Mission Impossible : Ghost Protocol

Yesterday, I did something I almost never do:  I saw a first run movie.  In this case, the kids and I joined family friends to see Mission Impossible : Ghost Protocol.  I was not sanguine, because I’m not a Tom Cruise fan and because it’s the rare movie lately that doesn’t either bore or offend me.  Either I have a very low threshold for boredom or taking offense, or Hollywood is not doing a good job catering to my demographic — older but, God forbid, not old; female; a parent; middle class values; conservative politics.

I was surprised to discover that I enjoyed the movie.  Tom Cruise was Cruise-y and there’s just no getting past that, but this was a good vehicle for his chipmunk charms.  Considering that he was getting beaten about like a Rock ’em Sock ’em Robot, his chipper good cheer in the face of continual assaults made him seem androidish, but it was still okay in a pleasantly farcical way.

The movie’s plot was ridiculous.  More than ridiculous.  Completely ridiculous.  Fortunately, I didn’t expect anything else.  The indestructible Tom Cruise and his sidekicks (pretty girl, clown-like tech guru, and angst-ridden other sidekick who drifted into the movie) saved the world in approximately two hours.  They battled their way through Russian prisons, dangerous tall buildings, dust, and parking garages.  It was all very exciting.

Credit for the movie’s entertainment value goes to director Brad Bird, who did several Pixar movies, most notably (in my mind) the delightful Incredibles.  Rather brilliantly, Bird took the same manic, kinetic humor that infuses his computer animated movie, and moved it, intact, into a live action film.

What really made the movie was the choreography.  Dancing?  No, there wasn’t any dancing.  When I say choreography, I mean the fight scenes.  They were as ridiculous as the rest of the movie, of course, since nobody, not even a crazy man hopped up on angel dust, could take the punishment the good guys and bad guys dished out to each other (and that’s not even considering violence by dust), but they were still really beautiful.  They flowed wonderfully, and one had the feeling of character movement, not just camera movement.

On the subject of camera movement, versus actor movement, one of the many reasons I dislike the Bourne movies, aside from the fact that Matt Damon is about dramatically inspiring as a chair, is the fact that Damon cannot move.  He’s a lumbering, lump-like thing.  Since he’s supposed to be a dynamic action hero, the only way to compensate for his static physical presence is to have the camera hop about maniacally.  It’s irritating and cheap.

In Mission Impossible, though, Tom Cruise, to give him credit, is a genuinely physical being, perhaps the most athletic major star since Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.  I know that there are stuntmen involved, but Cruise clearly does a lot of the stunts himself, and he radiates a physicality that lends itself very well to creative, dynamic, playful fight-scene choreography.

If you’re looking for a fun way to spend a couple of hours this New Year’s weekend, there are worse things to do than seeing Mission Impossible.  I would bring earplugs, though.  Not for the movie itself, which was too loud only a couple of times, but for the previews, which consisted almost entirely of things exploding at top volume.  I don’t know if next year’s crop of movies will be good, but I can assure you that they’ll be loud and combustible.

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  • http://phillips.blog.com phillips1938

    You have real talent as a reviewer.  Do more, please.

  • jj

    He is very physical, and often doesn’t get the credit for it.  Most top-level people don’t do their own stunts, but it’s not because – in a few cases, anyway –  they can’t.  It’s because if the star gets hurt the whole production company gets to stand around being paid for doing nothing while the indispensable person, the one in every shot, heals.  Consequently the insurers don’t let them get anywhere near potentially dangerous stuff.  If they get injured it’s just too damned expensive.
    Cruise is also, as I think I may have said here, a very nice person.  He is one of the few who absolutely cannot bring himself to just walk past the people behind the rope line: he always goes over, says hello, signs whatever you have, and will pose for your camera with you, Grandma, daughter, brother, brother’s wife, your dog – whoever you have along.  He’s generally late to public functions, but it’s invariably because he was outside, saying hi to the fans before coming in.  He will always take, or make, time for people.  The scientology thing is a little nuts, and maybe he’s a little nuts himself – but he’s a very, very, nice nut.  Generous with himself.

    • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

      That’s nice to hear, jj. Although I find Cruise’s screen presence a bit irritating, what I’ve always admired about him is the lack of scandal in his life. Yes, he’s on his third wife, but other than that, he keeps his nose clean — literally, ’cause you never see any cocaine dust around Tom Cruise. No alcohol either. No prostitutes, no obscenities. Nothing. He’s not an embarrassment to himself or others and, in today’s Hollywood, that’s really saying something.

  • http://khemenu.blogspot.com Ari Tai

    Nice review, thank you!   (I see most all of my movies on planes, usually without sound and in snippets, this is enough to cause me to listen when it comes on).

    You might like “Knight and Day” for a bit more of the same from him.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    I don’t particularly like Cruise’s personality in the early movies, but he obviously has an open mind for other cultures, like the Japanese, irregardless of how the movies actually came out. Unlike most of Hollywood, his inner self has yet to be corrupted by the Holly stuff. Perhaps Scientology has opened his Third Eye of Enlightenment, something religions from Christianity to Buddhism to Taoism have attempted to achieve.

    Some of his recent movies have a very strange personality for him. I kind of like it. He plays one guy who goes around blowing stuff up, but tries to pretend nothing serious is happening and is joking and being calm all the time. That’s actually pretty close to some real life personalities, but exaggerated a bit. The woman, predictably, acts like a child or someone who is neurotically nervous slash insecure. A woman in Hollywood is basically an apprentice in the whore transformation process, not to mention the music and media business.


  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    One of the stranger things with Cruise is that I initially assumed his real life personality was even more annoying and decadent than his screen actor portrayal. Hollywood is 99% of the time, that way. So I was surprised when he turned out to be one of the few Holly actors that actually had something called common sense. That is not an easy impression to make on me, given my judgment of the Left.


  • MacG

    I attended a screening of MI4 where the Sound Designer was present to answer questions about the movie afterward.  He said that the only stunt that Tom Cruise did NOT do was a scene where he was on top of a car and in the filming of those scenes the stuntman got hurt.  Good call on Tom’s (or the insurance company’s) part.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    The reason why Asian stars like Jackie Chan or Jet Li do their own stunts is because status in the Asian world is based upon personal ability. Even when doing movies, you need to have a base of some kind of real ability. In Hollywood, you don’t need to do anything, you can simply create the illusion that you are great, and you don’t even need a base personality to back that up. This is how you can distinguish the difference between the Left and the rest of the world that isn’t part of the Left, yet. One takes illusion to the furthest human frontier, and the other one uses illusion differently.


  • http://themellowjihadi.com/ Mellow Jihadi

    Wow, I did not see that coming. I cringed when I saw what movie you were writing about, remembering the missiles you have launched at Cruise in the past.

    I will notify the Cruise household: they are back in your good graces. I am sure little Suri will be pleased. . .