For the record, this was originally a blog and then it was 10,000 characters too long, so it's a post now because that's easier. If you read it all, you can totally respond if you'd like, but it's largely just the over-tired ramblings of a jaded spare-timest. Maybe just leave your own thoughts on the film, or perhaps worried comments about the nature of one who would write so much over so little, or just post a picture the poster of your favourite Tom Cruise movie.
Saw this move Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol tonight. I like MI movies. Saw the second one a bunch, the third a few times and about the first fifteen minutes of the first one. Wouldn't mark myself some die-hard purist who owns the set and the original tv series and wants to name my kid Ethan Hunt Jr, but I like the series. Saw the trailer for this and was pretty stoked. Saw the movie tonight.
I was so moved by the film that I wanted to write a review. I thought "hey, ADISC is a place where I can write stuff down and people might read it". Then I thought "hey, maybe I can write movie reviews semi-regularily as I have a decent grasp on the English language and like to watch movies". Then I thought "hey, the internet is already infected by a bunch of liberals who think their silly whiny movie critiques are worthy of public attention, and also I'm not even in to blogging". So this is a one-off non-thread about a movie because I felt like it, and it's just dripping with opinion and attitude.
I can basically sum up what is cool about Mission Impossible with these: ridiculous action sequences, highly unlikely infiltration operations, gnarly gadgets and cool characters. MIGP (as it will henceforth be referred to) had 3 of these, but messed up so bad on the fourth that the rest was tragically undermined. Keep in mind that I'm just a casual fan of the series itself, I haven't even seen the first and my knowledge of what really makes a movie good or bad (on the artistic, Ebertian level of analysis) is non-existent. I just really didn't like most of this movie, and that sucks, cause the trailer was super cool.
Juvenile opening statements you may say! Perhaps! But who even cares what you think? It's my post. Now would be a good time to mention this is SPOILER-INFESTED~!
Anyways, decent start with the prison junk, but then Tom Cruise has that sort of comedy thing with the video camera and I'm like "WHY IS THIS MOVIE TRYING TO MAKE ME CHUCKLE?" The opening scene of MI is all about being totally super cool and hardcore, not about jokes. Unaccetable. And so,
PROBLEM 1: TOO JOKEY
Simon Pegg is a funny guy, but he should be the only funny guy, and sparingly so. Everyone in this movie is always trying to crack-wise. They're all cold-blooded government murderers. I will ordinarily take goofy one-liners over a mindless murder flick any day, but this is no Bruce Willis film, it's MI. John Woo would not approve.
Anyways, Tom Cruise saves the other try-to-be-funny guy from prison. After his comedy defuses all tension, we see the first traces of
PROBLEM 2: WHY IS THIS MOVIE MORE THAN 2 HOURS LONG?
I'm all for things over the standard 2 hours if it works. Most producer types seem to hate it though, and I'm sure they have their reasons. Usually with big franchises, you can get away with it I guess. So I figure nobody double checked this one to see if this one really needed it to be so long. This opening sequence doesn't spend enough time establishing how intense and cool Ethan Hunt is as it does introducing a character who is terrible and ultimately not important to the story at all really. Everything involving him could have been done in shorter fashion without him. Maybe the actor was the director's nephew or won a contest or something, I don't know, but he's got bad vibes man. Also, every chase scene in this movie and the last fight takes forever. Who directed this, Brett Ratner?
Anyways, we move on thru a goofy opening credit sequence. I'd like to point out that I will accept all things over-the-top in an MI movie cause that's part of the charm. MI 2's climactic fight scene was beautiful. Doves, explosions and motorbikes. Poetry. This opening montage thing was lame but acceptable.
I totally forgot about Sawyer from Lost being in the movie until now. Cool jump-off-the-roof part. Wish he would have stuck around longer, but whatever. Probably would have been a no-name actor if the Abrams connection weren't there. I accept this cameo as a positive.
