With the never-ending amounts of sequels being released today, I've had to fill in many gaps in my watchlist to ensure that I'm up with the play. The latest series demanding my attention was Mission: Impossible. Starting in 1996 with a Brian DePalma film, which rebooted a popular TV series, and spawning three sequels, the latest of which - Ghost Protocol - has just been released on DVD, the series follows Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), a super IMF agent who always accepts fairly difficult missions. It was strange watching a series that is just one year younger than myself, and like my life, it has gone from stage to stage with varying results. Let's pick each film apart...
When I slipped Mission: Impossible into the player, I really wasn't sure what to expect. All I knew of the franchise was that this Ethan Hunt fellow was quite smart and he did things that required a lot of intelligence. But in all that intelligence, I guess I wasn't really prepared to put so much brain power into it. I know that comes off a little like I'm one of those dumb teens who love Transformers: Dark of the Moon, but Mission: Impossible threw me for a loop. There were many times when I tried to find my bearings, and when I was close to going in the right direction, something would happen and I'd be thrown back in the forest again. A few times, that was exciting. Most of the time, it was a big convoluted mess. To add to that, it wasn't as fun as I had thought it would be. Therefore, in a film probably filled with many hilltops, I gleefully skimmed over the top of them, not bothering to get into the nitty gritty. The film didn't particularly grab me, and I felt a little underwhelmed story-wise. But there was nothing wrong with the way it was made - there were quite a few great action sequences which were enough to keep my toes tensed. Let's just say, it didn't make me worried about the future of the series, but it didn't make me extremely excited about it, either.
Just as an aside: what the hell happened to Brian DePalma?
What I got:
For the most part, when you think about what happens in this franchise, it is pretty silly. However, the films do a good job covering that up and making those insane gadgets seem like a part of every day life. Unfortunately, Mission Impossible 2 seems hellbent on making everything look just as silly as it is. I admit, I was a little more entertained by this one than I was by the first, but that is mainly because of how much it falters. That soon wears off, however, and I couldn't wait for this movie to end. Thandie Newton was extremely annoying. Dougray Scott was a stupid villain. The 'global epidemic' storyline seemed a little heavy-handed for a silly blockbuster such as this. And there were so many prosthetic masks I swear I was going to take Ethan Hunt's gun and stick it in my brain.
As for the things I did like:
-The action was cool.
-Brendan Gleeson was in it. Brendan Gleeson makes everything 1000x cooler.
-There was horse racing in it.
-Any time Thandie Newton was not on screen I was generally happy.
And that's it.
What I got:
Mission: Lens Flare
I guess it kinda helped that I was all warmed up and in tune with the series when I slipped in Mission: Impossible III. And surprisingly, this film satisfied me more than the first two did. It had the heart that both of them were lacking, an interesting villain and a tone which suited me just fine. It was also directed by J.J. Abrams. And you know what that means? LENS FLARE!
Okay, jokes aside, he does a good job of directing this film. There's also less lens flare than you saw in Super 8. In line with it's predecessors, the film has impressive action sequences, but for once, they're not the only thing going for it. I just felt like this one was more competent, and was intelligent without alienating the audience (like the first one did for me). For once, I actually felt for good old Ethan Hunt.
But that is basically it. The only thing engrained in my mind is the constant wonder of what the 'Rabbit's Foot' was, and how the hell they decided to make another film after this one, which practically closed the story up. I only saw it two nights back and I honestly can't remember much about it. I guess we could say it was pretty good, but it was pretty disposable too.
What I got:
And now we get down to the only reason I spent 492 minutes with Tom Cruise in the space of the week: the DVD release of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. Since I've been working a crapload of hours in the past month, I've had to endure many loops of the trailer disc, and aside from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Ghost Protocol has hands down my favourite trailer. Which made me determined to endure those 492 minutes. And I'm glad I did. Even though the first three films were shaky, Ghost Protocol is the definition of awesome.
In all honesty, the action sequences in this are probably the most well thought out, exciting things I've ever seen. Now, I wouldn't say that I'm afraid of heights, but my worrying amount of paranoia I have circling in my brain would probably take care of that. Ghost Protocol is not the right film to watch if you're afraid of heights. You've probably heard of the Burj Khalifa scene, where Hunt has some gloves which 'glue' him to the glass and he gets from A to B, quite a few stories up in the air. There was a moment where I gasped quite audibly and my sleeping dog literally jumped on to all fours, ready to attack whoever scared me so. It is probably one of the best scenes of 2011, but it had me worrying about Tom Cruise: he did his own stunt work here (even though he had harnesses, that shit is crazy), and I hear they're fast-tracking a sequel. He's not getting any younger, so I'm not sure how that'll keep up.
Brad Bird makes his live action debut with this mammoth movie, and he does it extremely well. He knows how to shoot action sequences - which is a rare trait - and does so with gusto during the sandstorm scene. He primes the film for a sleek, smart look, but there is also a lot of fun to be had (mainly thanks to Simon Pegg). It hits the right tone, and becomes one of the best examples of why blockbusters can be cool, and not just loud, obnoxious FX spectacles.
As with any other popcorn flick, this one isn't perfect. Is anyone in Hollywood ever going to be able to know what to do with Michael Nyqvist? First his "I'll be responsible for the deaths of all your Facebook friends" villain in Abduction, and then being totally flat in this. Lea Seydoux was a far better villain, and she wasn't even the main one. Props to her. And also, major props to Jeremy Renner. That guy is going far, which is great - he can also rock a suit/sunglasses better than any guy I've ever seen.
Yeah, I enjoyed this one, immensely. I'd watch it again, in a heartbeat.
What I got:
Mission: AccomplishedIn conclusion, the series has varying degrees of success, and for the most part, the contents of those 492 minutes have been obliterated from my mind. If I were to offer advice, I'd say: if you have the time, watch the entire series. If you don't, catch Ghost Protocol. I'm going to be recommending that movie more than anything this weekend.
What do you think of this series?