First a few changes to my blog: Spoilers will now be placed 'after the jump'. Everything on the front page of the website, and the front page will be much more compact. Hopefully people are interested enough to click a single button to get to the meatier bits of whatever I'm talking about. Also, I'll write a summary of the film and my opinion at the head of each post, before the picture. I need to work on creating a hook for the post, and encourage people to start reading rather than blabbing on about never getting time to watch movies. Speaking of watching movies, I actually got up off my lazy arse and made it out to the cinema this week! Here's a review of something that's actually screening right now...
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. MI4, some may call it. If they keep at it a few more films, this series will be verging on Bond territory. In short: I loved it. In long: think The Incredibles in live action, with real(ish) people. Or Bourne, with high-tech gadgetry. Or Bond, with failing gadgetry. I'm not in a position to comment on how this film stands with the Mission series as a whole, but from what I've read, this is undoubtably the best of them. The pace is frantic, as the narrative thrusts us from one action set piece to the next, via some short expository interludes. The breathless pacing is matched in every scene by visceral and frenetic action, and more broadly by the urgency of the world-ending threat. This is something close to a perfect action movie.
Characters have arcs, and a little time is given to each of them, but that's not the point. There's just enough backstory to understand where each member of the team is coming from, and to establish them as a tight group - with a dynamic that ranges from hilarious to occasionally tense, but consistently watchable and entertaining. Given the lack of character moments, the actors contribute hugely to creating this tight sense of belonging in our small group of hapless heroes.
What did I not like? Well, spoilers...
There's one scene at about the end, when Tom Cruise gives a victory speech to his team, and it gets a little cheesy. I'm not sure if its the speech I don't like here, or just the fact that Tom Cruise is saying it. When the pace finally slows long enough for him to talk, his on screen persona suddenly becomes indistinguishable from his real-life one. I don't like him in real life, so being reminded of that in the film might be all that's bothering me. That said, even though I don't like him, I gotta respect his commitment to this franchise and this film. His insistence on continuing as the leading man plus doing all his own stunt work, at his age is admirable (though perhaps a little cocky). Add to that all the behind the scenes production work, and this truly is Cruises film. Credit to Brad Bird for some amazing direction, and a perfect sense of what makes for great action, but none of it would have come together at all if not for Tom Cruise.
Apart from the character stuff, particularly the underdeveloped villain, I've also heard a lot of people say that the final fight sequence in the mechanised parking lot was underwhelming in comparison to many of the more thrilling sequences in the middle (ie. All of Dubai). This is true, but I wouldn't write it off as a bad climax. Maybe I was a little distracted by just looking at the parking garage and being amazed that those things exist somewhere, but I did think that the final fight had a real visceral sense of desperation. The stakes were as high as they could be, and both men were going all out to achieve their ends (although it seems that Ethan should be able to dispatch Hendricks with ease). As they clashed they slowly wore each other down, and became more wounded yet more desperate. The final turn when Hendricks throws himself over the edge is surprising, and a little crushing, adding that extra notch of tension to the last despairing moments... Until the happy ending finally comes, big shock.
I haven't even mentioned the Burj Khalifa sequence!
It's awesome. There we go, time to wrap this up. If you haven't seen this movie yet, then DO! This is the kind of spectacular thrill-fest that makes blockbuster movies amazing.