Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)

'Impossible' Apparently Isn't Nearly Impossible Enough
for the Awesome Awesomeness of Tom Cruise

- I realize that it was not so long ago that I stated in my review of Mission: Impossible (1996) that I had no desire to watch the latest installment of the seemingly never-ending franchise. Yet here I am with my thoughts on that very film after it crossed my path not long ago. It's funny how these sort of things work out....

As predictable and natural as a leap year or lunar eclipse, Tom Cruise's career becomes nearly unsalvageable every few years. Oh sure, Cruise enjoys a short time on the top of tinsel town's food chain with critics shouting 'He's back and here to stay!' But his inevitable fall comes right on time faster and harder than the business cycle after a round of quantitative easing (ouch, arcane enough a reference?). But Cruise is one lucky bastard with something that enough people half-way care about to fall backwards on when his career heads south: the Mission: Impossible series. After a string of box office underachievers - Lions For Lambs (2007), Valkyrie (2008) and Knight And Day (2010) - following the previous Mission: Impossible film, Cruise re-returns to box office prominence as MVP MIF agent Ethan Hunt in this the fourth installment of the Mission: Impossible series: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011). Hollywood, he's ack-bay (well, for a time anyway; the cycle has already begun)!

Directed by Brad Bird (Iron Giant (1999), The Incredibles (2004), Ratatouille (2007)), the first live-action feature for the animation authority, it is safe to say that Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol was a star-studded financial and critical summer hit. Although popular, I was not thrilled by this film. Sporting a good cast and having a few memorable scenes on hand, Ghost Protocol does everything a bit too big for its own good to be taken seriously as a fun action flick or as a gritty thriller.

Although Tom Cruise clearly does most of the work, he is not saving the world by himself. Ghost Protocol boasts an impressive cast from cameos (Tom Wilkinson, Anil Kapoor and Ving Rhames who is unfortunately not playing a big role this time around) to important characters. Simon Pegg returns as Benji Dunn and, just as was the case in Mission: Impossible III (2006), is the highlight of Ghost Protocol with his unparalleled comedic timing. Also making a significant impact are Paula Patton, who is a nice addition to the series as the sexy and skilled Jane Carter, and Michael Nyqvist (of the Swedish Girl With The Dragon Tattoo films), who is an excellent screen presence and one that I sincerely hope continues to show up in Hollywood projects. Unfortunately, arguably the most popular member of the cast outside of Cruise, Jeremy Renner, disappoints in his supporting role as the unpredictable William Brandt. However, to be fair, not only can one recognize Renner's cliched role in the film immediately from the film's trailer, Renner has the unenviable job of portraying the character that is grounded on the most ridiculous premise of the film (which, for the courtesy of those who may have not seen the film yet, I will not reveal in detail) and his performance suffers as would any other actor in his shoes.

Just when you thought the Mission: Impossible films could not get any more bloated and convoluted, Ghost Protocol jacks up the special effects and plot turns to unprecedented levels of 'WHOA'! The locations: BIGGER. The action: BIGGER! The gadgets: CRAZY! The plot: INVOLVED. The suspense: MORE! MORE! MORE! Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is one giant celluloid testament to over-the-top TomCruiseness. The ever inflating story is rendered obsolete by all of the obstacles in Tom Cruise's path, featuring but not limited to: Russian prisons, SVR agents, nuclear terrorists, giant dust storms (igniting the best but unintentional belly laugh of the film) and, of course, gravity. Naturally, Cruise hardly blinks at such minor inconveniences and blasts through the film with the piercing volume and near overacting that we are all accustomed to see from him in this kind of genre film.

Ghost Protocol begins on a surprisingly strong note but unravels scene-by-scene into an all-too-recognizable and, ultimately, boring ultra-modern action film. Perhaps director Brad Bird just spent too much time in animation to make a live-action film really work on all levels - or maybe Ghost Protocol is just too much of a "Tom Cruise Production" for its own good. Every few years, Cruise's career comes crashing down from the sky like a missile to a highly populated and easily exploitable major city and the populace is introduced to yet another Mission: Impossible film. Surely not the final note of the M:I series (the road to a sequel is already paved at the end of the film), Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is about as noticeably flawed and as mildly fun as the rest of the M:I movies but I am almost praying for a string of non-M:I Cruise hits so we can retire this increasingly lame franchise.

CBC Rating: 6/10

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