Saturday, December 24, 2011
Recombinist Extractionary Clustible Sqatterclism!
Brad Bird gets an automatic lifetime pass for any future endeavors because of his miraculous 2004 film The Incredibles. That movie is so delightful, so entertaining, so perfect that he could spend the rest of his career making cinematic faceplants and still go down in the annals of film history as a great director.
Which is good, given his latest effort, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. I wouldn't go so far as to suggest that he needs some residual credibility in the bank before releasing this baby into the wild, but expectations naturally tag along in the wake of such a talent.
Not that Mission Impossible is absolutely without merit: after all, there are such things as 10-year-old boys, and they need entertaining too. Boys and emotionally stunted adult men. (OK then, men.) But I always say the same thing when I go to see a film like this (I had hoped to see Tin Tin or Sherlock Holmes or even Dragon Tattoo for a second time, but this was the only remotely appetizing thing on the menu); my distaste is probably not likely to be widely shared, and I'm just the wrong person to review a contemporary action film. I'd personally consign most of the output of guys like Jerry Bruckheimer and Tony Scott to television if I had my druthers. And everything based on a Marvel Comic.
But this is Brad Bird! A fella's just got to see what he's been up to. And as expected, Mission Impossible has a cracking pace and ri-DONK-ulous action scenes and some nice verbal cracks... but that's about it, really. Having a plot that really makes any coherent sense--or indeed is really any more sophisticated than a timer counting down to doom--is just not on the table here. We have a group of super-talented good guys (Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, and Simon Pegg) who are working "off the reservation" to thwart the plans of the evil guys (mostly Michael Nyqvist, doing a turn in a big Hollywood film after playing Mikhail Blomkvist in the Swedish Language versions of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo franchise). Lots of explosions ensue with car chases and fistfights edited so that you have no idea what's happening but you KNOW it's mayhem and the good guys will win! At the Very! Last!! Second!!!!!! I laughed out loud at the film's ridiculous foley work. A punch to the jaw sounds like someone taking a baseball bat to a closely-miked side of beef, and gun shots are like artillery. Add in a big dollop of music-video-style editing and one emerges from the theater fairly vibrating from the assault to the senses, having barely avoided a flickering-light-induced epileptic seizure.
Tom Cruise continues to do what he has always done, though he looks a bit longer in the tooth than he used to. He's still in great condition, but his body shape has changed over the years. He begins to look like an old man, if a ripped one. And he still manages to conjure this kind of megalomaniac grim reaper that passes for his character. He glowers and says nonsensical things that make him sound tough. Like, abominable snowman tough. Phrases like "Ghost Protocol" are tossed around as if they're not actually ridiculous ad-speak. His smiles are dangerous, and his most serious lines caused eye rolls so severe that I almost hurt myself. The stunts are so eye-popping that one just about laughs with ridicule. Thank the Buddha for Simon Pegg who is hard-pressed to provide enough comedy relief to offset the tsunami of grim, though not for lack of effort. But for him we'd have a Sylvester Stallone picture where you'd almost welcome a bullet to get some relief from the grim. Jeremy Renner, who was so impressive in Ben Afleck's The Town (2010), seems to actually bring some chops to his little role as an agent trying to make his way back after a botched job (that, I guess, wasn't really botched after all; it's like Harry Potter where you can't really buy into ANY of the plot twists because MAGIC can always be used to undo things or make them never have happened in the first place. Or whatever). The last member of the team is the lovely and statuesque Paula Patton, who gets to kick some ass and look stunning in a saucy evening gown. They're a ragtag bunch who hardly know each other and squabble continuously yet pull off things that, well, need special effects to enable ANYONE to even appear to do them.
But hey, it's an action film. Sigh.
One thing that randomly contributed a faint magical glow to the evening was that I saw the film in the theater complex attached to the Dubai Mall, which just happens to connect to the Burj Khalifa-the world's tallest building--where Mission Impossible's most spectacular action sequences were filmed. It was fun to sit in the theater and be closer to that building than some of the shots of it in the film.
But that ain't much of an endorsement. Sorry, Brad. (I'll still eagerly wait for your next one!)
Grade: your pre-pubescent son gives it an A+; for myself, call it a C.