So once again we have survived.

Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol

tn_mi4This review, should you choose to read it, contains some spoilers.

Man, this is the most disappointing movie I’ve seen in a long time, because of the misleading title. Before you waste your money, please know that there are no ghosts in this movie at all. I hope that lady that tried to sue DRIVE for not being THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS will consider throwing some of her legal fund at this one too. It’s just shitty to take advantage of worldwide ghostamania like that. In all other aspects though I really enjoyed it.


MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL (subtitle said in Shaggy voice) is animation directionist Brad Bird’s first live action movie. I think he got pissed about George Miller, Zack Snyder and Wes Anderson directing cartoons so he was like “fuck you guys” and took one of their jobs. Or maybe it’s just that most directors of this genre these days are so lacking in the basic skills of filmatism that he was called in to tutor them. Whatever the motivation, I think his talents probly serve the world more uniquely doing cartoons, but luckily they also translate well to live action so his time away from his true calling isn’t a total waste.

I really dig that this series of movies has a new director for each installment, doing their own version of it. The directors so far always have a good pedigree, although of course John Woo blew it. But still. The idea of a big Hollywood based-on-a-TV-show franchise where DePalma set the template and other talented directors come in one time and then hit the road is a good one. It’s the ALIEN model, I guess. (DePalma directed prequel coming up?)

mp_mi4So this one can completely stand on its own, but for those keeping track it has more connection to the rest of the series than the others do. Part 3 director J.J. Abrams (don’t even fuckin think about it, AsimovLives) stayed on as producer for this one. It connects to what was going on with that one, using Ethan Hunt’s wife as a plot point, promoting Simon Pegg’s character Benji from cameo computer expert to co-starring field agent, and it doesn’t really try to reinvent the wheel. It’s only a somewhat tweaked wheel with more and clearer action and even more of an emphasis on the team. You got Cruise, Pegg, Paula The Super-hot Teacher Lady From PRECIOUS BASED ON THE NOVEL PUSH BY SAPPHIRE PUBLISHED BY KNOPF 1996 Patton, and THE HURT LOCKER’s Jeremy Renner as the secretary’s analyst that ends up on the run with the team and having some skills to earn his keep.

The teamwork is welcome because a big part of the old TV show was how cool it was to watch a team of experts work together to basically pull off a big prank in the name of national security or whatever. (they should add Steve-O to the team in the next one. I was gonna say Ashton Kutcher because he’s more of a pranker, but Steve-O would do his own stunts.) DePalma cleverly blew up the team in the first one, but that unfortunately set it up as The Tom Cruise Show, and this is the first time he keeps one team for the whole movie. Instead of the familiar plot of Cruise getting framed and disavowed it’s the whole IMF organization. Some asshole (Michael Nyqvist, male lead of the Swedish GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO trilogy) blew up the Kremlin and stole a nuclear warhead while our IMF friends were sneaking around in there too. Not cool. He’s gotta understand that when he does something like that he makes all Kremlin-infiltrators look bad, they all get lumped in together.

One thing you learn in this movie is that if you happen to be there when somebody is blowing up the Kremlin it would be best not to be found unconscious wearing a reversible Russian army jacket. Good travel tip there.

Then the secretary of defense or whatever (Tom Wilkinson) has to give them their mission and pretend to break ties with them, that is what Spooooky Protocol means. You’ve been decommissioned, I’m hear to take you into custody, while I am briefly distracted please take this train car full of crazy high tech shit and get the fuck out of here.

Before that, when Hunt gets his first mission that he can choose to accept, the message fails to self destruct as promised. He walks away, then looks back at it, has to go give it a whack like we used to do with TVs when they lost reception. Only then does it blow up. It’s a good joke and a bad omen about their missions in this movie: everything is always gonna go wrong. They can’t break into the computers the way they wanted to, the machines that make those cool masks get stuck, they accidentally kill somebody they need alive, they get hit by a sandstorm, the retinal scanner on the side of his secret train car requires him to hop up and down because he’s too short for it, the list goes on.

The rest of the team are so used to Hunt’s awesomeness that they think nothing of asking him to climb up the side of the world’s tallest building to break into a server just so they can slow down some elevators. His high tech spiderman type suction gloves stop working, so all he has is those rock climbing skills he showed in the opening of part 2. You know it’s a Brad Bird movie when the glove he tosses blows back to the building and has its own little character moment.

Just like the climbing gloves, all of the technology they use is incredible but fallible. One of the best scenes involves an elaborate illusion used to sneak past a security guard, but it can only look right from one angle. In the opening a network of micro-cameras, databases and facial recognition software identifies and warns an agent about an assassin, but the notification distracts him just as she pulls her gun out. So maybe he would’ve had a better chance without it.

I like the new team members. Patton has a great moment where shit is about to go down and she kicks off her pumps – it’s like a secretary coming home from a long day of work crossed with Billy Jack taking off his boots. Renner impressed me because he’s so good at playing ugly weirdos (DAHMER, THE TOWN) and here he’s transformed into a suave action hero. He wears nice suits and gets in fights, but does a little more self-deprecating humor than James Bond would. I love when Hunt pulls a gun on him just to prove he’ll know what to do about it. He does.

I don’t know what to say about Tom Cruise. He’s good in the way he’s usually good. I know you’re supposed to hate him now, ’cause he’s a weirdo, but I like him as this intensely focused superman. This time they let him look slightly ragged under the eyes and a little skinny when he’s shirtless. In his climbing gear he looks like a dorky bicyclist. But I don’t think you can say he’s a more relatable character. I don’t want him to be.

Wouldn’t it be funny if he bought the rights to do a sequel to V FOR VENDETTA, just to see if they’d stop wearing those masks to protest his church?

