December 28, 2011

Movie Review: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

 How often do you come across a sequel, much less a fourth or fifth go around, that is legitimately better than its predecessors? In my experience not very often. It is a pretty interesting phenomenon that really reared it's head when Fast Five was released. That was, hands down, the best of that series. It is not like it is a great series, but so what. Now, with respect to the Mission: Impossible franchise, the third one was the best of the bunch and now the fourth one has outdone that and has taken the crown as the series best. I don't even think it matters if you've seen the others.

This series has been an interesting thing, I can honestly see it developing into a sort of American James Bond. They have the gadgets and the globe trotting down, not to mention the big action and stunts. Each of the films have attracted quality directors, including Brian DePalma and John Woo. This fourth film has the added bonus of being this particular director's first live action film. The man in the chair is Brad Bird who made a name for himself in animation, having directed The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille. Needless to say, his skills have translated well to live action.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is a big, exciting action film that scarcely ever takes its foot off the gas. Now, it is not exactly the most personally involving, as there is not a heck of a lot of heart in the proceedings, but it does offer some interesting characters and some great stunts. It is an action movie through and though. Although, it should be said that there are a couple of scenes that bring a little bit of genuine emotion that actually works, not much mind you, just a little.

It is not the story that makes this a winner, it is standard thriller fare. There is a bad guy named Hendricks (Michael Nykvist from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the Swedish one) and he has gotten his hands on Russian nuclear missile launch codes and is planning on a strike against the United States. It is up to Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) to lead a team and stop him. Their first stop is the Kremlin, but they are setup. The Kremlin is blown up and it is Ethan and his team that are blamed. The entirety of the IMF is disavowed and they are forced to continue the fight without any backup.

This time around the team consists of Jane (Paula Patton), Benji (Simon Pegg), and Brandt (Jeremy Renner). They follow Hendricks to Dubai and ultimately Mumbai where they desperately try to prevent the missile launch.

In all seriousness, this movie is wonderfully executed. It operated at a breakneck pace while never leaving the viewer behind. I suspect that Brad Bird's background in animation helped with this. He knows how to show rather than tell and he is always showing you the gadgets, giving you good views of the action, and keeping the flow in a proper order. This is how you make an action movie. You hit the ground running and drag the audience right along.

The characters and their myriad motivations all help flesh the whole thing out, lending the action some heft. If you are looking for some big action, look no further than this. The climb up that building in Dubai is worth it by itself, but factor in the fight in the parking garage, and pretty much everything in between and you will never be at a loss for something to look at. Simply put, this is how you make an invigorating action movie, let us see the action, have a plan in how you are making it, allow your instincts to direct your craft. I think it may be a good idea for some action directors to work in animation for a while, I suspect it has a big impact on how to plot out and execute action.

Highly Recommended.

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