director Brad Bird
viewed: 01/07/2012 at AMC Loews Metreon 16, SF, CA
I don’t dig Tom Cruise. I haven’t seen one of his movies in the theaters since War of the Worlds (2005). I didn’t see the prior Mission: Impossible III (2006). So why see the cumbersomely titled Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol? Good reviews alone would not have got me there, though good reviews there have been for this fourth installment of an action movie franchise that was a “re-boot” of a 1960’s-1970’s television show.
It came down to the fact that this was the first live-action film directed by Brad Bird. Bird is best known for his stellar animated features, The Iron Giant (1999), The Incredibles (2004), and Ratatouille (2007). Actually, it’s the confluence of good reviews and Brad Bird that piqued my interest to see a Tom Cruise movie in the cinema. With the kids. I don’t know that either of those facts alone would have done it. Though I’m keen on Bird’s work, Mission: Impossible didn’t sound exactly like a match made in heaven.
Well, go figure.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol surprisingly is one of the best action films of its kind in a long, long while. This is a James Bond-like thing with big action scenes, world-trotting locations, spy action, and explosions. It’s a formula of sorts but it’s a formula that rarely makes it to the screen intact as a really exciting and thrilling movie.
It has a silly premise. A rogue Russian genius wants to initiate a nuclear war to start a new era of life on Earth. He gets the codes to launch the bombs, he gets the tool to launch the bombs, and just needs a satellite to launch the bombs. And the M;I team has been “disavowed” by the government, setting them in “ghost protocol” (still the worst thing about the movie is the stupid title). They’ve got to save the day on their own.
Tom’s team includes Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, and Paula Patton as the comic relief, the mysterious “is he good or evil” guy, and the sexy ass-kicker, respectively. And everyone deports themselves well accordingly.
When I first saw trailers for the film, with Cruise dangling from the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (currently the world’s tallest skyscraper), I was seriously nonplussed. But the reality is that that scene in the movie, is the best sequence. Bird has taken something that on the surface seems a bit cliche and overdone and really manages to induce not just vertigo but some crazy, athletic excitement. It’s really quite something.
The whole film, while perhaps not achieving some transcendent level of that elusive quality of “greatness”, is a truly surprisingly entertaining and enthralling action film. I was surprised.
The kids both liked it pretty well. But I thought it was telling that Felix also commented that the worst thing about the film was its title (unsolicited by me).