December 29, 2011

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

It's been five years since the previous Impossible Mission, and fifteen years since Ethan Hunt first ran across a movie screen. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol may not be any more memorable 5 or 15 years from now, but its humor distinguishes itself from the rest of the series. I sense that director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) can't help himself but make the movie funny.

Overkill: 130 stories? Wouldn't a fall from 13 stories be enough to kill him?
Strangely, the stakes are much higher in this episode, while it's the funniest episode too. Ex-KGB officer Hendricks (and John Boehner lookalike Michael Nyqvist) is intent on triggering a nuclear war. Hendricks blows up the Kremlin and neatly frames Hunt in the bargain. Once again Ethan Hunt is "disavowed". Hunt's boss is literally saying goodbye when their Chevy Suburban is riddled with bullets. The driver is killed, and the SUV swerves out of control down a dark Moscow street. At this point I leaned over to my friend Adam and whispered "there's going to be a river." Sure enough, they plunge underwater, and upside down too. Why is there always a river nearby? How come when a driver is shot, the vehicle never bumps gently into a Quizno's?

That's what I call network security!
 Hunt has to take his team rogue to save themselves, and the world. The team includes Simon Pegg's newly-promoted field agent/comic relief (but not too silly), and the latest young Mission Impossible ingénue, Paula Patton, who seems to have a furrow permanently dug between her brows, like she's constantly forgetting a phone number. Jeremy Renner is reluctantly tagging along, a cube-bound spook...with a secret?

So this volume was exciting, sexy, and funny. The chases were all kinda the same- The Tom Cruise Run is best taken in limited doses for maximum effectiveness. I like car chases, but I kept thinking of the Bourne movies redefinition of vehicle chases. Maybe the producers choices were limited by their paid BMW placements. I was surprised they were allowed to rip the roof off a BMW convertible! The other thrills were solid - I liked the fights and Cruise's wall-crawling. The cat-and-mouse games worked too. By the last gasp, I felt like I had seen one too many chases, and one too many fistfights. The final fight scene, between a 49-year-old Hunt and the 51-year-old Hendricks stretched my credulity to the breaking point. The movie was sexy for everyone too: Paula Patton is a handsome woman who kicks ass and changes clothes in the passenger seat of an all-electric BMW sports car/spaceship; Léa Seydoux is pure French sensuousness as a soulless, braless assassin; and Jeremy Renner wears very tight trousers throughout the movie, with several lingering butt shots, which I'm told the ladies like?
"I must have left my underwear at my last kill."
Ghost Protocol delivered exactly what I expected, but was funny on top of that. My grade?  B-plus. (At the Capitol Theater, Arlington, with Adam and George)

Don't let the dealership find out about this, or you're going to void the warranty.
Odd Parallel: After Ethan Hunt successfully completes his 130-story outdoor skyscraper crawl, he reenters the hotel with his protective eye goggles still around his neck. He then immediately proceeds to begin the covert part of the mission, but Renner has to remind him to remove his goggles so their target won't see them.
Fast forward one week: I rewatched The Incredibles (one of my top movies of the last decade). Mr. Incredible prevents a few crimes on his way to his own wedding. He changes back into his tuxedo before entering the church, but his friend Fro-Zone has to remind him to remove his mask before entering the church so the guests won't see them. Just a small moment, but odd to see in two Brad Bird movies?

Looking Back

The Mission Impossible movies have been overcomplicated, humorless affairs:
  • I have grown to appreciate the 1996 film -- I can hardly call it the "original" -- even if I probably don't understand it.
  • All I remember about the John Woo-directed M:I2 is Tom Cruise's long hair, a surplus of rubber masks, and some stunt motorcycle riding.
  • All I remember about J.J. Abrams' M:I3 is the nasty brain-exploding implant which kills Felicity (spoiler alert!), and Philip Seymour Hoffman at his most vicious. I remember Ethan Hunt having a wife, but I could not remember who played her. Oh Michelle Monaghan, when I saw you in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, I thought you were going to break out, but you've been treading water ever since.