Saturday, November 10, 2012

DVD Review: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

I loved Brad Bird's work on The Incredibles (2004). But I hated what he did to Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. Yes, I actually purchased the DVD because I heard this film was so good and planned to write what I thought would be a glowing DVD review. Boy, was I surprised.

The beginning of the film was confusing, but that's not a problem because it's OK to start out with a mystery and have it reveal itself as the story progresses. I was surprised to see Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) in the field at the very beginning of the action. I had envisioned this "inside man" being forced outside with Hunt's (Tom Cruise) IMF team after some dire emergency resulted in all of the IMFs being disavowed. That particular surprise was not a pleasant one.

No, I like Simon Pegg's work a lot but let's face it, he's a comedian. He's supposed to be funny. He was used for comic relief, but he was too comic. His quips, babbling, and fubars would have gotten Hunt and the rest of the rogue IMF group killed if all this was a real-life op. In fact, when Dunn was distracted while guarding assassin Sabine Moreau (Léa Seydoux), he very nearly did get himself, Carter (Paula Patton) and Brandt (Jeremy Renner) killed. I would have been fine with Dunn having an active role throughout the film if Bird would have directed him to be just a little more competent (Dunn did redeem himself by saving Brandt's life late in the film, however).

But that wasn't the only problem.

At first, I couldn't put my finger on it. I knew there was something wrong with the film, but I didn't know what. It had all of the right elements, but I just wasn't as engaged with the action as I should have been. My first clue was the pay phone Hunt used after he was rescued from prison. He's in the middle of Moscow and there just happens to be a pay phone that, when you punch in the right code, turns into an IMF mission assigning device. Don't Russians ever service pay phones? If that was a permanent device, sooner or later, some telephone repair guy was going to come along and find out that the U.S. had at least one secret dispensing machine in Moscow. Of course, it did "self destruct," but only after Hunt had to bang on it like an old radio with a bad connection.

What finally clued me in was the fake freight train car. OK, you've just escaped from Russian security after they think you've blown up the Kremlin. The "Secretary" (Tom Wilkinson in an uncredited role, who I recognized as "Carmine Falcone" from Batman Begins, 2005) has just been murdered and you're on the run with a know-nothing (or so you think) analyst, trying to find some resources that the Secretary said (right before dying) that he would "overlook" so you could "re-avow" yourself after the President has disavowed all IMF teams everywhere.

So the U.S. Government just happens to put a secret, high-tech train car in the middle of a Russian train yard, hooked up to a Russian freight train, and it just happens to be in the right place at the right time. Doesn't anyone inspect trains in Russia? Isn't there some kind of inventory of how many cars a train is supposed to be transporting, what they look like, what they are supposed to contain? This one just happens to get overlooked all of the time?

That was bad enough, but the retina scanner was an insane security addition, as evidenced by how difficult it was to use in order to get in the car while the train was moving.
That's when I figured it out. I was watching a cartoon!

It's OK for The Incredibles to have ridiculous people, devices, and circumstances and still be suspenseful and exciting because it is a cartoon, but Mission: Impossible, although it does have its improbable elements, is supposed to be a tad more realistic and even gritty.

I kept thinking back to the original Mission: Impossible (1996) film. It was gritty, and bloody, and action packed without being ridiculous. It had its little "comedy" moments to lighten the mood, but they didn't distract from what was going on and I never got the impression (well, almost never) that any key member of the IMF team didn't know what he or she was doing.

Oh, and I didn't care that Agent Hanaway (Josh Holloway) got killed. I know it really broke up Agent Carter, but there was no time for any character development of Hanaway, so the audience (including me) had no time to become attached to him in any way, shape, or form. There was also so little development of Moreau, that I didn't really find her all that interesting, let alone dangerous. She didn't creep me out the way she should have. And even though there was a little bit of development of the "bad guy," Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nygvist), I didn't really hate him. I mean in Mission: Impossible III (2006), I really hated Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and would have put a bullet in him myself if I had the chance (the character, not the actor). But I just didn't care what happened to Hendricks. It didn't matter to me whether he lived or died.

I have to say, I liked the character of William Brandt early on in the film. It was nice to see Jeremy Renner play someone not superbly confident, super-skilled, and totally bad ass. However, all that (most of it) was a cover for an agent who thought he'd blown his mission to protect Hunt's wife. He was just pretending not to be super-skilled and bad ass (he was still not confident, but that will no doubt change). I also read that Brandt's role was specifically included so that the character would be available at whatever point Cruise decides to leave the Mission: Impossible franchise. As crummy as I thought Ghost Protocol was, Hunt is the IMF in the franchise. Not sure how Brandt (or Renner) is going to carry it or if I even care (now that Renner is associated not only with the MI franchise, but "Bourne" and "The Avengers" as well, he seems to be the "flavor of the month," so I guess he's not crying about all the attention).

Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames). I love the character and the actor, but what's the deal with the cameo? I mean, what's the point? You could have filmed the entire scene without him and it would have worked. There was no reason whatsoever to include him except that you could.

And Hunt's wife is alive, the ultimate "Mission: Impossible" ending, the ultimate illusion, the ultimate result of misdirection, but I didn't care about that, either. By the end of the film, I was tired and disappointed. Please don't make anymore Mission: Impossible films, Hollywood. I'm done with making movies out of old TV shows. Try something new for a change. Please?

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