Directed by: Brad Bird
Produced by: Tom Cruise
Screenplay by: Andre Nemec
Based on: Mission: Impossibe by Bruce Geller
Starring: Tom Cruise
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Lalo Schifrin (themes)
Cinematography by: Robert Elswit
Editing by: Paul Hirsch
Studio(s): Paramount Pictures
Bad Robot Productions
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Release date(s): December 7, 2011 (Dubai)
December 16, 2011 (United States) (IMAX)
December 26, 2011 (United Kingdom)
Running time: 138 minutes
Country: United States
Production budget: $145 million
Box office revenue (as of publication): $571, 641, 000
Alright, so I took yesterday off! I reckon I'm due a day (or two) off after the amount of work I've been putting in over the past few weeks. Still, it ain't gonna stop me! This is the last week of reviewing and then I'll be putting together my best and worst of 2011. Over the next week, I'll be seeing Albert Nobbs, Conan, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Descendants for definite, but others will be included along the way, so, as ever, keep your eyes posted!
Okay, today's movie for review is Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. I know the movie has been out for over a month now, but this was really the first opportunity that I got to see it. I attended a six o' clock screening at the terrific cinema that is The Strand, and one of the great pleasures about that cinema is that if a movie has been out a few weeks, generally there isn't much of a demand for it. As such, I got the pleasure of paying my three-pounds fifty-pence to watch this film on the big screen by myself. As for the Mission: Impossible series, we've had an interesting relationship. I haven't seen the first two for a while, but I remember the Brian De Palma 1996 film being a good, if slightly overrated thriller, while John Woo's M:I-2, released in 2000 was a messy affair, though it did have some fantastic stunts. It is J.J. Abrams' M:I-3 that was the best of the series, a showcase for both Abrams' talent at filming action and Tom Cruise, whose Ethan Hunt was given the benefit of strong character development. Five years on, in the fallout of that great film, we have Ghost Protocol. The debut live-action film of Brad Bird, one of our great living animation directors, Ethan Hunt and his team, Jane Carter (Paula Patton), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), and reluctant IMF analyst William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), are left with the blame of a terrorist attack on the Kremlin during their operation. After 'Ghost Protocol' is activated, disbanding the entire IMF, the team must, while fugitives, clear their name by finding out who is responsible for the attack and prevent the terrorists goal of beginning a nuclear war.
Starting with what is good here, I must compliment director Brad Bird. Showing no trepidation in the transition from animation to live-action and far from doing a for-hire job on behalf of J.J. Abrams, he mounts this formidable steed and runs with it. Handling the action with finesse, his visual stylistics are that of a pure storyteller and I look forward to seeing where he goes from here. Also, technically the film is strong, the cinematography casting an all-seeing eye over the proceedings, while wisely it is cut so we can admire the spectacle that is being presented. At risk of spurring any pretence of objectivity, I must say that it is a pet peeve at mine when an action film is cut as though Michael Myers Vs Leatherface (as directed by Michael Bay) is being shot in the editing suite. While I think directors like Paul Greengrass and J.J. Abrams use the Steadicam well, I am thankful to be able to say that this film does suffer from this terminal illness. Also, although you certainly aren't going to get any acting masterclass, you couldn't ask for a more charismatic bunch of actors to play the disavowed IMF team. Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise, terrific as ever, Jeremy Renner displays his range once again, Simon Pegg gets all the funny lines, and the film's most pleasant surprise is Paula Patton, who gets saddled with a weak character but comes across as a strong, empowering heroine. Finally, the stunt team working on this film deserve an extended round of applause for their work here. The whole thirty-minute sequence set in Dubai is among the greatest action sequences in film history. I shit you not, I was making noises like a poor eight-year-old woman in the throws of a vicious case of indigestion, and as a result was thoroughly grateful for my being the only one in the auditorium. I know there are some of your that'll be rolling your eyes at my hyperbole, but I started feeling faint and getting vertigo just watching it. Also, the whole structure of that sequence, cutting back and forth between the two different meetings and the ensuing chase that follows, is masterful, and brought out some of the most powerful emotions I have felt watching from a film in 2011.
Nevertheless, for all these emotions and my extreme hyperbole, this is still not a great film, because it has a number of fundamental flaws that detract from my enjoyment of it. Many of these emerge from the film's script. While by no means a slapdash bit of work, Andre Nemec and Josh Appelbaum's script feels very contrived. Every snippet of backstory or transitory scenes of dialogue in between the action feels mechanical and comes across as filler for the action scenes, far from the more organic M:I-3. If there was one thing that made the predecessor stand out from the rest was that there was clearly genuine care in Ethan Hunt's story. Furthermore, from the antagonist standpoint, there is some terrible characterisation. After Philip Seymour Hoffman's Owen Davian, these villains are as flimsy as those cardboard cutouts on a shooting range, and leads to some poor performances. Also, the film's ending is rather rushed in the wake of the sheer carnage ensuing throughout, especially given its long running time. Finally, though this is a minor quibble, it is hard to top the Dubai sequence, so perhaps this would have been more appropriate as the setting for the film's climax.
However, despite it's decent but nevertheless flawed script, I found Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol to be a very enjoyable film. Brad Bird makes the transition from animation to live-action successfully, his eye for spectacle translating over the medium and a big influence on the film's strong editing and cinematography. Also, the four leads are a charismatic bunch and do a fine job of sustaining the audiences' (as in my) interest. Finally, I reiterate, an extended round of applause for the stunt team, for causing this world-weary film critic to nearly faint during the terrific Dubai sequence.
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.8/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Pretty good (given the weekend's shenanigans!)