Related to that, Agent Carter (the girl one on the team) is all sad about Sawyer being dead. We can tell because she says she is. I don't feel bad for her because no solid emotional connection is offered outside of lamenting music, but whatever. Not a big deal. I like how this, like the Brandt/Secretary scene, shows Ethan as being all business. Then he does the pay-phone briefing thing and its funny cause it doesn't self-destruct right away. Funny if you've seen the other movies, but within the context of this movie it’s a negative because it (A) is one of too many silly things and (B) is part of
PROBLEM 3: WHY DOESN'T ANYTHING WORK?
None of the IMF gadgets work. There are cool gadgets, which satisfies on some level because they're an integral part of the series, but they all suck in the end. The hall-way illusion thing, the eye-scanner thing, the wall-climb glove thing, etc. - none of them work. They even acknowledge this in the last scene. It kinda establishes that they're in dire straits and on their own, but it doesn't make sense that America's top spy team has junk gear, especially when it works marvellously in the other films. What's the point? To add tension? That's fine, but lousy gear just doesn't make sense. It contributes to the next flaw, which is
PROBLEM 4: THE MORAL OF THIS STORY IS THAT "TEAMWORK IS GOOD"?
What the crap? The moral of the story is that Ethan Hunt is super cool, kills bad guys, saves the world and the girl and does impossible things. It's a simple formula for a popcorn movie that needs nothing more. The mid-way conflict of this movie is that it seems Ethan gives up on his team for a bit (out-of-character) only to come right back to them (predictable) and that's almost alright, but it leads to the last scene sum-up of "teamwork is good, yay us". What is this, an office meeting to stimulate worker morale? DUMB TO THE MAX! My least favourite part of the whole thing. Why should I care how the team works? Rag tag bunch of people I don't care about as a unit because (A) the team is different and every movie and clearly nothing without Ethan Hunt anyways and (B) because the movie isn't about the team - they're supporting characters who should only be there to contribute to Ethan Hunt doing cool things. I'm fine with their role in the story (for the most part) but the fact that this is the sum-up is terrible. After this, Brandt tells Ethan some horrible truth, and that brings us to
PROBLEM 5: HOW IS JEREMY RENNER SO COOL IN THE TRAILER AND THE WORST THING EVER IN THE ACTUAL MOVIE?
AKA – THE CHARACTERS LARGELY RUINED THIS MOVIE
The trailer set him up as a big deal, and as an Oscar-winner / multiple-time nominee / future big star (some big roles already, and he's gonna take over the Bourne series soon apparently), it makes sense to bring him in. Yeah, I say Ethan Hunt is the focus, but it was cool to see an even secret-er also totally cool agent join the group (in the trailer, that is). Maybe he was some double-agent sleeper-assassin or something, who knew? PEOPLE HAVING SECRETS - DON'T WE ETHAN! That's a cool spy thing to say after you steal someone's gun. And then it turns out he's just some guilt-ridden field agent dude.
Now apparently there is some talk he'll be a big draw for future MI movies, but there's some major problems with all this. Firstly, the stability and continuity of the franchise is questionable at best. MI films come out whenever Tom Cruise has time off it seems, and apart from Abrams, there's been little on or off-screen big shots to show up for more than one movie. Ving Rhames (IMF agent Luther Stickell) is an exception and Michelle Monaghan (Ethan’s wife) for these last two films I guess. Cruise isn't the draw he once was (they say) and MI might not be the highest selling franchise (not to say it doesn’t do well, but Hollywood’s a tough biz), so I get wanting to bring in the "next big thing". He wasn't cool and hardcore like Ethan Hunt though. He should've been more intense, more brutal, more extreme and that way he could have been an acceptable substitute. Instead he comes across as a guy who is not as good at doing the things Ethan Hunt can do (turns down window climbing, fails at most of the vent scene). Not to say he isn't shown as capable, but he seems like a watered-down, joke making side-kick who has guilt issues that keep him from doing his job well. Not good qualities for an action hero. Ethan Hunt didn't need a replica, he needed someone who was either better at the job but worse at emotions or better at emotions but worse at the job for solid character FOIL, and since the latter is not suitable for an action star, Brandt should have been a cold-blooded AMERICAN super agent, too intense for side-kick status but not stable enough to be team leader. That would be cool. Cliche, maybe, but this is an action movie, so who cares? It’s allowed to be bad is good for an action movie, not when the bad is bad for an action movie, savy? Should have been like Falco to Star Fox. Instead he has one-liners. Lame. This, of course, leads to
PROBLEM 6: WHERE IS VING RHAMES?
