Monday, January 09, 2012

Mission Accomplished

Tom Cruise might not be the box office phenomenon he once was, but with US$450 million in the bank and still climbing, he owns the winter. The question that remains to be answered is: does Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol justify these gargantuan earnings?

Cruise certainly has his Movie Star turned up to eleven, much of the credit for which must go to Brad Bird, who brings energy and wit to the film's all important action sequences. (Having made his name directing much-loved animated films - The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, not to mention working on The Simpsons years before - Brad Bird's is one of the most assured live-action directing debuts in recent memory). Regardless of what you think about his private life, Cruise is surely among the most committed actors working in Hollywood, embodying an intensity and a physicality that is all his own - he is undoubtedly one of the best runners on film. Moreover, by the time he turns to camera at the end of this film's pre-credit sequence with the words, "light the fuse", triggering Michael Giacchino's rendition of Lalo Shifrin's iconic Mission Impossible theme, you know you are in safe hands.

This is Ethan Hunt as a man wronged. Imprisoned in a Moscow jail - the film begins with a high-octane escape masterminded by Simon Pegg, who returns as computer whizz and all round good egg Benji Dunn - during which Cruise speaks Russian and scowls with aplomb. Not that the film is all about Cruise. This is a Mission Impossible film and in common with the best episodes in the series (the first and the third, since you ask, this is a team effort. For the time being at least, Simon Pegg is the best person you could cast to play Simon Pegg (and I mean that as a complement), Jeremy Renner seems to be being groomed for stardom and barely puts a foor wrong as William Bradt, the intelligence analyst with a secret, and Paula Patton is alluring and able as Jane Carter, the third and final member of the team, more than matching the boys in the physicality stakes. Michael Nyqvist is not given much to do as the film's baddie but it is nice to see him show up in a big budget actioner.

Above all else, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, lives or dies by the quality of its action sequences, and I am pleased to say that it does not disappoint, with plenty of gadget, fast cars and exotic locations to boot. Tom Cruise hanging off the side of the tallest building in the world - the Burj Khalifa in Dubai - is beautifully photographed and likely to induce dizziness in any who suffers from acrophobia (I looked it up); the car chase through an Arabian sandstorm is equally as spectacular; although the conclusion in a Mumbai car park did remind me of Chicken Run (remember the pie-making machine?).

The story has no depth, but what do expect from a Mission Impossible film. Ving Rhames shows up for old times sake but should have been given a proper part. Aside from that, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol ticks all the Hollywood boxes -  precision engineered set pieces, a star with his eye on the prize and, crucially, it is doing the numbers. Welcome back Tom. Nice to meet you Brad. I hope we can do this again some time.


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