How old is Tom Cruise now? Gotta be like 55 surely. It’s actually 50? Fair enough. Feels like he’s been around forever. You’d think his dubious mental state and the fact he belongs to a religious cult that grossly exaggerates it’s numbers as well as having some very dubious practices would have waned his star power over the years. But here we are at the fourth entry in the Mission Impossible film series. For a 50 year old Cruise is looking pretty youthful. Maybe there’s something in this Star Trek cult of his.
In Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol Tom Cruise is in jail for something when Shaun Of The Dead breaks him free and then action happens and stuff. There’s this other agent that’s a girl, Jane Carter (of Mars) who’s all upset that one of her agents died getting a macguffin in a previous mission that must have actually been impossible. Cruise and his friends are told by a payphone to go break into the Kremlin in order to recover the macguffin, some nuclear launch codes, when Mikael Blomkvist turns up and blows up part of the building. The IMF are blamed for this and the president decides that they are all rogue until such a time they can save the day in their next impossible mission. Then Jeremy Renner turns up because he needs to be inserted into every film franchise these days.
What I’m getting at is who cares what the story is. Ethan Hunt is back, this time with long hair and some unhappy thoughts, and he has been tasked with saving the world. This requires a holiday in Dubai. Essentially Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol is a series of reasons for action scenes, thankfully though, those reasons are just good enough to feed into the action as it happens. This film could have gone so wrong but first time live action film director Brad Bird manages to pull off the real impossible mission of making a potentially tired franchise enjoyable again. Personally I think the first film is a great spy thriller but part two was pure tripe and three was took itself too seriously and loaded the end with this horribly sickly corn and cheese-ball ending where everyone gets to live happily ever after.
Wisely a choice was made early on to have Simon Pegg’s character Benji Dunn, last seen in what was essentially an extended cameo role in MI3, be promoted to field agent so he can be part of the fun. He provides much needed levity to the films tone and manages to successfully avoid feeling forced. His character fits the squad and his humorous touches cause no damage. This is a wise move because Ethan Hunt isn’t the most exciting and fun character in the world. He has a few light moments to himself but generally Ethan has to be the stoic action hero vessel for the male audience members to live through. If he gets too happy or gets too moody without reason his character begins to break. Mostly Ethan’s temperament is kept in check and manages to avoid becoming that grinning moron that kept turning up in the last film when we were being force fed the information about how happy he was so when his wife is in danger we would feel bad. Spoilers… his wife is gone this time around so we’re spared all that.
In amongst all the excuses for some pretty cool action sequences we have this gradual mystery of just why Ethan Hunt was in a prison at the start of the film. Naturally this ties into Jeremy Renner’s character of Jeremy Renner… I mean William Brandt. See he had a previous mission that went wrong and it’s tied to events that have transpired between this and the previous film. It also gives him a chance to act a bit like he doesn’t know what he’s doing as he’s presented as a desk jockey at first. Cos you’d look at Jeremy Renner and say, there’s a guy I could believe would remember to put cover sheets on his TPS reports. Annnnyway, he gets involved in their missions gradually earning his position as a true IMF agent and getting to do a little bit of heist like action. When the real action kicks in it’s all Tom Cruise though and his set pieces really are the film’s highlight.
Tom Cruise climbed the outside of the tallest building in the world. For reals. This one sequence is officially among some of the greatest in modern films as far as I’m concerned. To shoot it Brad Bird whipped out some glorious IMAX cameras, gave Cruise a harness and shot him scaling the outside of the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai. There’s a couple of digital effects, to add an oncoming sandstorm used in a following sequence and to remove cables, involved but that stunt is a classic stunt done for real and without a stunt double. Each action beat in the film is unique and interesting to watch. In one sequence a car Ethan is in is under fire which causes the car to plough through a barrier and off a bridge into a river. The sequence is done with the camera staying inside the car as people die and it flips over. In another Ethan chases a villain through Dubai in the midst of a thick sandstorm racing through traffic with zero visibility. It’s a great sequence because even you can’t tell where the next danger will come from. There’s also the added element in a lot of the films action scenes that the equipment the team has fails to work and their left to use their wits alone to save the day. This is how hero’s should behave. The best Bond sequences involve him using his ingenuity rather than just his gadgets and clearly Brad Bird realises that. Honestly this film would fail if it wasn’t for how well constructed all it’s set pieces were.
In the end Mission Impossible Gho… Mission Impossible 4, is a very welcome addition to the series that manages to pull off the incredible task of not only being very enjoyable but also not pants on head retarded like 90% of modern action flicks. Brad Bird has managed to pull a very impressive live action début off. Directing live action is very different from animation as, with animation, you’ll always have a chance to tweak and adjust the visuals over and over before nailing them down. Credit to Brad for not resorting to masses of digital effects. The film isn’t even presented in 3D and was even shot on film. This is so against the grain for many directors these days but kudos to whoever it was that thought for those decisions because the film looks great because of it. Using Dubai as the main setting was also a great idea. It’s a location you really don’t see on film. Oddly I received a game called Spec Ops: The Line from Lovefilm along with this which is also set in Dubai. The film maybe lacks a strong emotional centre and has another slightly too happy final scene which feels as unnecessary as the final scene of MI3 did but those are small issues. I enjoyed the film thoroughly and would comfortably put it just behind the first film in the series. Also, a joke about the mission being possible here.