Ethan Hunt: Mission accomplished!
When Brian De Palma brought the TV series of the same name to the big screen way back in 1996, he introduced us to a new breed of super spy far different from his British counterpart–he was American, he doesn’t bed random women, he doesn’t drive an Aston Martin only to let it crash and burn, he worked as a team, his stunts were jaw-dropping and the most important of all–we were introduced to his personal life, he was more flesh and blood and when cut bled, unlike that cold and business -like James Bond who possessed that dry British humor and rarely had a scratch on his face even after a sword fight. The template of making a spy movie has been the same from the days of the yore, two powerful nations Russia and America mostly, are forced on to the brink of a nuclear war incited by a megalomaniac while a secret agent from either America or Britain, goes all out to stop the war. After blowing up buildings and rummaging fancy cars through walls and performing some eye-popping stunts the hero manages to defuse the bomb two seconds before it is about to blow. He saves the world yet again. M.I: 4 stays true to this template with Ethan Hunt being the hunted, falsely implicated as a terrorist after a mission goes wrong, Ethan Hunt and his team race against time to clear their name and save the world from falling prey to another World War.
The Mission Impossible series had been helmed by top notch directors who had brought in their own brand of cinema to further evolve the franchise. If De Palma’s Mission Impossible was a balance of style and substance in the sensible 90’s, John Woo brought in the Asian factor with an overdose of mindless action that was high on style and low on substance in the early 2000’s, J. J. Abrams took over the franchise, and we were introduced to a newer version of Ethan Hunt. We saw the Everyday Man in Hunt, he fell in love, got married, cried when he got hurt, he was fallible. But yet when pushed to a wall he turned back and retaliated. There were a lot of expectations when it was announced that Brad Bird would be taking over the project, his short resume boasted of two Oscar award-winning animation flicks in “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille”. MI:4 was his first live-action feature film, and he lives up to the expectations, well almost, when he directs a high-on-adrenaline first half that shows one brilliantly filmed action scene after the other. Be it the opening jail-break scene, or the Kremlin infiltration or that breathtaking scene in the Burj, the action takes place in such a grand scale that it never lets you sit back and relax, but instead keeps you on the edge of your seats. By the time the first half ends Brad Bird sets you up in the high towers of the Burj for what you would expect to be a fantastic glide, sadly once the action shifts from Dubai, the story nosedives from the high rises and only plummets into being just another spy movie with action and fancy gadgets. The “oohs” and “aahs” that you exclaim whilst you munch your popcorn only turn into a “meh” when it all ends at a parking lot supposedly shot in India.
There are newer additions to the team along with Benji (Simon Pegg) who has a substantial role to play and enough wisecracks to share when there is not enough action going on, there is Jane (Paula Patton) a femme fatale with a no nonsense approach, and an IMF analyst Brandt (Jeremy Renner)–a man whose mysterious past is linked to Hunt’s. Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt has put in every inch of his sweat and blood into this role, as he scales the heights of the Burj Khalifa, slipping at times yet steadying himself at the last moment, he leaves you breathless and in awe of his commitment. This franchise is his own baby and the way he has nursed it through the years can be seen with the wide range of stunts he has performed, be it hanging out of a speeding train or scaling the Grand Canyon, Cruise never ceases to amaze. The inclusion of Renner into this franchise only indicates that he may soon be handed over the reins, (hanging out inches above the ground with arms and legs afloat, a style famously belonging to Cruise is now Renner’s move, if that doesn’t convince you, then what will?) if and when that happens he sure will have bigger boots to fill. Probably the weakest character of the movie has to be Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) the villain, poorly etched out and with no reason known for his motive to start a war, we feel unmoved by his presence for we know that he will be defeated. He is merely reduced to a cardboard cutout who has to run when being chased, and is lucky enough to land a few blows in a fistfight with Hunt. The lack of a more potent villain, like the one so chillingly portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman in the previous edition leaves you with an incomplete feeling. Anil Kapoor’s much hyped role in a major blockbuster lasts as long as that freshly splattered butter on your popcorn, playing a caricatured sleazeball Indian billionaire named Brij Nath he has nothing much to do except get seduced and end up being beaten up by Jane.
M.I:4 offers you a visual treat that you expect from a big budget Hollywood potboiler. From vertigo-inducing action sequences to technology and gadgets that would leave your brain in a tizzy, Brad Bird and his technical team deserve all praise for making this one of the best action entertainers of the year. Yet you feel beyond those explosions and chases and gravity defying leaps Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol only flatters to deceive.