First of all apologies for the lack of film reviews on sick chirpse over the past couple of months. This is down to a combination of laziness and busyness on my part. But fret not, my aim now is to make sick chirpse the go-to place for honest, informed, entertaining, self-effacing and incredibly handsome film criticism in 2012. So yeah…look out for that.
Back to business. This year’s big holiday blockbuster is Tom Cruise led explosion fest Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. The fourth instalment in a franchise long assumed MIA is brought to us by Pixar stalwart Brad Bird and focuses on a nuclear threat from those bloody Russians (yes, seriously, in 2011) and sees Cruise’s Ethan Hunt forced to fend for himself with only a mysterious analyst, a chesty brunette and a dithering Englishman for company.
Ok so the nuclear threat comes not from ze Russians as a whole but from the crazy sociological terrorist Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) who believes that nuclear holocaust is the only way to bring about world peace. Work that one out. When Hendricks manages to frame a freshly-busted-out-of-a-Russian-jail Hunt for the bombing of the Kremlin it sparks fears of another Cold War and the President makes the decision to shut down the IMF. Hunt is given one last unofficial mission, to stop Hendricks from achieving his goal of launching a nuclear missile, and sent on his jolly way.
Intellectually challenging it ain’t, but for a mega budget action movie, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol does exactly what it says on the tin. From the opening jail break to the tense final fight scenes in Mumbai the film is a non-stop, pulse pounding, globe-trotting stunt show. Like Ethan Hunt himself it never seems to stop for breath, moving from one set piece to another with only the slightest dusting of plot to keep the attention focused in between explosions.
Yet even with the lack of attention paid to forming a cohesive narrative Brad Bird is an intelligent enough storyteller to keep the action gripping and the threat of nuclear annihilation seemingly real enough that every roadblock in Hunt’s attempts to stop Hendricks is met with genuine exasperation. Bird has already displayed his talent for pulling off jaw dropping visual stunts in the animated realm and proves equally adept at doing so with real people (well, Tom Cruise). The highlight has to be the scaling of the world tallest building, an ambitious, vertigo inducing feat of visual engineering which ranks amongst the finest action set pieces of the century.
The only problem with the Mission Impossible films is that they form a film franchise which has never felt like a series. Attempts to link the plots from film to film seem arbitrary at best, with hardly any supporting characters returning for a second go. There is an attempt here to include the break-down of Hunt’s marriage to the woman he was with in the previous film, yet attempts to play this storyline as the film’s emotional core falter when we consider that she appeared in Mission Impossible III for approximately 14 seconds and contributed the square root of fuck all to the plot.
The Mission Impossible franchise, therefore, relies on Cruise’s star power and charisma to tie the four films together, yet Ethan Hunt has never been a character best suited to expressing Cruise’s qualities. He is just a tad uninteresting, full of athletic prowess and bags of intelligence but lacking in a bit of the old James Bond charm. It would have been beneficial throughout the franchise to have a group of supporting characters capable of adding a bit of colour to the film, and the good news is it seems that team may have finally been assembled.
As the chief analyst with a secret, Brandt, Jeremy Renner not only keeps up with Cruise in the ass-kicking department but adds a few one liners to the routine. Simon Pegg’s Benji supplies the occasionally over-the-top comic relief which nevertheless provides the majority of the film’s laughs. Paula Patton’s Jane…has nice boobs. If this team had been assembled earlier on in the series it could have led to a more sequential run of films, whether it is too late to rescue Mission Impossible as a franchise remains to be seen.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol could either prove to be the final hurrah for Ethan Hunt or the boot up the arse that the series needed. Either way it proves ultimately successful. The plot may be silly, but this is good old fashioned, leave your brain at the door and your jaw on the floor blockbuster entertainment. I highly recommend going the whole hog and seeing the film in IMAX, not only to further enjoy the adrenaline pumping stunt work (and Paula Patton’s boobs) but you may be lucky enough to live near one of the cinemas offering the six minute prequel to The Dark Knight Rises. Now there’s a film series.