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.