When I sat down to review Tom Cruise’s latest in the action laden Mission: Impossible film series, I found myself at a loss, my wit left wanting. See, I find it easier, and far more satisfying, to write about films that are lacking or misguided. Something Ghost Rider-esque, if you will. Recent box office offerings being what they are, I thought this fourth entry of M:I, Ghost Protocol, would be no different. The subtitle alone was enough to make me skeptical. Yet, somehow, I walked out of the intimidating IMAX theatre content. So let me tell you how I got there, and maybe you will do the same.
But first, a brief recap is in order. The Mission: Impossible franchise dates back a whopping 15 years. This was a time when Tom Cruise was a huge movie star who could do no wrong. Simpler times, really. Especially in contrast to his new persona as one of Scientology’s high priests or something. The original film may not have been the best script in the world, but Cruise was a tour de force and Jon Voight was supporting, so how could you go wrong? The first movie was a huge success.
Despite the movie’s success, we have to fast-forward four years before the first sequel. Unfortunately, MI:2 was subject to typical Action Sequel Syndrome. Directed by John Woo, it was bigger and flashier, but it just…exists. It wasn’t terrible, but nothing to sink your teeth into either. It was just another action flick in a world where there were already too many. But hey, Limp Bizkit did the theme song, so I guess we can chalk that up as a win.
Finally, in 2006, amidst a couple failed blockbusters and that whole couch thing, we got M:I:3. Part of me wishes I could review that movie instead because, as I mentioned in my review of J. Edgar, on paper looks M:I:3 looks like nothing but Win with a side of Awesome-sauce. J.J. Abrams helmed the movie, along with Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (Star Trek), after coming off an Oscar win. Plus, Phillip Seymour Hoffman was the main villain. How could it fail? While, I still maintain it wasn’t the worst thing ever seen on the silver screen, it just couldn’t live up to the charm of the original M:I. Still, both sequels crushed at the box office, so here we are.
Mission: Impossible: 4, or just “Ghost Protocol” if you’re that guy, once again pits Ethan Hunt and a ragtag group of spies against bad guys and governments in an international race against time to uncover and thwart a global conspiracy. And of course there are some big explosions and nice cars along the way. Now then, these days most kids know Cruise only as that “crazy cult guy,” or as Les Grossman. Hell, I’m sure some even thought this Mission: Impossible was its own film, and not a sequel. There’s no “4″ in the title, and for good reason. But by bringing in some new blood with Jeremy Renner, and keeping the lovable Simon Pegg, directed Brad Bird has made Ghost Protocol a pretty solid thrill ride.
There are four things that make this movie so entertaining. The first, funny enough, actually has nothing to do with the film itself. In a move as brilliant as it is devious, the studio attached a prologue for The Dark Knight Rises to IMAX prints of the film. The only reason, and I stress, only reason I was intending to see this movie in an IMAX theatre was to witness that prologue, and it was a spectacle. I bet you thought I was going to say Tom Cruise’s performance, or the direction, but I can’t stress this enough. Bane, plane, and Nolan on the brain? It was gold, and worth the price of admission all on its own.
Then, as I sat there dazzled, thinking July can’t come fast enough, the movie started, which brings us to the second point: Tom Cruise’s performance. I know more than a few have fallen out of love with the aging action star, but I’ve always been a fan, and for him, M:I:GP is a return to form. The 2000s haven’t been all that kind to Cruise (Knight & Day, Valkyrie), almost making it feel like he was losing his touch. It seemed that his days of thunder (*swish*) were coming to a close. But in M:I:GP, Cruise is sharp and exciting, hitting all the right buttons for his character, leaving you thinking he may actually have the chops for life as a secret agent.
Thirdly, there’s the performance of Jeremy Renner. This guy seems to be able to pull off any role he gets with ease, whether it’s a tormented soldier, drug dealing thug, Hawkeye, whatever! His newcomer character, Brandt, is a welcome addition of charm and humour, that plays exceptionally well alongside Cruise’s Ethan Hunt. Renner delivers one-liners with ease, while not forgetting to lay out the bad guys in between.
Lastly, Brad Bird coming in as director. Bird has two Oscars for Best Animated Feature, and has now proven his ability to direct live action films. He was chosen by Abrams when he received a late-night text saying, “Mission?” and brings with him the fresh eyes the series needed. Bird has style, whether it’s in dialogue or action sequences. One scene in particular takes place during a sand storm where Ethan Hunt is chasing the main villain, Hendricks. This sequence goes through dense periods of sand while mixing up chase scenes by car and by foot. Bird’s direction captures the perfect tone for this film in every scene.
By the time the credits rolled, even I was surprised by how much I enjoyed M:I:GP. I would highly recommend finding the nearest IMAX theatre for the experience, because this movie really does leap off the screen, adding a depth and experience that 3D films envy. Plus, the Dark Knight Rises prologue in itself is enough to make the extra hassle of finding an IMAX screen worth it. Cool gadgets, an interesting spy story, and Tom Cruise back in full force. What better way to spend the holidays? Bravo, Tom. You’re the big dog yet again.