MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 4
By Steve Dinneen
International espionage isn’t a glamorous business. It largely consists of grubby encounters between council members expatriating mundane information about the state of local transport systems. The arrest in New York last year of Russian spy Anna Chapman – who went on to pose for Maxim – is about as exciting as it gets. The UK’s tawdry equivalent – involving the sexual misdemeanors of a married Liberal Democrat MP and an attractive Russian ex-pat – wasn’t even true.
There is, perhaps, a movie to be made about this – but it would be directed by Ken Loach and it certainly wouldn’t star Tom Cruise. The Mission: Impossible franchise, on the other hand, is about as realistic as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Thankfully, one thing that isn’t lacking from Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol is a sense of its own ridiculousness. Gone is the droning Limp Bizkit soundtrack from MI2 – the first music you hear is the dulcet tones of crooner Dean Martin, to which Tom Cruise performs a finely choreographed prison-break reminiscent of Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain. The result is part Jason Bourne, part Carry on Spying, which lays out the stall for the rest of the movie.
The plot is a roll-call of post-Cold War clichés: an insane (part-) Russian bloke who wants to blow up the world with a stolen nuclear bomb, if only he can get his hands on the launch codes, which, of course, are carried around in a sinister metal lockbox. It has basically stolen the plot from Golden Eye on the Nintendo 64 and added a few glamorous locations (including a spurious reason for having to break into the Kremlin).
Given that director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) has only worked with animated actors, it is fitting his first live-action movie should star the fictional character Tom Cruise, who doesn’t look a day older than he did in 2002’s Minority Report. Cruise’s portrayal of Agent Ethan Hunt comes in two shades: brave and fast. Sometimes he’s brave and fast at the same time. Everything else is just an annoying interlude, to be gotten out of the way as quickly and painlessly as possible (one thread running through the movie is the “disavowment” of the IMF, which has been compromised by dark, mysterious forces. The IMF in question is the Impossible Mission Force, rather than the International Monetary Fund, although, in these testing times, they may both amount to the same thing).
The set pieces, then, have to be good enough to carry the rest of the film: and for the most part, they are. A scene in which Cruise climbs one-handed up the world’s largest skyscraper brought me out in a cold sweat; feet prickling, palms damp. It’s so impressive that the rest of the film never quite reaches the same heights (literal or otherwise).
It all falls apart somewhat in the last 15 minutes, in which the morals are clumsily dished out, everybody agrees what a great bunch of guys they all are and agent Hunt engages in a bit of impromptu stalking – I wanted to jab my fingers down my throat, but not before I’d poked them in Cruise’s eyes first.
You don’t sign up to a Mission Impossible film for introspection – you sign up to see explosions and Cruise being brave. And fast. For the most part, Ghost Protocol delivers both.