Saturday, 17 December 2011


Though it doesn't hold a candle to DePalma or Woo
Bird's MI is a virtual John Holmes sized schwance
compared to the pathetic J. J. Abrams little flurpy

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011) dir. Brad Bird **
Starring: Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton

By Greg Klymkiw

If you bother to see the clumsily titled Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, there are three great reasons to see it. First and foremost, the 30-or-so minutes that are shot in the huge-screen format (invented by Canadians with Canadian government support then sold to Americans who now profit from it the most) include the most spectacular footage shot in IMAX to date. Therefore, if you bother to see it at all, you must see it in IMAX as it's a generally mediocre movie that is turned into an almost-good movie because of IMAX.

Secondly, the other great reason to see the movie is Tom Cruise. He gets a raw deal more than he deserves from critics and some contemporary audiences, but frankly, I think he's not only a terrific actor, but he's one of our truly great stars - and then some. What adds to his performance here is that he does all his own stunts, some of which, are utterly death-defying.

Thirdly, the movie is directed by the immensely talented Brad Bird. If I were to bother making a list of my 10 Best animated features of all time, his spectacular The Incredibles would be on that list. Furthermore, my Top 20 list would include The Iron Giant and a Top 30 list would include Ratatouille - both directed by the estimable filmmaker.

You might be wondering, then, with all of the aforementioned plus points why I think the movie is, overall, a failure. Well, compared to the woefully inept J.J. Abrams's Mission Impossible 3, it comes close to being Citizen Kane. Compared, however, to Brian DePalma's taut, astoundingly directed first instalment of the franchise based upon the hit television series from the Cold War period of the 60s, Bird's film slides into a third-best position - by a country mile or two. The reasons? Simple.

When Bird is allowed to flex his muscles in the way he needs to, the movie soars - sequences involving suspense of the derring-do variety are handled brilliantly with an excellent variety of shots and cuts that all have dramatic resonance rather than pure visceral jackhammer power. These include most of the IMAX sequences and most notably, the already-famous sequence involving Tom Cruise - in the flesh, no stuntmen other than himself, climbing the largest structure in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. This sequence is breathtaking - literally. My first viewing of it had me clutching the arms of the chair, wincing, gasping and coming close to woofing my cookies. There's also a stunning chase scene through a sandstorm wherein Bird has us on the edge of our collective seats - careening to and fro with every crazed beat.

Sadly, the action sequences involving hand-to-hand combat and gunplay, are shockingly mediocre. They're most done in the annoying herky-jerky-way-too-many-closeups-and-annoying-cuts style. There's no dramatic resonance to these sequences and worse, unlike the aforementioned setpieces, Bird's sense of spatial geography is almost as woeful as J.J. Abrams hack work in M:I-3. Given that Abrams is one of the producers, I suspect Bird became occasionally afflicted with the dreaded Abramsitis. These scenes are insanely disappointing, especially considering that one of them involves a cat fight between two babes. John Woo (M:I-2)can certainly be cutty when he directs action, but every shot is gorgeously composed with an almost painterly John Ford eye and every cut calculated to move us narratively and emotionally forward.

The plot, such as any of them are in this series, is perfunctorily serviceable. Tom Cruise and his team are wrongfully implicated in a bombing at the Kremlin. The entire division is shamed and disbanded, though Cruise launches into a major covert operation to clear the name of his team and their agency. This involves all manner of Russian secret service agents, hit men, hit women, arms dealers and others - racing against time to (a) stop Cruise and/or (b) engage the world in a nuclear war. The ride, is the key element in a picture like this, but due to the erratic coverage of the action sequences, the movie proceeds in fits and starts.

Cruise delivers another stalwart leading man performance and his stunt work is epic. That said, at the beginning of the movie, he poses a couple of times as a Russian and his Russian is DREADFUL. So much so that it's a huge stretch to believe that he convinces any number of Russians that he IS Russian. Light comic leading man Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead) is a definite breath of fresh air - bumbling, funny, but always loyal, he's a great addition to the franchise. His Russian is surprisingly good, by the way. The thorn in the side of this instalment is one of the two leading ladies. Léa Seydoux as the vile, villainous Russian hit lady is terrific - gorgeous in that cool-as-ice come-hither way one wants a bad girl to be. Alas, Paula Patton as the leading lady on the MI team is woefully un-photogenic and the scene where she attempts to be sultry and seductive to get some secret codes is laughable. Her line deliveries are also endless thudding to the floor.

In any event, one doesn't see any movie in this franchise for anything other than great action sequences, and thankfully, in IMAX, several of them are so astounding that you'd probably be a bit foolish for not partaking in them. That said, don't bother seeing it in any other format than IMAX. As for Brad Bird, I do hope he loses the J.J. Abrams tin-eye disease for his next movie. He's the real thing.