Who knew what to expect?
Director Brad Bird, a bit of a genius when it comes to animated features but a first-time helmer of live-action, could have easily been in way over his head.
Well, when was the last time Cruise had any decent publicity? Right or wrong, America seems to have grown tired of Cruise's antics and oddities and nothing seems to be changing America's mind.
Could Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
It just might.
While the film isn't likely to turn Cruise haters into hardcore fans, it's yet another reminder that before Cruise seemed to touch a nerve with the American moviegoing public a few years back he was actually one of Hollywood's most entertaining and dependable actors. While the whole Valkyrie
thing didn't necessarily help matters much, Cruise has turned in solid performances recently in the underrated Knight and Day
and in tackling comedy in Tropic Thunder.
It's difficult to say if MI-4
will fire Cruise off into the stratosphere again, especially given that it's opening against the latest Sherlock Holmes
film, but between this film and his upcoming Rock of Ages,
Cruise looks to be just about back on track artistically if not exactly in terms of box-office power.
This film opens with Hunt locked up in a Russian prison and a team of IMF agents royally screwing up a mission in Budapest. The team is headed up by relative newcomer Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and tech nerd Benjy (Simon Pegg), and they follow up their Budapest botch with an assignment to get Hunt out of prison along with a couple of other relatively straightforward missions that become complicated when they encounter a Scandinavian madman named Hendricks, aka Cobalt (Michael Nyqvist), who has managed to acquire control of a satellite and Russian nuclear codes.
After a brief meeting with "The Secretary" (Tom Wilkinson), our disavowed operatives are unofficially tasked with stopping Cobalt but doing so without any support from the U.S. government.
There are breathtaking sequences in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol,
perhaps none quite as breathtaking as Cruise's Hunt climbing up the side of Dubai's Burj Khalifa, currently the world's tallest building, utilizing an ultra-cool, handy dandy tech tool called gecko gloves that don't always work as planned. Cruise, rumored as always to do the vast majority of his own stunts, creates a visually amazing scene here along with D.P. Robert Elswit, whose camera work throughout the film is action-packed and breathtaking.
It's official. Brad Bird can direct live-action, though I will add a mild disclaimer that occasionally the film really lacks the touches of humanity that would really cause it to hit a full-on home run. MI-4
may not be flawless, but it's easily one of 2011's best action thrillers and may very well contain one of a handful of the best action sequences in action films in recent years including an almost spot-on perfect face off between Hunt and Cobalt in a Mumbai parking garage that is as much fun as it is exciting.
Cruise is terrific here, seemingly invigorated by a terrific script and Bird's ability to weave together both character and action in a near perfect balance. This may not be the best MI
film, but it's definitely this critic's favorite of the four-film series.
Bird uses Simon Pegg perfectly, allowing him to display his humorous side to tremendous effect without ever turning him into a caricature or laughing stock in the film. Paula Patton is also majorly impressive here, while Jeremy Renner, who continues to impress as a really ensemble oriented actor, does a nice job here as a CIA Analyst with a troubled history. Anil Kapoor and Michael Nyqvist are also top notch.
It's difficult to imagine that this is only Brad Bird's fourth film after The Incredibles, The Iron Giant and Ratatouille,
but here's hoping the studios (or indies) continue to find terrific projects for him. Bird, unlike quite a few directors, seems to "get" the importance of pacing, character, story AND really impressive action sequences. It'll be a huge disappointment if this film doesn't top the box-office its opening weekend.
There's a lightness to the proceedings at times that may be a slight turn-off for hardcore action fans, but for most of America MI-4
will prove to be the perfect escape from the holiday season and the seemingly endless slew of awards bait motion pictures currently flooding the movie theaters.
Cruise is back. This time, he actually has a ghost of a chance.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic