Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (A-)

This year has been shaping up to be the least attended year in cinema since 1995. This can be, in part, due to a suffering economy, large increases in ticket prices, an irrational expectation that the casual moviegoer will go see sequels to every mediocre movie they've ever seen, and the lose-lose situation regarding 3D and IMAX that in one format you pay a ridiculous amount and in the other you receive a subpar product. On surface similar to many of the glut of sequels to be released this year, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is the third sequel to a recently ignored franchise which is having itself be released in a premium standard, in this case IMAX. Though the film was directed by Pixar wonder-kid Brad Bird and had a relentlessly cool trailer, my unabashed optimism toward other sequels to be released this year was often met with varying levels of disappointment (Case in point: The Hangover: Part II). Now, though I have seen the third Mission Impossible movie, it wasn't until the film began that my slightly cynical feelings completely dissolved. Simply put: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol succeeds in the impossible task of taking mostly cynical and low expectations and giving the jaded audience (myself included) one of the best action films this side of Thunderball.

Director Brad Bird and writers Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec establish the film on a high note with a thrilling prison breakout scene set to "A'int That A Kick In The Head" in which we are re-introduced to IMF agent Ethan Hunt (played by the always charismatic Tom Cruise) and Benji (Simon Pegg in a underrated well done comic performance), and actually introduced to Jane, a new agent (played by Paula Patton whose other notable films are Precious and the 2006 thriller Deja Vu). Immediately the audience is drawn in to an unrelenting roller coaster ride sending us to the well guarded halls of the Kremlin, the high towering Burj Khalifa hotel of Dubai, a ferocious sandstorm on a scale of which never seen on screen ever before, and the restrictive playboy playground mansions of Mumbai. The creators of the film constantly challenge themselves on what the most fantastic and thrilling sequence can be, sending actors BASE jumping from seemingly impossibly high buildings and then bringing them face to face with a car chase in a sandstorm in one brilliantly tied 45-minute sequence with a suspenseful "bad guy" visit intermission. The film rarely stops to question its own logic, and when it does, thankfully these moments are short and far between.

While Tom Cruise is undisputedly responsible for some of the most suspenseful awe-inducing moments of the film, the true star here (actor wise, in the film the best parts stem from Brad Bird's large scale direction) is the simultaneously sympathetic and hilarious Simon Pegg. Though he had already played the same character in the previous Mission Impossible film, which I had seen, his redefinition of his character in this film jumps off the screen in such a way to warrant is own spin-off. It is rare that a supporting character with little stunts in an action film is able t0 overshadow his high octane counterparts, let alone when going up against the likes of Tom Cruise and Jeremy Renner. Someone who frequently is seen only "messing up" the mission could be seen as simply an annoying plot device, but Simon Pegg is able to develop his character into an outstanding supporting player.

Though there are seven movies to be released nationwide this weekend, and already several great films in the multiplex, if you are able to get your hopes up one more time for a seemingly unnecessary sequel you will be greatly rewarded in the form of this film. The stunts are spectacular, the acting is entertaining to watch, and the direction is pretty much perfect. With the "Film Crazy" stamp of approval, I deem Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol until proven otherwise the best movie of Christmas 2011.

Grade: A-

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