About a half hour of the movie was shot in Imax, so when you see it in real Imax (film projector, not digital) it pops out from letterboxed to full Imax screen for these gigantic establishing shots and incredible stunts on that building in Dubai. It reminded me of seeing LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in 70mm (and there’s even a musical homage to that movie during a desert shot).

It goes without saying that it’s refreshing to see a movie in this day and age that’s packed with action and never had me frustrated by disorienting closeups, shakiness or poor staging and editing (delete previous sentence, goes without saying). There’s alot going on but it flows. Even a deliberately confusing chase in a sandstorm comes off at least as coherent as the current Hollywood standard for non-sandstorm action in movies like SALT or WARRIOR. This is crucial because it’s not much of an exaggeration to call it non-stop action. They’re always hurtling ahead – even the handful of debriefing or pre-planning discussions tend to take place in moving vehicles on the way to some place they gotta sneak into. Without involving action and a good storytelling rhythm this could easily be one of those torturous movies of endless banging and yelling like THE MUMMY or the TRANSFORMERSes. But for me it was constantly entertaining and breezed by like a much shorter movie.

Bird is able to work the little character subplots in without slowing that constant forward movement. At the end there’s a “phew, let’s all take a few minutes to unwind and enjoy not being shot at” type of scene and I thought it was a nice way of doing it. Okay, we’ve blown the roof off, let’s use like 2 or 3 minutes to tie together some emotions and stuff.

My only real complaint is that after packing the movie with so many clever gimmicks and suspenseful sequences some of the stuff at the end seems a little weaker than what came before. Renner hovering through a fan via magnet power, for example, is played as a goofy sideplot. So it doesn’t have half the tension of Hunt trying not to fall off the building earlier or of course his cable work in the silent vault in part 1. And the showdown with Nyqvist in a revolving car garage seemed like it could’ve been the climax of a Pierce Brosnan Bond movie. It’s a small complaint though. That stuff is fine, but it’s the earlier stuff I keep thinking about.

I love the opening of the movie, where Hunt is being broken out of a Russian prison. To the horror of his team he decides to go off plan to sneak back through and rescue his informant (who has no idea he’s a secret agent, or that he’s not Russian). It’s a fun scene where he uses hand signals to Pegg to open specific security doors, carefully orchestrating the releasing of prisoners in order to create the right amount of rioting to facilitate his escape. It’s a great setpiece but after the movie was over I realized how significant it was to the character. If he’d stuck with the original plan and left that guy behind he wouldn’t have had access to crucial resources that ended up saving the day.

So is it karma, or is it brilliant strategy? He tells his team he couldn’t leave an informant behind to be killed, and tells the guy “I look after my friends.” But he might be just saying that to sound nice, it might really be that he’s always thinking 72 steps ahead. I’d like to say that it’s the first one and his selfless act ended up saving his ass later. But I’m not really sure.

Either way, they stopped a nuclear war. I’m for it. Keep doing that, guys.

* * *

BONUS SPOILER: In the opening there’s an IMF agent we haven’t seen before that gets Estevezed. It turns out you’re supposed to know he’s an actor from the TV program Lost. You may remember that TV’s Felicity played that same role in part 3. As long as J.J. Abrams is producing these things I think we know what’s gonna happen. Jennifer Garner will be an agent that dies in part 5 and the Cloverfield monster in part 6.

DOUBLE BONUS SPOILER: I kept waiting for the Lost guy to come back as a ghost, as part of the protocol, but it never happened. RIP OFF.

TRIPLE BONUS SPOILER QUESTION: Do you think it’s a reference to GOODFELLAS that she ended up in Seattle (well, Vancouver I think) at the end? That’s where witness protection put him in GOODFELLAS. I wonder if they know each other? Man, IMF could’ve taken out the mafia so much faster than the cops could’ve. That would be unconstitutional though I think.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 at 3:52 am and is filed under Action, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

97 Responses to “Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol”

  1. M:I 5! The team has set up a complicated plan, to trick the villain into giving away a top secret code. Unfortunately he doesn’t fall for it.

    Ethan: “Crap, you are smarter than expected. Let’s send Steve-O in!”
    Villain: “So you think I should be scared of a guy named Steve-O?”
    Steve-O walks into the room naked: “I just spent an hour in elephant vomit and will now slap you with my dick!”

    5 seconds later!

    Villain: “The secret code is 4568756415! My mother’s maiden name is Halligan! There is a file named CREDIT CARD BILLS hidden on my computer, that’s where I save all my porn! When I was 6, I accidently kicked a football through my neighbour’s window and blamed my best friend for it! Sometimes I pick my nose when nobody is watching! Please, get him off me!”

  2. I’ll check this one out on blu ray, I’m glad to hear Mr M is wrong (and no offense Mr M, but I think you’re too cynical, the Dark Knight Ruses trailer was amazing)

    well guys, it’s time for the first Spielberg movie in almost 4 years, anyone else as pumped as I am?

  3. The Dark Knight Ruses: “How about a magic trick? I’m going to make Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney disappear…”

  4. Great review, Vern. I liked this movie a lot. But I’m a huge Tom Cruise fan — there’s plenty of other weirdos out there to hate. He’s a great actor and I love him!

    One thing I was impressed by was how I didn’t even realize how intense the movie was until after I was in the parking lot and could start to feel myself unwind a bit. They knocked it out of the park with this one.

  5. Tom Cruise’s worst vice by all anecdotal and circumstantial evidence comes off to me not for his cult work, but for being a typical egomaniac asshole movie star. But to paraphrase what the socialist George Orwell responded to the fascist Salvador Dali, one must seperate the politics from the artist.

    But none the less, he’s been in good movies and been good too. I always felt the same way about him that I do a Brad Pitt: at worse, they’re prone to coast off their charisma unless a filmmaker forces them to act or at least give a shit. Some stars are like that.

