I know I’m in the minority here, but, Mission Improbable might have been a better title…
I didn’t manage to catch this at the cinema, although I had considered going; the trailer looked really good… and it was directed by Brad Bird; Pixar supremo.
A free evening presented itself, so I watched this on Xbox Zune after a high recommendation from a very astute movie loving pal.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is the fourth in the famous series; spanning 16 years*
My history with the MI series is very mixed. I love the first one, it’s clever, nailbiting in places and has a great final act and a couple of great twists. The second one was an assault on my senses to such a degree I haven’t seen it since. They jettisoned everything good about the first movie and turned it into some bizarre action film/Matrix homage. The second one left such a bad taste that I didn’t bother with MI:3 until it was on TV; but actually, it’s ok. It has it’s good moments but ultimately feels quite empty.
That brings us to the fourth installment. I wasn’t hyped at all for this, viewing the trailer I expected something that was a cross between MI:1 and MI:3, so an above average film; it didn’t turn out that way.
After the Kremlin is destroyed and some nulcear weapons are stolen the IMF is blamed and disavowed by the President, Tom Cruise and his
colleagues companions partners team are on their own to save the world… sounds great, but is it? I’ll give you a clue: NO!
Feeling terribly disappointed at the end, I went to check the tomatometer score on Rotten Tomatoes. I was kind of shocked to see it had a critic rating of 93%. I was expecting this to be around 60-70 at best not 7% from a perfect score.
I thought maybe I was missing something, so I rewatched some of it again – just to be sure. I still felt wanting…
The whole movie seems to rely on an amazing set of coincidences and/or ‘pre-planning’ by the IMF HQ on a level that just beggars belief, with such foresight that even Yoda would find hard to swallow!
Phone boxes, that are actually IMF video conferencing units, in Russian back alleys. Train carriages attached to an obscure Russian train that contains an IMF ‘war room’ armoury and gadget depository, that houses EXACTLY the gadgets they need! Just two examples of the ‘get out of jail’ cards written in by the scriptwriters. I can accept that the IMF would have ‘station/safe houses dotted around the world, but they are SO elaborate and SO convenient they stick out as lazy writing.
The impressive scene on the Burj Khalifa** tower is just that, impressive, especially with the knowledge that Tom Cruise did some of the actual stunt work*** However, something is off here in that although most of it is real, there wasn’t as much tension and clammy hands as there should of been. In fact, barley 45 minutes later Jeremy Renner has a scene involving heights, he has to jump down a shaft which is about a 100th of the height of Tom’s scene, yet it had a far more powerful impact on my senses. I think it needed a couple of long shots to put the danger/height in context. Still, kudos to Tom Cruise.
The tech in the movie is interesting but unlike previous installments, it’s not tied to trivial inconveniences like reality or logic. The Spiderman gloves are not only convenient (good job they had them in the case eh?) but invented just for the scene they appear in. Also featured is the BMW i8, which is a beautiful concept car (now headed towards production****) with a very odd GPS system in that it shows you a heads up map on the drivers windscreen – which can be swiped across the windscreen to the passenger. Why would you do that? …so the passenger can work out a route for you, because obviously a GPS device that could work out it’s own route is pushing credibility a bit too far!!*****
The acting was, to be honest, really subpar. Tom Cruise phoned this in – this is a different Ethan Hunt than we’ve seen in previous outings. This is less to do with character nuances in the script and more to do with Tom Cruise looking tired and almost uninterested. He also seems to have noticeably aged since the last one, it happens to us all and there is nothing wrong with it – but it’s quite jarring in a few scenes. He also has the MI:2 haircut back, this immediately put me on guard.
Simon Pegg is back from MI:3 – and is now apparently a field agent – how he managed to pass his ‘field-agent’ exam is the real mission impossible! He doesn’t seem right in the role – he worked in the last one, as a desk bound IT guy. In this one I don’t buy him as a field agent, he looks like he lost a lot of weight****** but this seems to diminish his screen prescence.
Not sure what Jeremy Renner’s role here is, at times he’s nothing more than either a foil for Simon Pegg or simply to set him up to replace Tom Cruise in the M:I franchise.
Everyone else is pretty forgettable, including the villain, Hendricks, this is a problem. The Villan and his cohorts get a bit of backstory but is ultimately forgettable and never feels like a real threat. He is so underwritten and underperformed that he’s nothing more than an ‘extra’. It seems ridiculous for him to be able to do all the things he does, including bringing down the IMF, and launching a nuclear missile, he is not a plausible villain.
There are also a few niggles that really bug me about him. He’s introduced as a slightly older guy (late 50’s early 60’s), yet his fitness and stamina are equal if not better than Ethan Hunts. There are a couple of scenes that involve a great deal of running and fighting and this older (slightly overweight) guy holds his own against super-agent Hunt with seemingly zero effort.
The near final scene sees Ethan and Hendricks square off in an automated car park. It was eye rollingly stupid. The concept was good, but there were a couple glaring continuity errors (look for the car covered in flowers). The punishment these guys take, not just punches but the distances they fall/jump would make even Superman’s eyes water. I actually though this is a completley mismatched fight between a 60-something guy and a 40-something guy – however a quick check on IMDB reveals both to be almost the same age… in the real world at least. The final set-piece ends with Ethan Hunt driving a car off the ledge of the car park to free-fall about 200m with only the airbag to save him, he survives, and at the same time succeeds in making this the stupidist scene in the entire MI series.
The movie then ends with the final attempt to destroy any remaining logic or credibility. Rumour has it they couldn’t afford him for the whole movie, so I guess they thought a cameo was better than nothing; wrong! In a non-sensical cameo, old favourite Ving Rhames turns up again as Luther and looking like he’s been living on the street since the last one and after literally 4 words he ignores Ethans new pals and leaves. Utterly pointless and damaging.
Sadly, Luther is not the only cameo – because continuity is more important than logic at this point, Ethans ex-wife also turns up. There has been lots of mentions of her throughout the movie – more than necessary, in fact this whole storyline could have been resolved with a single throwaway remark. Instead it’s continually referenced throughout the whole film, and is about one line away from becoming it’s own sub-plot and tries so hard to link to MI:3 that it just comes across as soap opera-ish.
One of the issues I have with the MI series, and this one in particular, is that the universe and guidelines set up in MI:1 have been largely ignored in each subsequent movie. Ethan Hunt is the only common factor and yet his character has massive shifts in trait from one movie to the next. IMF seems a very unstable organisation as it has a different boss in every movie, this prevents these movies from feeling like a coherent series and more like 4 different takes / reboots on the same premise.
5.9Surprisingly average with a few interesting set pieces. Even with a nuclear missile flying around – nothing ever feels at stake. However, it looks beautiful and the soundtrack is great. I’ve awarded an extra 0.9 on the score, for Tom Cruise doing his own stunts on the tower!
* has it been that long!
** tallest in the world (as at (2012)
*** he has a better head for heights than me
**** probably not identical to the one in the movie… but that would be awesome!
**** paging TOMTOM to the White courtesy phone.
****** Hollywood pressure?