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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

With a long weekend coming up, this week's film come out a day early. Not that there is a wide variety to see, of course. There's the new Alvin and the Chipmunks movie for the kids and Free Men, which I know nothing about, for the art crowd. Best of all, though, we have this surprisingly awesome entry in the Mission Impossible series...

Also at Channel24

 What it's about:

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his new team find themselves working on their own to clear their name and bring down a nuclear terrorist, after being framed for bombing the Kremlin.

What we thought:

With the James Blond franchise having refashioned itself as a more "realistic", down to earth take on the spy film, it's up to the Mission: Impossible series to keep the sillier side of the genre alive. And, boy, does it.

While the previous Mission: Impossible films have had very little to do with one another, Ghost Protocol keeps the tone very much in keeping with what JJ Abrams (back this time as a producer) established in the third film, while picking up a plot strand or two along the way. The film may, on occasion, gesture towards seriousness but, when you get right down to it, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol aims to be nothing more – and certainly nothing less – than a slice of unapologetically ridiculous entertainment. There were plenty of better film released this year but very, very few of them were ever this much fun.

Director Brad Bird is best known for helming some of the greatest animated films of all time (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant) but, so assured is his direction here, it's hard to believe that he has never directed a live-action feature before. Two hours is a rather long running time for a bit of throwaway entertainment (and I mean that in the most complimentary way) but Bird keeps things moving; making good on the simple but always effective hero-vs-the-world plot.

Between Bird's steadfast direction and a witty, enjoyable script by TV writers Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol never lets up for a moment. Not a minute goes by without there being something on screen to capture the audience's attention. High-flying action, well timed quips, brilliant sight gags, character clashes, snazzy cars, crazy gadgets, suave men, beautiful women, narrow escapes, ridiculous disguises and, of course, more globe-trotting than a day on the Travel channel – Mission: Impossible 4 has them all (as all halfway decent spy flicks should) and it usually has at least two of them on screen at any given moment.  

Yes, you could always nitpick your way through the intricacies of the plot, laugh at the utterly bonkers action set pieces or raise an eyebrow at the film's tendency to smooth out any rough edges that might arise, but – almost without exception – to do so would be churlish to the point of pigheadedness. This is daft fluff at its most gleeful and, for that matter, at its most competent and treating it as anything but, is to do the film a great disservice.

The cast certainly realise this, if their performances are anything to go by. Tom Cruise reels in both his more smarmy qualities and, to be fair, some of his more interesting eccentricities but he plays Ethan Hunt as an immensely charming and dependable action hero and, though he's certainly not as young as he used to be (who is?), he is certainly more than capable of kicking a metric ton of ass. Or, at least, he's able to convince as someone who can.

He is ably supported by Jeremey Renner, a potential replacement in the waiting and – who could forget - Simon Pegg, stealing the show in a far larger, comedic sidekick role than his glorified cameo in the previous film. Pegg's slightly over-the-top comedy acting may conceivably rub some people the wrong way but, as far as I'm concerned, he only adds to the jovial madness of the rest of the film.

Paula Patton, on the other hand, is more or less the film's straight-woman and she comes across as somewhat bland in the process. As for Michael Nyqvist (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), he's an impressively intense bad guy but he doesn't quite have the personality of some of the franchise's best villains.    

Such small quibbles aside then, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is a brilliant piece of escapist nonsense that should go over quite nicely this holiday season and may well, in fact, be the best Mission: Impossible to date.

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