January 9, 2012

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol review

There were a lot of things on paper working against this film. It's action star is almost 50 years old. It is the 4th installment of a property that has spanned over 15 years and got out to a rocky start.

It features a director in Brad Bird that has never made a live-action film before. Still, I was looking forward to seein it. I thought 2006's Misson: Impossible III was the best in the series at that point. Even though Bird had never done a live-action film he had a pretty good track record with The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and UP. I wanted to see his take on a blockbuster action flick.

I can safely say MIGP is the best straight-up action film I have seen in a long time. I think Bird did an excellent job with the storyline and pacing. We don't have to deal with all the exposition we usually see in action movies. The plot is tight and there is never that boring lull we usually have to sit through. The story doesn't meander and evenrything makes sense and is easy to follow. The acting is very good. Even though I am not a big Tom Cruise fan I can't deny his ability and screen presence. He did some pretty amazing stuff in this movie. The writing is quite good too. You can usually count on a ton of cheesy lines. There are just a couple here.

MIGP picks up right from where MI3 leaves off. Though I didn't remember MI3 all that well, it didn't matter. We jump right into the film and it is pretty much nonstop from there. Hollywood action movies these days seem like they are created to feature these big impressive set pieces. It's almost like they think up the big sequences, then secondarily build a movie around them. That is all fine if they do a decent job. However, most of the time the "in-between" spaces feel awkward and clunky. It intoduces plot elements that don't make sense and are never resolved. In many of those films the character motivations don't agree with the things that have to happen to get to that next big action scene, which makes it feel unrealistic. MIGP avoids all of those things. It still has the huge impressive set pieces, but it doesn't such a good job taking us from one to the next. There is no bouncing around. We stay in a single line from beginning to end, and everything seems to natually drive the plot forward.

The one failure of MIGP is the bad dude. He is barely in the movie, and pretty much irrelevant. The plot doesn't depend on him, and it is a minor complaint in an otherwise solid action movie. At first I wasn't a fan of Simon Pegg as the technical guy. As the movie went on he grew on me, but I never found him funny. I'm pretty sure they wanted him to be funny. There were several attempts at humor and most of them fell flat. I can only remember a couple times when I actually laughed. 

It has nothing to do with Mission Impossible, but while watching this movie I was reminded why I rarely go to the theater. During the entire film there were veriticle lines coming and going on the screen. I don't know what the problem was.  The sound wasn't all that great either. I was thinking that I would have almost as good a setup if I were sitting in my living room watching it. I heard this movie was amazing in iMAX, especially the Burj Kalifa sequence. I don't have an iMAX theater within 1.5 hours of me, so I've actually never seen a movie in true iMAX. Apparantely the theaters around here can't even get the normal movies right.

I hope they continue making Mission: Impossible movies. I think Tom Cruise should do one more and then pass the torch onto Jeremy Renner. If Brad Bird is there to help them make the transition then I think it will be in good hands. I haven't seen Fast Five yet, but I'd be willing to put money on Ghost Protocol as the best action film of 2011.

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