slight wrinkle" is nothing short of hilarious!! It's that kind of comedy that is spread out through the film. No snappy one-liners or quick rim-shot jokes, just normal human reactions to some of the most extreme situations imaginable, which ironically has the effect of making the action more palatable. With one shocked look or exclamation, the audience is told that not only does this plan seem insane to them, but also to the agents who actually have to ENGAGE that plan. It makes it so much easier to maintain the necessary suspension of disbelief, when even the agents have issues with the action sequences.
Speaking of those sequences, the Mission Impossible series has always set itself apart by creating action sequences that weren't just about bullets and explosives, they were about tension and suspense. It was just as thrilling to see the IMF agents in the slow moments in the sequences as it was when all hell broke loose. In MI4, the action is taken a step further by presenting it in some of the most beautiful places on the planet. Under the direction of Brad Bird, the sequences went from adrenaline rushing, pulse pounding action to works of cinematic art. It looks like Bird was able to take his artistic sensibilities from his animated movies and successfully apply them to live-action movies. My personal favorite is the Dubai sequence. The cinematography was simply amazing to watch. Seeing these intense action sequences gorgeously filmed against the most visually stunning backdrops I've seen in a long time added a grander sense of scope that was truly awe-inspiring.
MI4 is without a doubt the best offering in the series. It's great fun with amazing action and a great cast leading you through it. If you're looking for a thrill ride, I would definitely recommend giving Ghost Protocol a shot.