    (Of course apparently I was the only local here who enjoyed KNIGHT & DAY for the matinee diversion, ROMANCING THE STONE derivative that it was.)

    Griff – I’m ready, though what about his other one out next week? Seriously today is such a train wreck day in releases. Some people should be fired for the genius to dump M:I 4, TATTOO CHICK KILLS PEOPLE, Adventures of Racist Belgian Kid all on the same day.

    “Part 3 director J.J. Abrams (don’t even fuckin think about it, AsimovLives) ”

    Vern – you realize this only encourages him, right?

  6. “The Dark Knight Ruses” – a typo, or the BEST FREUDIAN SLIP* EVER?

    *Okay, not better than that time a woman I know wanted to order “hummus and pitas” from a hunky waiter at a restaraunt but instead ordered “hummus and penis.” But Griff’s has political subtext.

  7. Okay, now I know there was something up with me that night. I’ve been going over the movie in my head for the past few days, trying to figure out where it lost me, and for the life of me I can’t remember. I do know that I had completely checked out by the time the stupid magnet suit and retarded Indian seduction scenes happened, which is why they pissed me off all out of proportion. So clearly my opinion on this movie is worth exactly shit.

    However, I don’t agree that the action is all clear and well-shot. I still didn’t get the feeling that I really saw anything other than an airless montage of phones and faces, the same as any other post-action movie. But I’ve liked worse movies with far worse action so I’m not exactly sure what my problem was. Maybe Griff’s right and I’m just too quick to resort to cynicism.

    Looks like me and you got off on the wrong foot, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 4: POLTERGEIST II: THE OTHER SIDE. Let’s try this again on DVD. Maybe it’ll be like a romantic comedy where we hate each other at first and then we fall in love, but then you get back with your dickhead ex-boyfriend played by Rupert Everett somewhere around the start of the third act and I have to run through the rain to stop your wedding by making a speech that includes lines that you said to me earlier in the movie but used in a different context. And then everyone will applaud even though half of the crowd are the groom’s friends and they have no idea who I am.

  8. I love the first film without reservations. Not extremely faithful to the TV show as it is more about Tom Cruise than the team. But on its own, it’s a terrific spy yarn with double crosses and reveals and everyone is on top its game. The plot, while complex, works like a clockwork. It’s great.

    The second one suffers from being a Woo-lite film. It really wants to be a true, kinetic John Woo action film, but ends up just aping the superficial qualities what makes his Hong Kong films great. I don’t know if it’s because of the restrictions placed on him by the star, the franchise, the studio, the rating or what. It’s kind of enjoyable as a Hollywood Woo-like Action Film starring Tom Cruise, but not really any sort of good M:I movie.

    The third one just looks and feels like a generic TV movie. The action set pieces are small and unimaginative (apart from the Vatican sequence), and Abrams completely misjudges the franchise by trying to inject Felicity-grade droll relationship drama into. The core concept with the TV show and these films is that the characters are cyphers defined in broad strokes – they *are* what they *do*. The mission is what matters and what’s interesting, not finding out how hard Ethan Hunt’s domestic life is. Philip Seymour Hoffman was aces, though, even if the final conflict with him was a total shit cake.

    Looks to me the fourth one gets it right. There is the Team, and there is the Mission. Throw in the goal, place some seemingly impossible obstacles, and light the fuse. Pepper in some character moments to ground the action without sacrificing the momentum, and it’s all good. That’s it. Easier said than done, of course. But while it seems the movie might have worked better if the Dubai sequence was the finale as it is no doubt the high point, it still doesn’t drop the ball and manages to end very well. Brad Bird has knocked it out of the park.

  9. Mr M, maybe you sat too close to the Imax screen?

  10. I really enjoyed the third Mission Impossible so I’ll likely go see this.

    Vern, how does this compare to Fast Five? They are both doing the whole “film series that has way more sequels than anyone thought possible but holy shit they keep getting better so I hope Fast and Furious will have more sequels than Friday the 13th” thing going on, so I’m curious to see which you liked better.

  11. CJ, it’s possible, but the only parts I really liked were the parts on the tower, which made the most use of the Imax screen. I think it just did something to rub me the wrong way (I suspect I found the hand-to-hand scenes unsatisfying, which tends to kill a movie for me), and because I was drunk, I took needless offense and started a fight. And because it was a movie and not an Australian bare-knuckle boxer, I didn’t get to buy it a beer and become bros for life afterward.

    Really, I just need to see it again with different expectations. I went in expecting fluid action and got more of the same choppy crap. Next time I’ll be able to judge it on its own terms.

  12. I think this is the best action movie I’ve seen in at least a few years. It has a couple of things that Hollywood refuses to do properly these days – perfect pacing and clearly shot action. The Burj Dubai sequence was mind-bending in IMAX, especially since I have a fear of heights.

    I personally loved the revolving car garage fight, because Hunt gets beaten to a fucking pulp in that scene. It brought to mind Die Hard more than Bond.

    I do think they missed an opportunity in not making Tom Wilkinson the bad guy. Would’ve been a lot more memorable than playing the secretary of exposition.

  13. RRA, Tintin racist? Elaborate?

  14. I had the same problem as Mr. M, but I’ve had the same problem with all the M:I movies. I think it boils down to the fact that I just don’t give a single fuck about Ethan Hunt and whatever peril he’s in. It seems like Cruise and the producers seem to try to make him a sentimental superman but it just never clicks with me. I want to like the movies, I enjoy the action, but it’s like a Star Wars prequel for me. It has all the elements I usually like but none of it clicks.

  15. Darth Irritable- look up TINTIN IN THE CONGO.

  16. RRA – “Some people should be fired for the genius to dump M:I 4, TATTOO CHICK KILLS PEOPLE, Adventures of Racist Belgian Kid all on the same day. ”

    So potentially the three most disappointing movies of the year all come out at the very end of it? Yeah, I could see why that would be a problem. Personally speaking I love David Fincher, enjoyed “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” novel, grew up with the Tintin graphic novels, and have made my feelings about the “Mission: Impossible” series abundantly clear. So it looks like potentially a very bad Christmas for me, movie-wise. At least the Tintin movie is supposed to be pretty good.

    Assfeast – if they’d have made Tom Wilkinson the bad guy, they would basically have been ripping off “Rush Hour”. I don’t think there are any more atrocious ideas you could fit into the “Mission: Impossible” series, after somehow turning the intelligent super-observant stealth spy that Tom Cruise is in MI:1 into the dick-led moron from MI:2 and 3, but ripping off “Rush Hour” would’ve been right up there.

  17. “if they’d have made Tom Wilkinson the bad guy, they would basically have been ripping off “Rush Hour”.”
    And about 70% of action spy movies.

  18. I saw this on the big screen last week and loved it.

    The action was easy to follow, and better still what propelled the action was just how wrong all their ideas went. Usually these movies present clockwork plans carried out by perfectly-calibrated, empty gear-like characters. Not this movie though. This movie, everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. Can’t get into the server, must go outside. Gloves that help you outside? Don’t work. While you’re outside the people you’re planning to replace? They’re early. Must delay, but while delayed your mask device stops working. Get back downstairs and are forced to gamble that the people you’re meeting don’t know the people you’re replacing. Gamble works, but bad girl still spots you.

    And so on. It was so much about how human beings have to scramble when plans a,b,& c fall through. That’s when the innate badassness (sp?) of the characters really comes through, and the movie really delivers.

    In all, good stuff. I encourage Mr. M to give it another shot, but harbor no ill will to his contrary opinion, because my sources on the street tell me he smells fantastic today.

  19. Tintin is racist the same way Wily Wonka is racist.

    In Wonka, the Oompa Loompas were originally black people. And when I say black, I mean Africans. In later incarnations they’ve been of course changed to something that doesn’t immediately cause your head to implode in cultural shame, but I don’t remember anyone screaming racism when Burton’s film came out.

    Same thing with Tintin. The Congo book is somewhat hard to find and people don’t really regard it as part of the classic Tintin collection or a true representation of the character.

    Mostly everyone just want to forget it ever existed. These things are just relics of their time and shouldn’t really judged as an indication what these stories mean, their cultural significance, and how these works should be viewed as a whole.

  20. Stu – oh, I have no problem with the token English guy turning out to be the evil bastard. We’re good at it.

  21. I meant more the “hero’s superior played by a well known actor turns out to be the villain” trope.

  22. HT – there are plenty of (justified) accusations of Enid Blyton being racist. Doesn’t make her books any less compulsively readable though. And Disney shine out like a giant beacon in any discussion about past racism. I think you’re right, you just have to take these things as a representation of how times have changed.

    Stu – well, they did it in the original “Mission: Impossible”, and it worked brilliantly. Everyone here knows by now that I give “Mission: Impossible 3” credit for exactly one scene that contains anything original, exciting, or even vaguely interesting, and they get that out of the way before the credits roll. After that it’s a massive slab of who-gives-a-shit, where scene after scene rips off other movies badly without ever adding to them or producing a likeable character or interesting story arc. (Yeah, my hatred for that worthless piece of mediocrity hasn’t exactly decreased over time; can you tell?) I would actually have respected it more if it had gone down the same route as the original film and used the “evil boss” trope, but no, it had to bring in Lawrence Fishburne and his partner, the Ineffective White Guy Who Tempts the Hero And Turns out to be Secretly Evil instead. You know, just like every other film Fishburne has ever been in.

    Y’know what, I’m just going to post this, then shut up about this franchise until I’ve seen this film. Clearly I have nothing to say about it that isn’t bitching. At least some people have liked #4. I suspect I’ll have the same reaction as Majestyk did initially, but maybe “Ghost Protocol” isn’t quite as aggressively pointless and artistically unambitious (the cardinal sin of filmmaking, for me) as MI:3 was.

  23. And just when I was feeling as though MI:4 couldn’t possibly miss the point as hard as MI:3 did… I’ve just looked at the credits on IMDB and noticed that J. J. Abrams is credited as a producer of MI:4 as well as MI:3. God help us all.

    Well, there goes that little bit of totally unjustified optimism.

  24. Fuck this was a great action movie.I’m not a huge fan or either Tom Cruise or the MI franchise in general but this movie had me sitting there with a shit-eating grin on my face it’s entire running time. More than anything I was curious to see how Brad Birds first foray into action would pan out. As a father with a child around 3 I’ve watched the Incredibles and Ratatouille more than just about any other movie the last few years and the guy is a master at what he does.

    You touched it on it briefly in your review but the sequence where Pegg and Cruise use the water leaking sound device combined with that image rendering screen was at the same time insanely tense and hilarious. My favorite set-piece of the year in an action movie.

    I was sad to see Josh Holloway’s addition to the series end so quick, especially after the roof jumping scene. The guy could have taken over for Cruise if he didn’t want to make more and they wanted to keep the series going after a few years. I brought it up in an older thread a while back but if they ever re-boot the Escape from wherever films that guy would be the perfect Snake Plisken.

    Solid fucking film though. Not my favorite film of the year but easily my favorite action film,sorry Hanna you’re no. 2 now. I have yet to see Fast Five though.

    You plan on seeing WarHorse or Tintin at the cinema Vern?

  25. I’m a little shocked by Mr. M’s hatred of MI4 (in the other thread), it just doesn’t seem like a movie anyone would actively HATE. I think it’s definitely overrated, but it’s well-made, good-natured and I kinda like *SPOILERS* that it ends on a really positive note with nobody turning mole and the two cameos at the end. I do agree w/ Mr. M that the hand to hand fight scenes aren’t that much different from most of the fight scenes we’ve been getting recently. I will also go out on a limb and say the tower scene (i saw it in IMAX, btw) was awesome but not as awesome as it’s being made out to be. I thought the bank vault sequence in the first one (or any number of Depalma directed sequences, actually) was better. It was like a mini-movie, an instant classic, like the T-Rex Jeep scene in Jurassic Park, where the tower scene in this just seems like a really cool scene.

    Some questions/nitpicks: what was the point of the villain pretending to be his own henchman in the sandstorm scene? And how did he know Hunt, et. al were going to be in the Kremlin so he could pin the bombing on them? Was there a mole after all? Who shot up the car, killing Wilkinson? I guess those guys were cops because the Fred Armisen-looking dude got them to stop shooting? And what was the point of going to Mumbai? I know globe-hopping in any of these (or Bond) movies is pretty gratuitous, but it seems to me they went to get a code from a guy that had nothing to do with anything.

    Anyway, I still prefer MI3’s human aspects and story (and strong villain) to this one, but this definitely had the better action scenes, bigger feel and scope. A combination of the two movies would have made it a classic.

  26. Just to clarify, I wasn’t suggesting they make the Tom Wilkinson character the bad guy – just that they should have cast Tom Wilkinson in the villain’s role. Because he rules.

  27. Right on HT.
    A good portion of comics all have their akward historical moments. Green Lantern’s sidekick Pieface, the guy in The Spirit, and of course the grotesque “chinamen” that Cap was punching on a regular basis. It’s horribly embaressing to see now, and while it shouldn’t be forgotten, it doesn’t make the entire property racist. Unless they’re still pulling that shit today (which it’s more likely to see a gay stereotype or helpless female these days, especially if yer reading a Lobdell book).

    Also, what’s up with American kids younger than me saying they grew up reading Tintin? That shit wasn’t even available over here until a few years ago, right?

  28. Did anybody else think that the bad guy had a ridiculous motive? He wanted to set off a nuke to start a nuclear war because Earth has huge extinction level events all the time. Huh? What the hell kind of sense does that make as a motivation for somebody? Why does he feel this way? Did his religion lead him to this belief? Was he part of a cult? Is there a S.P.E.C.T.R.E. or a Q.U.A.N.T.U.M. in this series?

  29. The action in this was indeed well-done and there were some very impressive stunts and special effects, but for some reason I didn’t think the movie was particularly exciting (although that part where Cruise and Pegg sneak around in the Kremlin was very cool). I guess it might just come down to personal preference; I tend to like action that might be considered more straightforward or conventional, like a shootout or hand-to-hand fight. I also thought Paula Patton was a noticeably weak link in the acting department. There were a few scenes where she’s talking to Renner or Cruise and she just didn’t seem to be on the same level as them. Maggie Q was far more convincing in the same type of role in MI3.

    Anyone spot Darren Shahlavi from Ip Man 2 as one of the female assassin’s henchman? As soon as I saw him, I was expecting some kind of extended fight between him and Cruise or Renner, but he got his ass kicked in a few seconds.

  30. Sort of with Mr. M on this one. Wouldn’t say the action is choppy, but it’s not particularly fluid either — Hanna, Fast Five, and Tintin all impressed me more on that score. By expanding the focus from Cruise to a team, MI4 has less time to develop more characters; with the exception of Renner, everyone’s pretty cardboard. Plus, while it’s fun to watch a team in action when their sub-mission might change the story (like the room switch in Dubai), it becomes more and more tedious to shift back and forth between spies to get to a resolution that’s inevitable (SPOILER: Armageddon doesn’t happen.)

    Good call on asking why the bad guy is masked as a henchman at one point. I’d also ask why the nifty Kremlin hall projection was used when it was so easy to defeat. My guess is that the writers might like to build a story around cool stuff, but eventually everyone settles for shiny distractions instead of what connects and underlies them. Harrumph.

  31. Joe – I thought that was Shalahvi, but I didn’t notice his name on the credits. I guess I could’ve missed him or he could just be credited as a stuntman. Anyway, I did the exact same thing: I was waiting for more of a fight. No respect for Twister.

  32. Anthony – Tintin has been available over here (the UK) for years and years now.

  33. The car park climax was my favorite sequence. I was really glad they had something even better than the building scene to finish with. It’s kind of like a Jackie Chan sequence, only just gritty enough that no one can complain it’s silly.

    Vern, you had me worried in the opening paragraph. Good fake out.

    I actually saw this twice, second time in a fake digital Imax theater and it was horrible. Do make sure to see it in proper Imax, and if you can’t I’d probably say stick with a normal widescreen theater until it’s on Blu-ray.

  34. Aside from, as mentioned above, Hendricks’ motivation being a tad muddled (though I did dig the toss-one-off explanation that he’s a genuis psycho), what I really couldn’t get behind was that he could hold his own quite nicely in a brawl for it all (that I thought was a nod at Spielberg & Cruise’s Minority Report) – ok, yeah, he’s a psychotic physicist, but when did he become an utter fucking badass, in his spare time? I can sorta buy Ethan and Renner and the team being badasses and sorta geniuses in their own right, but when did Hendricks take up gunfu? To attain that level of utter badassdom, one has to train from a pretty young age – at least under 25 or so, if Neal Stephenson has taught me anything. Did he take up asskicking when he decided nuclear annihilation and thus the post-apocalyptic wasteland to follow one would need those sort of skills to avoid becoming the butt-fucked sad boy?

    That said, those two big wtf’s were my only gripes – I’m kinda split on the way Bird filmed the action set-pieces; aside from the prison break and the climb Mt. Dubai skyscraper, they were adequate, but nothing matched or came near the incredible action sequences of The Incredibles.

