Sunday, January 22, 2012

Impossible Missions Fourth!

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol  (Paramount, 2011)

Before the Camera:

Tom Cruise  (Losin' It!)
Jeremy Renner  (Thor)
Simon Pegg  (Shaun of the Dead)
Paula Patton  (Precious)
Michael Nyqvist  (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo '09)
Vladimir Mashkov  (Behind Enemy Lines)
Samuli Edelmann  (Rock 'n Roll Never Dies)
Ivan Shvedoff  (Enemy at the Gates)
Josh Holloway  (TV's Lost)
Anil Kapoor  (Slumdog Millionaire)
Léa Seydoux  (Inglorious Basterds)
Pavel Kríz  (Sleeping Dogs)
Ilia Volok  (Jackie Chan's First Strike)
Tom Wilkinson  (Rush Hour)
The Secretary

And look fast for:

Andreas Wisniewski (The Living Daylights)

Behind the Camera:

Directed by Brad Bird

Produced by J.J. Abrams, Tom Cruise, and 9 other assorted Producers, Co-Producers, Associate Producers, and Executive Producers

Written by Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec

Mission: Impossible TV series created by Bruce Geller

It's been a few years since we last saw the Impossible Missions Force and their leader Ethan Hunt (Cruise). Apparently Hunt's life has taken a downturn as we find him in the film's opening scenes serving time in a Russian prison. Luckily, an IMF team consisting of Agent Carter (Patton) and our old pal Benji (Pegg) - recently graduated to field agent -  is already underneath the prison and on the way in, and soon Hunt is out. Well, out of prison, but not Russia, as his mission, should he choose to accept it, is to infiltrate the Kremlin with his new team to find the identity of a nuclear terrorist codenamed Cobalt. He does accept the mission, but there are... complications. Really bad complications, and soon the team - joined by a mysterious intelligence analyst named Brant (Renner) - find themselves in the ultimate disavowal: Ghost Protocol. With no support, and only one small cache of the IMF's trademarked Gee-Whiztechnology, will the team find this mission just too impossible?

"I thought you were here to Renner assistance."
"Well, according to you we were supposed to just Cruise through this."
"I suppose she's going to want a Patton the back for her part."
"And he definitely needs to be taken down a Pegg."

    I have been a fan of the late great Bruce Geller's TV series since catching it in reruns on the original live TV incarnation of the F/X cable network in the 90's. I timer taped two episodes a day on VHS for about 6 months and managed to see every episode. I have since purchased every TV season set on DVD, and I'm about to add the two seasons of the 80's TV revival to the video vault. I have seen the previous three theatrical films as well, enjoying all to some degree. I say all that to establish my credentials as a true fan of the franchise. Now I have seen the fourth Mission: Impossible movie and I have this to say:
    Bruce Geller is smiling down from the afterlife.
    This fourth outing turns out to be the best of the movies yet - and the reason is simple: it does more to evoke the original series than any of the previous entries. The first movie was doing well until it decided to take a beloved original character and have them turn traitor (I still have a dream where they do a sequence in one of these movies where it turns out the traitor was really an impostor in one of those nifty masks - and they rescue the real character - held in captivity since before the first movie started)
    But I digress.
    The second entry in the series was a ballet of kinetic action courtesy director John Woo but the least like the original show. The third flick started back in the right direction, putting the team up against a great bad guy but still relying a little too much on double/triple/quadruple/wait who am I working for? agent stuff.
    This one pegs it (or is that Peggs it?) early on, with an opening sequence that culminates in the actual lighting of a fuse - which then burns its way through the film's credits - and a montage sequence of quick cuts from the movie we're watching - which is exactly what the original series did every episode for seven seasons: a montage of shots from the episode you're about to see. That's something that would never be done today - hell, even the 80's Mission: Impossible just went with the same standard set of shots showing off the team for every episodes of those two seasons. I don't usually put video clips in my reviews - but let's take a look at two M:I series episode openings - to show off the cool montages.

