Sunday, January 08, 2012

Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol

Courtesy - The Sunday Leader By Kamal Kalidasa

Everybody hates Tom Cruise. Okay, maybe hate is a strong word; but most people are tired of the guy and his off-screen ‘jump on the sofa like a dog in heat’ antics. But you can’t deny that, when it comes to playing the lead in a special-effects-ridden popcorn fest, no one does it quite like Mr. Cruise does. While Ethan Hunt will never win him an Oscar or replace James Bond in the public’s imagination as Ridiculously versatile superspy, the character and his adorably improbable universe will continue to entertain – and magically save Tom’s career at the same time.
Cruise has taken moviegoers the world over on an incredibly dumb yet strangely fun and satisfying ride, since as far back as 1996 when he starred in Mission: Impossible - a big screen adaptation of the popular ‘60s TV show of the same name – and his latest outing as elite agent of the clandestine IMF (the dubiously titled Impossible Missions Force, not to be confused with the equally dubious International Monetary Fund) does not disappoint.
Nobody asked for a third sequel to Mission: Impossible; but Hollywood being what it is, and Tom Cruise being who he is, we got one nevertheless, (Cruise served as Executive Producer), and – lo and behold – it was surprisingly good. Well, as good as a fourth MI movie was going to get, anyway.
The reason for this, in the humble opinion of this reviewer, was twofold: Director Brad Bird, and his ‘more team, less Tom’ approach. Allow me to explain.
Brad Bird is an exceptionally talented director who has more than proved his mettle with his debut the solemn-yet-hilarious Incredibles, followed by the ultra-gorgeous Ratatouille - both universally acclaimed animated movies made in that film-making wonderland Pixar. The collective groan let out by movie fans worldwide with the announcement of yet another MI hit-and-run, soon turned into a sigh of [cautious] relief when it was revealed that it was going to be Brad Bird’s live-action debut. Many were eager to see how such an accomplished creator of animated magic would turn out in the hazardous world of real-life (and egotistic) actors. It didn’t matter that it was going to be through a tired franchise with zero hope of a decent comeback. And, to the surprise of everyone, the man delivered.
Sitting through Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, it was painfully obvious that Bird had given up any hope of turning it into a tour de force of depth and art; so, “to hell with it, boys – let’s have some fun with this!” And what fun it was! While this movie took the concept of ‘suspension of disbelief’ to a whole new level and demanded that you left your brain at the door, it also managed to accomplish the impossible mission of getting the audience to care about the characters for once (for the first time in the series, actually). And the cast, too, (including Cruise himself) were clearly not afraid to let loose and not take their characters too seriously (a mistake they had made in M:I – 2, at great cost). The tech was ahead of its time as usual, but better grounded in reality and not without fault. Some of the gadgets failed the protagonists, more than once — a minor but important detail. And then there was the action. Bird has an eye for sweeping, mind blowing action sequences. The scene with Hunt scaling the glass wall of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai – the world’s tallest building, an 830-metre monster) – was particularly awe-inspiring. (Incidentally, Cruise performed the stunt himself, without a body-double – 1777 feet above the ground, with the aid of a few cables. Respect!)
But there was one thing that made Ghost Protocol stand out from the rest of the series: the supporting cast – Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner, to be specific. The genius comic relief that Pegg brings to any movie with his name on it is well known (Hot Fuzz, Sean of the Dead, Tintin), and he continues to impress as inexperienced field agent Benji, who is really just a huge geek inside ( a big promotion from his role in M:I – 3). Renner, who was fantastic in the Oscar-winning Hurt Locker, is playing a key role (which I will not spoil) that was originally intended to be Ethan Hunt’s replacement for the remainder of the series. (This might change, however, as Cruise has expressed his interest in reprising the role for at least one more sequel). Renner and Pegg had excellent chemistry on-screen and they had several scenes that were a delight to watch.
The biggest weakness of the movie, in my opinion – which was really not a weakness considering this is Mission: Impossible - was the lack of a decent story and a believable villain. But despite that, the movie still works and is quite enjoyable. I will not get into the plot details too much, because, quite frankly, there isn’t much of a plot to talk about, and I don’t wish to spoil what little there is. But just to summarise, Hunt has been framed for the bombing of the Kremlin (yep. It’s Russia. Again. It’s been a million years since the Cold War, Hollywood), by a mad scientist who wants to destroy the world by instigating nuclear war, wipe out the weak and give evolution another chance – and Hunt and co. has to stop it at whatever cost. Basically, another MI movie, with a slightly different premise. What’s changed, however, is that this time it’s more a team effort than 90 minutes of Cruise’s hair blowing in the wind – which is always a good thing – (the ‘more team, less Tom’ approach I was talking about, earlier). And, to nobody’s surprise, it works wonders! So, should you choose to accept it, give this mission a shot. Also, keep an eye out for a disgustingly over-the-top Anil Kapoor. Happy viewing!