I like Tom Cruise. I know that that’s a highly controversial statement, but I can’t help it. The man is a really great actor. Now don’t get me wrong, in real life he’s absolutely batshit crazy, but on screen he is always a force to be reckoned with. Except, maybe, in the Mission: Impossible films. I enjoy the original 3 films in the series, but none of them really make an impact. They’re films that always seem to hover over being really entertaining, but never make that last step. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (which, by the way, has one of the worst titles in recent memory) makes that step. It is a phenomenal film.
The movie is executed flawlessly. Director Brad Bird, whose previous films are some of my favorite of all time, proves here that he is one of the best action directors working today. Every fight, every chase, everything is blocked and shot beautifully. Of course, Cruise himself shares some of the credit for this. After all, he really was hanging off of the tallest building in the world for the film’s Dubai sequence. He is a fearless actor, and it totally pays off in the final product.
The film’s story is, admittedly, a little cheesy. How many times are screenwriters going to go to the “nuclear war between USA and Russia” well before it runs dry? It’s just so lazy. Because of this, the film suffered something of a stakes problem. We’ve seen this device so many times that it is obvious what the outcome will be. What works far better is the personal stakes for the characters. When Cruise dangles off of that building, it is nail-biting. Even the other members of his team (played capably by Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, and Jeremy Renner) get moments like this. When Pegg injures his hand during the climax, it is a great reminder that our protagonists are not superheroes. Cut them and they bleed. The audience finds it completely believable that any one of them could be killed. The realism that that lends the movie does a staggering amount of good, and most action movies don’t even bother with it. The most recent Die Hard film, for example, literally turned John McClane into an invulnerable superman. The first Die Hard, which M:I – GP owes a tremendous debt to, acknowledges that McClane is a mortal man. McClane gets really messed up in that film, which is simply good storytelling.
This movie absolutely needs to be seen in IMAX. I simply can’t imagine seeing it in a different format. IMAX really does make all the difference here. The film is so beautiful that it takes your breath away, and the transition from scenes that were shot in IMAX to the regular footage is barely noticeable. I believe that IMAX really is the way of the future when it comes to movies, and I haven’t seen a better indicator of how great it is in a very long time. No matter how far away your nearest IMAX theater is, this is worth the drive.
From what I understand, this was meant to be Cruise’s exit from the series, a sort of torch-passing to Jeremy Renner, who would then become the main protagonist. If so, this film works perfectly to do so. But I do hope that Cruise sticks around. He really understands the genre that he’s working in, and it’s clear that he loves making these movies. It’s because of him, really, that they keep getting made, so let’s give the man some credit. I’ll allow his insane behavior if we keep getting movies as good as this one.