The biggest problem with this movie is that the characters don't work. Ethan Hunt works because he's already been established in the series and despite a few times when the script butchers his character he's essentially doing things the way he's always done them. Agent Dunn (Simon Pegg) works as the tech-nerd comedic relief. This character is acceptable in a limited capacity. There is not so much issue with him other than that he suffers since everyone else tries to be a joker. His constant talking during the Kremlin scene was brutally annoying though. Agent Carter is necessary as the “the team is notgay and American cause there’s a hot chick around” and “girls can punch people too see” character. Her uncertainty gave her some depth also I guess. I don't expect Oscar wining stuff here since it is an MI movie, but if seems like her broken-heartednees over her dead boyfriend and vengeance thing never go anywhere. Her character looks like it is headed somewhere, and then it isn't. She later gets shot and basically walks it off. Who cares? About anything she does really? She’s not the main focus or anything, but they gave her something and didn’t commit to it, which is probably worse than giving her nothing at all. It’s like her relationship with Agent Hanaway is just there to justify her being around and to make her something a little bit more than “the girl” on the team, but once they sorta give us that idea, they give up on it, so there’s nothing really to care about. Brandt, as has been established, doesn't work and he also cracks too many jokes. So does Ethan. So does Carter. Dunn is allowed, but when everyone does it sucks. This group needs a straight man, like LUTHER STICKELL, the only other guy to show up in every other MI film.
Now I get that having him with the team the whole time may have made things too crowded. It's bad when there are characters for the sake of characters. Outside of a vastly different script, it may not work. Besides, it's a big world, and him and Ethan don't always need to be in the same place at the same time. Now to some degree, Luther had some funny-factor in the earlier films, but he was also VING RHAMES, which just made him totally radical and cool and stuff. He was a sound voice in Ethan’s ear, a trusted source of reason. The gap left by his nature of being that "hard dude" in the group should have been taken up by Brandt, but it wasn't, and that's sad. Dunn can crack jokes, there needs to be a guy who looks like he wants to punch everyone in the face to balance the dynamic. Yeah, Brandt was annoyed with Dunn sometimes, but then he just went off and was a big ol’ goofball himself. Unacceptable. Enough on that, but more on
PROBLEM 7: THE BAD GUYS ARE THE WORST THINGS EVER
This film may have the least memorable villains in an action film of all time. For seriously. I really don't even remember any of their names, and I just watched it. I'm gonna have to reference wikipedia just to finish this rant. I mean, what did they even do? Yes, they were gonna blow up the world, but that was actually the extent of their characters, that they wanted to blow up the world. This is tragic. What's worse is that none of them ever posed any real threat to the team specifically. Since they were trying to kill everyone alive, and since the only people they did kill were some Russians (who were sort of antagonists in the film anyways), their threat is entirely impersonal. Thus we reach the much earlier aforementioned problem of the character lameness jeopardizing the rest of the film.
