When, you might, ask did the Mission Impossible franchise get to be so good? The first movie was, essentially, “Let’s take this spy property we have and put a star in it and get in on that crazy Bond money!” at a time when Bond was seen to be sagging. (And really, we got a bunch of these, like Bourne and XXX.) Brian De Palma directed the first one, and it is the least De Palma of all the De Palmas. Not a bad movie, but not really capturing the “Mission Impossible” TV show spirit. (Or so I’m told. I’ve never seen it.)
Then there was the Woo film. Unlike De Palma, you’d never mistake MI:2 for being directed by anyone else. What with the doves and all.
Then J.J. Abrams did one, turning out something as typically fun and forgettable as he has since then with his big budget Star Trek movies and, doubtless, the upcoming Star Wars Disney film. But Abrams brought back the ensemble feel of the original series, which was sorely lacking, by adding in Simon Pegg as Benji. (Ving Rhames, the world’s least likely computer hacker, has been in all five flicks.) Then Brad Bird took the franchise and made a genuinely good film with Ghost Protocol, bringing in Jeremy Renner as the—well, I’m not really sure what he is. The suit, I guess? He’s the guy who has some sort of rules he has to follow, unlike the rest of them.
Nothing says entertainment like “rogue government agency”, amirite?
Anyway, in this chapter, the team is fighting an evil super-genius named Solomon Lane (Sean Harris, ’71, Serena, Prometheus) who uses terrorist tactics to cause world crises, enrich himself and usher in a potentially worse world order than the one we have. Which I think we’re all pretty much against. Solomon’s weak link is sexy super-double-agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson, from one of the recent Hercules movies, apparently) who seems to fall in love with Our Hero at first sight. (That’s not really what happens, fret not.)
This movie still follows most of the Bond formula—travel to some part of the world, do some stunts, do some chicks, lather, rinse, repeat—minus the chicks, plus some teamwork. Success or failure hinges on the quality of the stunts and cinematography, and the chemistry between the players. All of these are quite good here. Sort of amusingly, the McGuffin is basically 9 billion dollars that Solomon can use for his terrorist activities.
Meanwhile, in Washington DC, the President gives Iran 150 billion. It’s tough to beat reality.
That aside, Cruise is starting to show his age, but it’s actually a good thing. He had a tendency to be too pretty but now, in his early ’50s, he’s starting to look just a little weathered. He seems to be in great shape and he doesn’t do the run-duck thing that looks like a geriatric hunch on older stars like Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson. He’s still swimming and running and sliding and all that stuff, and he seems to be bringing some more depth and warmth to even these action-heavy roles lately.
Ferguson is a standout. Rumor is she’s going to be entering the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the future perhaps as the occasionally female Captain Marvel. Whatever they get her for is going to work for them, because she kills at the toughest job in the movie: Keeping it from being emotionally flat. Her backstory is the most strained aspect of the film and she makes it looks easy. They don’t overplay the romantic angle, which is also good.
Pegg is always good sidekick material. (He’s good as a lead, too. He’s just good.) Renner plays his part well and Alec Baldwin (as head of the CIA) seems likely to keep parlaying his “officious political weasel” type into fun parts. Ving Rhames is sullen. I don’t mean his character; a buddy of mine just had an encounter with him. He’s apparently playing to type.
The Boy, who had been up all night (it was the night after Knott’s, and he never sleeps after the Haunt), was really pleasantly surprised by this, as was I. We’re probably harder on action flicks than most, and were wiped out, and this kept us interested the whole way through.