Thursday, December 29, 2011

Review: "Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol"

When the first Mission Impossible film came out I thought it was clever, that the twists were interesting and that Tom Cruise-- in this role-- was very appealing.  The thing I liked most about the first film was that it didn't treat the audience like they were stupid.  They treated us like equals and we puzzled things out together.  As the franchise has continued films have changed and the aims of the sequels have as well.

Cruise's Ethan Hunt, a character who spent the first film in psychological turmoil, has become an infallible superman packaged in a tiny body.  In fact, if you were to examine the first and second films you might think them from two entirely different franchises.  By the second film the focus was not on the psychological and mysterious aspect of the spy game but rather Hunt's penchant for destruction as he runs about the world blowing things up and trying to save a "girlfriend of the week" who has disappeared by the third film.  To be honest, there were parts of the fourth film which reminded me of entire sequences from the second film, as if even the filmmakers have become tired of the franchise.

As with the third film-- whose success hinged entirely on the evil machinations of Philip Seymour Hoffman-- Ghost Protocol tries to anchor itself with a villain against whom the heroes can set themselves.  This time around it's Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist (of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo notoriety) who is set against La Cruise.  Unfortunately Nyqvist's nuclear strategist is simply no match for the legacy that is Seymour Hoffman and the performance falls flat.  What's more, there seems to be a general lack of backstory for many of the secondary characters.  When you have a skilled actor like Hoffman in the role this is not so much of an issue but Lea Seydoux's French assassin in particular is unsettlingly one dimensional.

All this aside, the film is getting good reviews from critics (generally speaking) and for good reason.  It's enjoyable, if a little heavy handed which its action sequences, and the characters are likeable enough.  The action sequences (as they have been for several films now) are quite well choreographed and interesting to watch.  Special effects are seamlessly interwoven with the live action and at no point was I left thinking, "This is ridiculous," even though it frequently was.  If I can suspend my disbelief, then the film is doing its job.  I'm a frequent disbeliever.

What's more, after seeing the American adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo the other day it was refreshing to find Paula Patton's Agent Jane Carter did not require the help of a man to defend herself.  It's not often you see this in action films so-- sadly-- I have to commend the filmmakers on that much (even if she does require Cruise to help her seduce a man later in the film).  Let's not read too much into that for now, even though we could have a field day with the implications of Cruise's alpha male teaching her how to be a woman.  Let's just back away slowly and not look directly at the sexism...

If you're looking for something mindless and fun to keep you occupied this long weekend, consider checking it out.  It's certainly a much better offering than a lot of the films currently in theatres.

My rating: 3 out of 4.

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