Directed by:Brad Bird<ref name
Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol
This 4th installment in the big-screen version of a long-running television series of the same name defines the word “franchise”; with the possible exception of the James Bond films, it’s arguable that more movie goers around the world have witnessed the exploits of Ethan Hawke and his battle-hardened compatriots who conjure up elaborate scams to protect the interests of “the free world”. You don’t need to know anything about the interchangeable plots of these movies – only that global catastrophe will be avoided (barely) in the final reel.
In what ranks of a stroke of singular genius on the part of this film’s producers, director Brian Bird was given the reins of Impossible 4 straight from his successes in Ratatouille and The Incredibles - - and what could be more shrewd than taking a gifted director of animation and putting him in charge of a live-action cartoon?
Bird’s ability to inject a bit of sharp-eyed irony into his earlier films provides a few moments of delightful tongue-in-cheek here; the elaborate paraphernalia crucial to this series break down with self-mocking regularity as Tom Cruise and a trio of stock side-kicks (the clownish second banana, the bimbo with a knock-out bod & the talented junior partner) battle with improbably-named villains in exotic locales, (this time out it’s Budapest, Moscow, Dubai & Calcutta). Bird even manages to take a poke at his star’s less-than-imposing height; running along beside a moving freight train, Cruise has to keep jumping up to enter the secret code that unlocks a boxcar door containing the teams’ high-tech weaponry.
Is there a more self-satisfied male star in Hollywood today? Over a career that includes 37 films in the last 3 decades, Cruise has morphed from cocky youth (Top Gun) to smug baby boomer (The Last Samurai) while his sense of self-satisfaction threatens to ooze from the screen. Buffed to resemble an Ivy League version of Sylvester Stallone, Cruise displays his skivvy-clad body as impressively here as he did in Risky Business over a quarter of a century ago. One wonders how much time, physical exercise and cosmetic augmentation it takes to sustain the actor’s boyish appearance, much less its charm…
The screenwriters don’t have a hard task here-as is true of its predecessors, it’s the special effects staff which deserves all the credit, along with the director’s brisk sense of pacing and his refreshingly displayed refusal to take the proceedings seriously. The results have been surprisingly profitable at the box-office, which means MI5 can’t be too far behind.
The Verdict? Big, bad and gorgeous to look at - - but saved at the bell by director Brad Bird’s realization that the line between pop movies and comic books is very slim indeed.
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