New Year 2012
Starring: Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Josh Holloway, Michael Nyqvist, Anil Kapoor and Tom Wilkinson.
Running Time: 133 mins.
Seen at: Didsbury
On: Saturday, 7th January, 2012.
The Mission: Impossible franchise has endured somewhat of a lull over the past few years. After 2007’s underwhelming third installment, a reboot was needed, arriving in the rather unusual form of Brad Bird, who has only previously directed CGI characters in Pixar’s superhero spoof The Incredibles.
It’s largely admirable for a debut into live action. The intention was presumably to take the franchise back to basics, and the result is a predominantly more linier, simpler structure - which is as uninventive as it is wise and exhilarating.
As the film opens, a rather non-descript agent played by Josh Holloway is betrayed during what should have been just another routine mission. His glamorous girlfriend Agent Carter (Paula Patton) is predictably out for revenge, but there’s the somewhat more pressing issue of the IMF team (as they’re collectively known), being betrayed whilst foiling a plot to infiltrate the Kremlin. Accused of being held responsible for the bombing, they’re forced to go rouge against the clock, to avert a not-so-crazed megalomaniac from unleashing nuclear havoc on the entire planet.
The trouble is, at no point is there any indication whatsoever as to why this uncharacteristic, un-engaging run-of-the-mill villain wants to commit these acts – there’s absolutely no back-story or motivation. I don’t think either of those crucial elements were of primary importance to the filmmakers though – their attention was obviously more focused on the critical task of how to devise new, suitably thrilling action set-pieces. It’s on this front that they really do succeed, particularly during the first half. It all seems to take rather a while to get going, but certainly when the picture moves to Dubai, the pace does, at last, pick up.
Of course, the film’s main selling point for audiences, much-publicized either in the trailer or on posters, is Cruise’s death-defying climb of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khailifa. It is a fantastic spectacle to watch, appropriately vertigo-inducing, particularly if you see it under the brilliant, revolutionary tool of IMAX in selected cinemas.
Dubai’s sandstorm is equally impressive, especially with a car-chase directly in the middle of it.
The supporting cast is a decidedly mixed bag. I just don’t find Simon Pegg funny at all, to me, he’s just irritating. I like Jeremy Renner though, playing the morally ambiguous Agent Brandt. Tom Wilkinson continues to astound with the range of movie choices he makes, but he is underused.
The cinematography is expectedly glossy, showing off colourful cityscapes, state-of-the-art sports cars and glamorous locations from Russia, Dubai and a conclusion in India. There’s a well structured finale which neatly cross-cuts between a tense fight in a car factory and the half- convincing effects simulating a rocket plummeting towards Earth.
On the whole it’s too long, and why screenwriters always find it necessary to only have Russian villains in espionage thrillers is an unimaginative mystery. What’s even more frustrating though is that they never have an identity or agenda that’s unique to them.
The shameless product-placement doesn’t go unnoticed either. Apple seem to have been a major endorsement to this film, with an array of iPads and laptops being used throughout.
Still, for all its faults, what is undeniable is the appeal of having an incredibly well-preserved nearly fifty year-old Cruise back in the role of Ethan Hunt, especially when Lalo Schifrin’s classic violin-lead theme kicks in as the fuse is lit...
Rating: * * *