    Oh, and CJ, that first post of yours that kicks off these comments is the best thing I’ve ever read from you – and while you don’t know it, we go way back to AICN and the Zone. Kudos for that post good sir.

  35. Maximilian, they mention that Hendricks is ex-special forces at some point, which explains his badassery at the end.

  36. I saw GP, and I’ll say something controversial: M:I IV is practically a touch-up of #3, and considering this was Brad Bird’s first live-action movie….he made a better M:I movie than J.J. Abrams. (or Woo for that matter.) Particularly clever was the sand storm sequence.

    So is Abrams as a filmmaker….overrated?

    (oh and Vern, when you reviewing TINTIN? Spielberg’s most entertaining effort since CATCH ME IF YOU CAN.)

  37. Maximilian: I would take this as a compliment, but basically you are saying that I posted nothing but shit during the last six years and that made me cry.
    (Just kidding, of course. Thanks, man.)

  38. RRA: Nobody ever said that Abrams’ M:I movie was impossible to top and/or that he is the greatest filmmaker ever, so I doubt that your opinion is controversial at all.

  39. Flash – really? Well ok then, fair enough. Guy must’ve had a phenomenal resume.

    RRA – JJ can direct the hell out of lens flares though.

  40. Paul:

    Yeah, i thought so, that’s why i said American. It seems like it’d be difficult to import books to the US especially before Amazon came around, especially for struggling parents.
    You Britts get a lot of cool stuff we don’t. like that Phantasm orb set :(
    Lucky.

  41. This was genuinely awesome. Though the transformation from “guy who got beat up by Jon Voight” in part one to “Guy who can survive an explosion at the Kremlin and then jump off buildings” is a bit overkill.

    SPOILER
    I love how Vern translates “while I get shot in the head” to “while I am briefly distracted”.

  42. CJ – This web sight didn’t, but the Internet seems to think he’s hot shit. Based on that perception, I was simply asking in general if he’s as good as that rep. Anyway I was simply wanting to broadly ask the peanut gallery (i.e. Internets) their thoughts.

    No I didn’t accuse you of saying Abrams is a god or his movie was the best of the series (only #3 in ranking), of the directorial efforts of his, all have been decent*. (though M:I 3 I saw at the time, was merely watchable and nothing really more special without Hoffman. But I need to rewatch it to be fair.) But that said, compared to at least Bird (both animation & live-action), I just think Bird is clearly the better filmmaker so far of the two.

    Maxi – Flares are his bitch, yo.

    *=I also remember liking his produced CLOVERFIELD at the time too.

  43. The thing is that Abrams did not become such a geek favourite for being an an awesome director, but more by making captivating (although at times unbelievable nonsensical) TV shows. If I remember right, (too lazy to check IMDB), M:I 3 was his feature film directorial debut. He got the job because Cruise was a fan of Abrams show ALIAS and even though its pilot, which he directed, and the pilot of LOST, which he directed too, are seriously damn good, he didn’t have nearly the reputation, that any of the other M:I directors had.
    So when he was announced, the nerds were more like “Well, we love his TV stuff, but he never made a multi-million action movie for theatres, so it might suck, especially after we got teased for years with Fincher on the director’s chair” and then when they saw it: “Wow, that was good, and not just compared to John Woo’s shitfest.”
    Also post his M:I job, it helped his reputation in nerdyland that his STAR TREK reboot had disaster written all over it (who wanted to see that?), but turned out to be seriously good!

    So the point is: Abrams is a nerd favourite for several reasons, his M:I movie has many fans, but except for some hardcore fanboys, I doubt anybody would get mad at you for preferring the Bird and his movie.

  44. RRA – the Interets may think Abrams is hot shit. I think he’s more cold diarrhoea.

    The annoying thing about “Lost” – which I watched until about halfway through Season 3 or so – and “Alias” – was that they were bad, but they were also compulsive. I did, eventually, watch all five seasons of “Alias”. It wasn’t worth it. I watched two and a half seasons of “Lost” before I decided that it still wasn’t worth it.

    The annoying thing is that if you somehow manage to ignore the cardboard characters played by first-rate actors, the not-half-as-clever-as-it-thinks-it-is use of flashbacks and flash-forwards, the non-sensical storylines that are clearly not planned more than one or two episodes in advance, the frequent idiotic “twists” that don’t really change anything and take the place of real character development, the fact that Abrams has a penchant for sourpuss petulant leading ladies (Kate? Sydney Bristow?) that made Season Six’s emo-Buffy look positively likeable by comparison, and the added annoyance factor that a lot of money and talent has clearly been spent making this pretentiously moronic drivel look and sound as good as possible – if you somehow manage to ignore ALL of that – the most irritating thing about Abrams is that, as unappealing as his shows are on every level except the purely superficial, they’re also compulsively watchable.

    I think of him as the TV equivalent of heroin. It’s fiendishly addictive, and if you stop taking it you get serious withdrawal symptoms. If you KEEP taking it though, you feel guilty, you know it does you no good at all, and you begin to start hating yourself for it. He’s the king of the pretty-but-pointless.

  45. I’ll give Abrams one thing though: he has a talent for pulling a fantastic scene out of nowhere. I think of the first scene in “Mission: Impossible 3” as an example of this. Also as an example of this: the scene, in a VERY early episode of “Lost”, where a character discovers that he can walk for the first time in twenty years, apparently due to a miracle. That was… powerful. Also the mild-mannered prisoner, played by Zep from “Saw”, looking up at his jailer Sayid just after some of the other characters have stopped Sayid from torturing him, when nobody but Sayid and the audience can see him, and the expression of concentrated malevolence on his face. Genuinely scary moment there. Little things like that.