The main bad guy (Kurt Hendricks, apparently), is the worst thing ever. Let’s take a look at past villains for comparison. MI 2 immediately establishes the evilness of the bad guy by having him pretend to be Ethan, having him kill Ethan's doctor friend and then killing a whole plane of people. We see he's a jerk to the girl, he cuts off his best friends finger cause he's pissed off and the whole thing is very personal cause he's like an evil Ethan Hunt. He is a threat on the mental level in that he knows how Ethan thinks, and on the physical level in that he's a trained agent who knows all the fight moves and stuff. Solid bad guy for this kind of movie. The next film has Philip Seymour Hoffman. The opening scene sets him up as a sociopath - it's fantastic. Direct threat to Ethan and his wife, and he's a total psycho. They don't even establish a real threat (the "super weapon" they're fighting over isn't really anything at all, they just say its "bad") and it still works, because he's a total maniac and he's played well. He may not pose a physical threat except for when Tom Cruise has a bomb in his head, and he gets taken out pretty easily. The climactic tension doesn't have to be in a fight scene so much because of this, but we want him to lose and we know he's evil cause he actually does bad things to characters we care about (Hunt, his wife, Hunt's protege). Billy Crudup is also a good villain here cause's he's a back-stabbing jerk. His character is cool cause its very "nothing personal" but at the same time, his actions are very "this is personal, I'm gonna kill you Mr. person-I-pretended-to-be-friends-with". Both the second and third films have solid villains. This one doesn't. At all. Not even little bit. Puke.
They could've at least got a name-actor to give him some cred (not like they didn't have the budget given the effects and names like Cruise, Renner, Pegg and Wilkinson). But we never learn anything other than that he has some crazy apocalyptic agenda. He never really directly harms any of the people we're meant to care about. For some reason he can actually hold his own in a fight scene against Hunt in the end, and I can't help but wonder why Hunt couldn't just KO him with a single flipping kick like he did to guys in MI2. They could have at least said the guy was like a kickboxer in college or something, I don't care. But nope. Just some old looney who dies for his crazy beliefs. I actually feel bad for him cause he's not a bad person, just insane. He spends all his scenes running away from Hunt, never threatening him. It would have been more exciting if he were the protagonist almost. Dude has no dialogue really, and he just never gets established as someone to hate, so he doesn't work. I actually would have somehow had this guy kill Luther Stickell to give him some cred. Or just have him in a scene eating some endangered species for lunch. Or maybe he hits a kid or something. ANYTHING. ANYTHING AT ALL TO MAKE HIM ACTUALLY A BAD GUY. So lame.
His assistant dude is really only there for a fight scene. I mean, there's the hotel trade off thing too, but he's another nameless, useless guy who poses no real threat and we're given no reason to hate.
The French assassin is the best villain because we have a reason to not like her, but she's given no depth. Yeah, it’s cool she works for diamonds, but why? WHY DO NONE OF THE VILLAINS EVER SAY ANYTHING IN THIS MOVIE? There's like 10 lines of dialogue between all of them put together. LET ME KNOW WHY I SHOULD DISLIKE YOU PLEASE!
The Russian cop chasing Ethan is kinda annoying, but I actually think he's the main antagonist of this film. I don't like him, he is in direct and repeated conflict with Ethan, I understand why he's doing what he's doing and the threat he presents is both real and personal. I don't think his character was really necessary at all, but at least it's something given the gap left by the villainlessness of this film.
There's also the Indian playboy guy, who seemed like he might be a cool bad guy but then turned out to be another tragic attempt at comic relief. It was at the point where he started talking that I came to terms with the fact I really didn't like this movie. He was a rich playboy, he should have been an arrogant jerk. Instead he was an unrealistic cartoon who just wasted camera time. Nothing this guy did would attract any woman at any time ever. Maybe they were trying to prove a point that rich people suck or something, I don't know. The joke wasn't funny though. Should have been a Jabba the Hut. but he was more like a villain in any given 90's Jim Carrey movie.
I'm really not sure how this turned out so bad. Why did the villains suck? Why were there so many terrible attempts at comedy? You'd think with Cruise and Abrams around, there would be some more solid input or something. I dunno, it's not like either of those guys are perfect, but Abrams at least seemed to do a decent job on the last one and most of his other movies, right? What went wrong here?
