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Cruise Control: Predictability comes off loud and clear, mostly loud in the new Mission Impossible 

Mission Impossible franchise continues to decline.

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OK, I have to admit that on my drive to the theater I was semi-excited about my impending Mission Impossible IMAX experience, looking forward to hyper-realistic stunts and fistfights. Once inside, I was told by a blank screen to prepare for "the full IMAX immersion." I sat back ready for the eye candy.

Well, it's clear enough and plenty loud (one guy in the audience actually yelled for it to be turned down a notch), but once the crystalline dust settled and my eyes focused, I seriously didn't notice any difference from a regular movie theater experience. But then glaring at me square in the face was this entity called Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

This Mission Impossible follows the TV show's prototype with the familiar theme music blaring through the credits, morphing into one big formulaic end-of-the-world chase-fest that really goes nowhere fast even though the people in this thing move pretty quickly.

From the get-go, the odds are against the MI team as malfunctions keep them at death's door, but this is clearly not Mission "We-can't-do-it." The simplistic plot has no major twists or turns, but some major holes. The flick tries to make up for it with some decent tension and quick editing, but for the most part we've seen all of this before. It's all about the stunts, slugfests, explosions and car chases.

Let's talk directors for a minute. The first Mission Impossible featured Brian DePalma and the "big train scene," then John Woo got in the mix with his unique camera work. Up next was J. J. Abrams (Lost) going for a lot of zest, and now Brad Bird, who honed his chops as an animator (The Incredibles, Iron Giant), takes the wheel with some decent skills here.

As far as evil villain history goes, following in the dastardly footsteps of Jon Voight, Dougray Scott and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the newest villain, Michael Nyqvist, has about three lines as we all get to recognize him from the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. Even though they're tough guy spies, it's fairly ludicrous seeing Cruise and Nyqvist punch each other senseless.

Some tongue-in-cheek humor is lost here, however, with Cruise at the helm as actor and producer. He commands too much seriousness from all involved and not enough levity. The daredevils aren't portrayed as adrenaline junkies, as much as pure adrenaline itself.

The acting ranges from adequate to horrible to a terrible waste of time and talent. Jeremy Renner, whose character I thought was going to have a nice twist, instead becomes the inevitable troubled sidekick. Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead/Paul) offers tepid non-comic relief and Paula Patton (Precious/Mirrors) is the sexpot, plain and simple. Cruise has aged into this role, but is far too stern for his own good. The shot of him grimacing and running his gazillion-dollar ass off toward the camera with a dust storm descending upon him is hilarious. I can't believe I'm saying this, but it would've helped Tom's overall appeal if he had employed some of his Knight and Day persona.

Sure, there are some astonishing special effects, like a Dubai tower window-crawling and the Buster Keaton-like final fight scene with cars and elevators, and I'll give an extra star to any movie with the line, "abort the warhead," but the end gets all touchy-feely and made me want to vomit. Yet I'm sure a lot of people will like this neatly sewn-up ending, leading into the next sequel, possibly titled Mission Deplorable: Siege of Stupidity.

It's hard to fathom that it's been 15 years since DePalma had Cruise riding that train in a tunnel, igniting the franchise. I heard MI4 was not all Cruise all the time, but that's not the case. That would truly have been an impossible mission - keeping Cruise out of the spotlight.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

2 Stars

Starring Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Michael Nyqvist

Directed by Brad Bird

Rated PG-13


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