Tom Cruise is back as IMF agent Ethan Hunt, and thank goodness he's left all his couch-jumping, Scientological, Katie-Holmesian tabloid lunacy back in his dressing room and given us a fabulous action ride of a film that's the perfect antidote to all the usual holiday sap. Let's go open a can of whoop@$$ on some bad guys!
This time Ethan Hunt and his team have been disavowed after being blamed for an explosion in the Kremlin, and they are on their own as they attempt to clear their names and find the mad Russian scientist (Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist, fresh from the original Swedish "Girl with a Dragon Tattoo" films) determined to start a nuclear war. The first thing to say? I can't help but note the fact that the premise is a Cold War rehash that doesn't quite make sense in the present age. I don't care if a character in the movie says, with a beat-you-over-the-head attempt to ramp up the tension, that "relations between the US and Russia haven't been this tense since the Cuban Missile Crisis!!!!!!!" While it's true that Putin-Land is not a nice place, we're not in the era of the Cold War. The entire business about fearing a nuclear attack by a crazy utopian-minded Russian scientist bent on destruction rings rather false to me in the face of the real-world danger of nuclear weapons in the possession of actual crazy utopian-minded loons bent on destruction. (Oh, and hint: these people aren't Russians.)
That aside, though, the movie is top-of-the-line slick fast-paced action entertainment, and it's good fun to see Cruise back in action hero mode. This time he's accompanied by the ever-wonderful Simon Pegg as the prerequisite computer geek Benji Dunn, a rather boring Paula Patton as fellow agent Jane Carter, and the rising action star Jeremy Renner as analyst William Brandt who is swept along in Hunt's wake. Cruise is great, of course, and as charismatic as ever, but I found Renner to be the more interesting figure. He's definitely one to watch as he springboards from his performance in "The Hurt Locker" to his excellent turn in "The Town" to his upcoming appearances as "Hawkeye" in "The Avengers" and the new Jason Bourne. Perhaps not conventionally beautiful, he is riveting as a figure of compact intensity. And he looks fantastic in a suit.
The visuals in the flick range from good to fabulous, filming on location pays off (again), and there are a few especially vertiginous scenes in Dubai that are absolutely breathtaking (and panic-inducing if you have a fear of heights) -- so see this on IMAX if you can, as I did with the Cine-Sib, La Parisienne, and Count Chocula.
Mad Minerva gives this film an A-. I counted off for the Jane character that never made me care about her, an overly long climactic fight scene that descended into cartoon violence, and a cast that was so big it became unwieldy (and distracting as we sat there thinking, "Wait, I know that guy ... How do I know that guy? What else has he been in ...? Oh, wait, what just actually happened in this movie?" Hint: think "Lost" and "Slumdog Millionaire."). Bonus, though, for an excellent opening sequence, the hilarious use of the classic Dean Martin song "Ain't That A Kick In The Head?", a cameo by a certain disreputable figure from past "Mission Impossible" flicks, and, of course, huge props for Renner.
"Rotten Tomatoes" gives "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" a very Fresh rating of 93%.
The official website is here.
"Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" runs for 133 minutes and is rated PG-13 for violence and action sequences.