I'm inclined to think the answer might be director Brad Bird. Thing is that I didn't mind a lot of what I think might be the "director stuff" in this movie. The actions scenes were generally pretty good, even if I didn't always care about the context in which they were happening. The fight scenes were cool (if a bit too long), the hotel climb was sweet and almost everything leading up to Ethan and Brandt meeting up with the team on the train was pretty cool action movie-wise. That said, this was the first live-action film directed by a guy who has spent most of his career doing Pixar movies. Maybe that's why everyone was trying to be funny and some of the characters were cartoons. Overall it seems like a good idea for a movie (cause most of the concept isn't bad) got ruined by whoever wrote the script and was done no favours by a director who may have not been the ideal choice for this movie.
Like I said, I enjoyed the action in this movie and if you fast forward to all the intense scenes, you might think you'd have a good MI movie. Despite poor characters, most of the protagonists in the movie are well acted (given what kind of movie it is). I actually like Tom Cruise unlike lots of people (it seems). I think most of his stuff is good (War of the Worlds can be blamed on Spielberg). I liked the Ving Rhames cameo at the end and that they actually brought Michelle Monaghan back for the last scene - that kind of continuity is nice.
That whole "wife-twist" thing was actually kinda cool, though I don't think it was executed properly. That actually leads to
PROBLEM 8: THIS MAY HAVE BEEN BETTER IF IT WEREN'T A MOVIE
That doesn't mean it should not have ever existed, but I feel like this was like a season of TV ungracefully crammed into 135 minutes. Brandt being the agent "responsible" for Ethan's wife's apparent death was a cool idea for sure, but it dedicated a lot of the movie to his character growth which felt really out of place and ultimately made for a tremendously awkward final scene between him and Ethan. Brandt just seemed so lame there. It might have been better if Ethan responded negatively to this news - maybe Brandt, being the cold-blooded fellow he should have been, chopped it all up to being part of the job and Ethan was pissed. Who knows? But growth Brandt's character needed through this and the chronicling of Ethan's response needed more time than any movie could given that this was a sub-focus. Maybe it will be a bigger part of their relationship / respective character's growth is the two are together in more MI movies, but that remains to be seen, and as a one-off, it doesn't quite work.
Similarly, the grieving process / perceived ineptness/ vengeful side of Agent Carter and the inexperience of Agent Dunn and dysfunction of the team the movie is apparently all about the cohesiveness of could have been explored more, but the movie wouldn't allow for that. Maybe Luther could show up. Maybe we could actually get to know the villains. I'm not saying that MI would be the best tv show or mini-series and there's probably no way you could get this cast to be involved in something like that. I'm just saying that the overall plot and the nature of the characters seems to lend itself more to that kind of thing. There's too much crammed in here so nothing fits well. There were a few writers, but Abrams is one, and since this same problem is obvious in the most recent Star Trek film, I'm pushing the blame on him.
THE BIG PICTURE IN LITTLE WORDS
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol fails as an MI movie and is a poor action film in itself. Ethan Hunt maybe be consistent, but it sorta feels like they (Abrams) is taking an old character and idea and cramming them into a new universe of story, so it doesn't fit well within the context of what came before and relies too heavily on what might come to be. As a result, it doesn't work and could only potentially work if more is added. As such, is it a bad movie in itself. It’s like a reboot, but done in a way in which a reboot would never work. And maybe a reboot would have been a better idea anyways. That’s trendy in Hollywood. Brand recognition with less responsibility or something.
That was WAY more than I thought I'd write, and I don't expect anyone should read it outside of opening the blog, glancing at the ocean of words and thinking "That Slang has sooooo much spare time". But if you got this far, I hope you enjoyed it or disliked it enough to be stirred on some level. If you saw the movie, I'm sorry for your loss, unless you enjoyed it, in which case I would love to entertain / rip apart any entertain you can offer.
Until then, I'm Slang, and you're not.