Saturday, September 7, 2013

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

The MISSION IMPOSSIBLE franchise began to grow tiresome for me at some point during the second installment, despite it being directed by Asian mayhem maestro John Woo. Part three had J.J. Abrams at the helm, and he unleashed some of his worst instincts. Such as? Vertigo inducing hand held camera work and washed out cinematography. Nearly a total bust. Only Philip Seymour Hoffman made it worth watching.  Part IV, GHOST PROTOCOL has Brad Bird, who previously only directed animated films, in the driver's seat.

That's OK, because GHOST PROTOCOL might as well be a cartoon. It's one of the most gleefully silly and frantic spy thrillers in memory. Not a single thing seen is to be believed, including perhaps the sight of Tom Cruise, again playing agent Ethan Hunt, hanging off a 100 plus story building in Dubai.  Though, Cruise proudly did his own stunts.

It seems pointless to spend the time reviewing a movie like this. What is there left to say about the contemporary spy thriller? Well, every once in awhile there's a more cerebral offering like TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY. But for every one of those there are a dozen over the top, hyperactively edited products designed to appeal to things besides that part of your brain that craves a well written, thoughtful exercise.

And GHOST PROTOCOL is not awesome enough for me to end each sentence with an exclamation point. Likewise, it's not bad enough to litter your screen with a pile of smart-ass potshots. Mainly, I want to encourage those of you who bailed on this series to give this newest one a try. That is, if you're indeed not entirely weary of adrenalized spy exploits. If you have a hankering for escapism at its most frenzied, yet one that hasn't lost an innocent sense of fun like so many other spy films and TV programs these days.

Plot? I will not detail it too deeply, but I'll  mention that it involves nuclear arms and Mother Russia. Cold War over or not, what better fodder for a spy tale? A bomb levels the Kremlin. Hunt and his team are officially blamed for the attack by their own country but are secretly allowed to escape and find the identity of a figure called "Cobalt", who plans to initiate a nuclear war. One member of the group is an Intelligence analyst named Brandt (Jeremy Renner) who has a past with Hunt, though the latter is unaware of this.

Nothing seen in GHOST PROTOCOL is to be believed? Even the script incorporates that attitude, as in one sequence Ethan and an accomplice use a projection screen to fool security guards in  believing a hallway is free and clear. This moment is very similar to one in 1986's thriller, F/X. Bird uses his generous budget well, employing real stunts with the CGI trickery, which thankfully isn't too obnoxious or artificial. The climax involves a car chase, with a twist: it's vertical.

Adventures like this always up the ante, create mayhem that tops all that came before. If the BOURNE films (which were far more straight faced than any of the MIs) failed to satiate the moviegoer action lust, GHOST PROTOCOL probably will. Fans of the series will also enjoy some brief cameos from actors who appeared in the earlier films.

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