First, here's a credit sequence from season two - with what many consider the "dream team" of IMF agents:

And here is one from season five, with a jazzy new version of the theme and some new cast members:

The first movie did put some movie clips over the opening credits, admittedly, but the shots are so fast it's hard to make out what you're seeing for the most part. M:I2 and M:I3 completely skipped the idea, so it made a most welcome return in Ghost Protocol. In fact, it made this series fan giggle like a schoolgirl, and set the whole movie off on the right foot. Continuing the nods to the series, just a couple of minutes later there was some incidental music during the mission acceptance scene that was straight out of the series, which again had me grinning like an idiot.
    But lest you believe the whole movie is just a love letter to the 1960's version - oh no - this is a terrifically entertaining action thriller in its own right - with a solid cast led by Cruise taking us through several amazing suspense and action setpieces. I don't want to spoil any of them, so I'm not going into much more detail about them - but director Brad Bird (The Incredibles) shows he can handle live actors as well as he can computer pixels, keeping the movie on the front burner and boiling all the way through.

I've heard Tom Cruise is in this picture.
Pretty much every aspect of the movie hits on all cylinders. The plot is full of obstacles and twists, but never becomes too complicated or confusing. The stunts are beautifully handled - with Tom Cruise seemingly right in the thick of things throughout, which is very cool, especially as he's almost fifty years old now! The cast is spiffy, with the standouts Pegg - who provides just the right amount of comic relief while still coming off as a valid member of a spy team - and Nyqvist, absolutely hissable as the main bad guy. I must also give shouts out to Josh Holloway, with an impressive Big Screen presence in a smallish role as an IMF agent; and the quick appearance of Andreas Wisniewski - a Bond villain henchman from The Living Daylights who strangled people with his walkman headphones; and the terrorist from the original Die Hard with feet smaller than Bruce Willis's sister. My only quibble is that there's almost no mask work in the movie. But there are disguises, so that is a quibble.
    This is by far my favorite action movie of 2011, even if I did see it in 2012 - and that puts it out of competition with Skyfall too...heh heh. If you've enjoyed any of the previous M:I movies there's no reason to believe you wouldn't have a good time here; and if you like action movies and thrillers but have skipped these - I still highly recommend this as solid escapist entertainment. Your mission, should you choose to accept it - is to check this one out!

"Remember...blue is like glue. Red? You're dead."

Let's Get Out of Here ?

I can't be entirely sure - but I thought I heard it in Russian as everybody was leaving the Kremlin in such a hurry. More research is required.

Eye Candy ?

Paula Patton is a most fetching IMF member - so she's in!

Her mission, which she's already accepted - is to make my eyes happy. Mission: Accomplished!

Buddha Man's Capsule Review

Buddha Man says: "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is
the rare fourth movie in a series that actually improves on
its predecessors, taking the top spot!"

Right you are, Buddha me lad! This review will self destruct in five seconds. Until it does, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!


  1. not a fan of Cruise and the whole MI franchise, so I decided to skip it - although I have to admit that the trailer was really impressive.

  2. MM - Well, if it doesn't work for you it doesn't work for you - but there are some stupifyingly cool gadgets, and a big fight on an automated car park that is so much fun - I still recommend this one on home video!

  3. Love the old show. It was one of my dad's favorites. I loved Greg Morris' character especially. I hated what they did to Jim Phelps in the first, but I've stuck with the series and I like the films. I really want to see this, but haven't been able to. I will see it as soon as I can. Terrific review, my friend. :)

  4. MB - Barney was the heat, for sure - Greg Morris was always so cool - looking forward to your thoughts on this one when you've had a chance to see it - thanks for the kind words, pal!

  5. Ditto on everything Melissa said.

    You know, in the poster, if you pulled Cruise's hood forward a bit, gave him a couple blades, and cloaked the whole gang in his garb, you'd have Assassin's Creed Brotherhood.

  6. Joe! I think this was thisclose to being an Assassin's Creed Brotherhood movie - and then it morphed into a Jake Speed reboot - then something about a zombie Smurf crawling up out of a lake and menacing a college dorm, and finally they just said screw it! Another Mission: Impossible!

    1. Craig, that's an impressive review, seriously! :) Glad we agree on this one. It was better than the previous installments, that for sure, plus the cast was perfectly-chosen. :)

  7. Yay, a fan of the original giggled like a schoolgirl! I love it when someone remaking something does a bit of justice for the true fans, versus trying to cash in on a franchise title(Resident Evil anyone?--though I did learn to appreciate them as action movies, even if they can't be like the original game stories, with the original characters center stage). I'm glad you liked MI4 and if it's got the most in common with the original series, then perhaps I ought to investigate. Thanks! :)