    Plus, several times in both “Alias” and “Lost”, Abrams showed himself to be an unexpectedly skilled writer at pulling off a good whodunnit. I always appreciate that. Which makes it all the more baffling that he didn’t use that obvious skill in the case of “Mission: Impossible 3”. Producer interference or he just didn’t care?

    So yeah, I guess the moral of the story is that even a broken clock is right twice a day, etc, etc.

    Oh, and I liked Sawyer in “Lost”. Some genuinely good writing there. Not sure how much Abrams had to do with it but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on that one.

  46. CJ – Don’t forget, M:I 3 came out a year after Cruise had his public meltdown and many months his own (pathetic) supposed showdown with Paramount over that one SOUTH PARK episode on that one cult.

    Not to mention that after Fincher left, Neil Carnahan (before the Net turned against him) came close to directing but flinched out. So yeah you’re right, Abrams had alot of “PR flak” going against him so I’ll give you that.

    As for STAR TREK, I don’t remember at the time that much Internet flak against him since you know, he was the ALIAS/LOST dude. Sure people (cough *AsimovLives*) bitched about the Enterprise bridge looking like a Wal-Mart Pharmacy, which to a degree I agreed (still do.) Of course maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the Net at that time because I was rather indifferent to that project at the time, no love or hate regardless.*

    Not writing this post, I’m reminded of a websight list (was it IGN? I can’t remember who precisely) which argued that it was either Abrams or Nolan who was the “next Spielberg.” A stupid notion but whatever. (I still vividly remember that infamous Newsweek cover which gave M. Night Shymalan that moniker. YEAH.)

    *=Strange since I was once a big STAR TREK watcher (not fan, big difference) but after the last two TREK movies just sucked and ENTERPRISE was rather lame the few times I caught it on TV…I quit giving a shit about that whole universe or “franchise” as the industrbeebees would call it.

  47. I remember people on the internet were SCARILY obsessed with Tom Cruise in 2006 after his meltdown

  48. About Abrams’ TV Shows-isn’t it pretty commonly accepted that he wasn’t that heavily involved with LOST after he did the pilot, and it was mostly Damon Lindeloff running things? Sure he’s still executive producing these shows and came up with the basic outline I imagine, but he’s delegated a lot. Btw, why does nobody ever mention FRINGE when talking about his shows? I find that a really good one, and while it does have a mystery behind it, the story that’s at the forefront is actually pretty clear cut (stories of the week about weird science stuff that has to be investigated, and an ongoing mythology plotline about dealings with a parallell Earth), and it has John Noble playing the world’s most endearing mentally ill scientist. The episode where he’s babysitting and tells a story to the kid that presents the characters in the form of a hybrid of film noir and musicals is a classic.

  49. I’d love to get my hands on the scripts for the would-be MI3 from the Fincher and Carnahan era.

    I recall hearing it was going to be something about the team heading to Africa, and the film being about illegal organ trading (although those two might have been separate ideas). I remember at one time, the film was going to have Scarlett Johansson and Carrie-Anne Moss in it, and Kenneth Branagh as the bad guy.

    A fascinating what-if of film history. Just like all the unused versions of INDIANA JONES 4.

  50. Stu – heeheeheehee! J J Abrams did “Fringe”? That incredibly pretentious yet dumb-as-a-post show that is a cross between Scooby Doo, MacGyver, and the X-Files? I LOVE THIS. Seriously. I don’t think anybody has validated one of my arguments as conclusively and immediately as you just have. Thank you. *Bows.*

    (Seriously… I watched a couple of episodes of “Fringe” and thought it was actually pretty good. I couldn’t take it half as seriously as it seemed to be taking itself, though. And it definitely falls into pretty much all of the points I mentioned above about “Lost” and “Alias”.)

  51. I find the John Woo more a shitload more entertaining than the Abrams one. There I said it. MI:2 >>>>> MI: III because at least it doesn’t feel made for TV and wasn’t something that I turned off half and hour into it because it was so boring. Can’t wait to see this one though on the IMAX screen.

    I heard Bird came up with some intense setpieces even though it’s still style over substance like the other sequels. That’s fine with me. I don’t think anybody will ever top DePalma’s movie anyway so I don’t kid myself around anymore. Just nice to hear that the Cruiser may be in something watchable again.

  52. Just got back from it and I had a lot of fun with it. Liked the action, liked the humour and the characters, and I can see in a lot of places the Brad Bird influence. The whole way the prison escape worked felt Pixary with the way it’s very orchestrated and there’s a lot of well timed moments that make everything happen, if that makes sense. The villains are a bit of a weak link though, having a flimsy motivation and not really having much of a presence. The team’s REAL primary opposition is just shitty luck and misunderstanding that forces them to keep improvising. Other nitpicks, which require going into SPOILER territory:

    -Okay, so what was the whole chain of events leading to Ethan in prison? Was the WHOLE thing with the wife staged, or just the fact she died? In other words, did they take advantage of her being kidnapped by actual serbians(after killing some in order to save her), or did they stage that, have Ethan KILL a bunch of foreign nationals so he could go to prison, or what? And did IMF actually know Hendricks was planning something like this at the time? Because Ethan said he was sent to that prison because it was suspected the guy had contacts there. So…Ethan should have recognised Hendricks at the Kremlin, right? And went for him there, basically stopping this whole crisis before it starts? Or did IMF just know “someone” had connections in that prison and was planning something, and Ethan is just referring to him as Hendricks in hindsight?
    -Why does Hendricks go to the trouble of impersonating his own lieutenant in Dubai? Did he just not trust him enough? It just seemed like them thinking “Oh shit! We need to have more of the main villain doing stuff so the climax doesn’t seem to come out of nowhere!”
    -It kind of rubbed me the wrong way how Ethan is kinda cool with that Russian agent who was chasing him at the end. Was the guy still not responsible for the Director’s death? Which is something in itself you’d think could cause a conflict between the US and Russia, doesn’t it? He’s even apologising to the guy before he tosses him down the escalator.
    -I wish they’d kept the reveal about Brandt being more than just an analyst out of the trailers. It would have been more surprising to have it just happen in the movie since I thought Renner did a good job of APPEARING to be a guy with no field experience up till then, plus the way it’s framed in the trailer, the character seemed a lot more antagonistic to Ethan, like he had a reason to hate him, which was in fact the opposite of how things turned out. I even postulated in Potpourri when the first trailer came out that maybe he’d turn out to be Jim Phelps’ son or something, who was being a bit conflicted about Ethan.
    -What exactly is Ethan’s marital status at the end? Because if they’re really split up, you’d think him letting her see him watch her would actually be more hurtfull, but it actually makes her smile. So…are they still together, but sort of having to make it work long distance, or what? And if so, why is he still with IMF? This kind of goes to the thing above where I’m confused about them faking her death. If it was entirely staged, then doesn’t that prove that Ethan’s loved ones are only at risk from people he’s actively engaged with on a mission? I mean, presumably Phillip Seymour Hoffman is the only instance of someone going after her. If Ethan’s retired, I don’t think there’d really be that much of a trail back to him from people wanting revenge from past missions, if he’s that good.
    -No Ghosts, Vern? He disappears from the shot right at the very end! HE WAS DEAD THE WHOLE TIME!

  53. Yeah I know the nitpicks took up more space than my praise, but I just had to go into more detail with what I meant there, and the stuff I was saying was good everyone else’s has already commented on. I forgot to add how I LOVED what they did with the Opening Titles, as it’s basically an updated version of how the TV Show would basically have a montage of the subsequent story too. Also, if Abrams is still executive producing, maybe we could get Leonard Nimoy in the next movie as the new director, since he was in the tv show too.

  54. Broddie: you made that point as though it was somehow contentious… I don’t find it so, myself! I’d agree with everything you say and I’m sure a lot of other people would say the same…

    MI:4 is Cruise’s worst performance in a “Mission: Impossible” movie, with the possible exception of #2, where it was generally understood by everyone involved that Cruise’s hairstyle would have to do a lot more acting than Cruise himself. That said… I preferred it to MI:3. The team have characters (not particularly well or in-depth portrayed characters, sure, but at least they’re memorable as individuals), the villain is definitely weak, and once again the ending is shoddy. (Yeah, it’s a “Mission: Impossible” movie, what’s new?) Remember when John Travolta rode a nuclear missile off the front of a train in “Broken Arrow”? How come we don’t see THOSE deaths any more?

    So… very flawed, ending and villain are weak, and I’m not a huge fan of “look how much can go wrong”-type scenarios. But I still thought it was better than MI:3 or MI:2.

    My biggest complaint with MI:4? The scoring. MI:2 had excellent cinematography and scoring. MI:3 was a bit of a mixed bag in that several of the themes, especially at the start of the film, were excrutiating; but a lot of the ones near the end – especially when P S Hoffman is using the Cruiser as a punching bag late on, and also the bit where the traitor’s identity is revealed – are genuinely great. The original Mission: Impossible had as great a score as it did everything else. MI:4 frequently irritated me with its mediocre scoring, which seemed to be the first few bars of the “Mission: Impossible” theme tune awkwardly shoehorned into whatever mood music was needed at the time. I’ve heard a lot worse, but I’ve certainly heard better as well.

  55. Undead Paul – never watched FRINGE, only because of that DAWSON’S CREEK guy. Sorry.

    Stu – better yet, how about the fact that Russians are still the bad guys at the movies, even though they’ve fallen hard from their Soviet reliable baddie days. They have the GDP of Turkey for fucks sake! Putin is a bad guy, I know HOllywood doesn’t want to piss off their new China market, and Middle East is too hot (either afraid of being called racist, or aiding the Neocons) but really, unless somebody pulls a new intriguing twist…can we retire Russians as the villains for now?

    (The Russian mob though, they’re still fine. Seagal has to kill somebody in his DTV movies.)

  56. Well Russia weren’t technically bad guys here, since at the end of the day, they come out of all this as the biggest victims, and you do need someone with nukes for this sort of thing. Maybe it would have been interesting if instead of Russia, it had been the UK, playing off the supposed “special relationship” being broken, and you could have had the SAS and MI6 on the team’s tail. Though if it was the UK, you’d need a pretty good reason for IMF to have to break into Parliament or something.

  57. So I’m watching the first season of FRINGE. Maybe someone can answer the following questions:

    – Is the lead actress actually going to act at some point, or am I just supposed to accept that duckface equals acting on network TV? Seriously, if I wanted to watch stylish pouting for an hour I could find The Fashion Network on my TV.

    – Are they going to complicate the wacky mad scientist character at all, or will I continue to squirm uncomfortably at this kooky Joseph Mengele schtick when I watch the show with Jewish friends?

    – Has J.J. Abrams produced anything that wasn’t laughably over-plotted?

    – Same question as above, substituting “mind-numbingly literal” for “over-plotted.”

    – When people complain about minimalism and techno being used as scores, is FRINGE what they’re thinking of as an example of good scoring? Because this bombastic shit is worse than the original DRAGON TATTOO movie.

    – Did someone tell Abrams that THE X-FILES would have been better if they shied away from the inherent preposterousness of the premise, if they got all realistic about the paranormal and tried to pretend that B-movie genre shlock had some relevance in a post 9/11 world? Because that person is wrong and should be fired.

    – Is this where writers of 24 go when they die?

    – Since they cannibalized the Big Evil Corporation plotline straight from the carcass of the SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES, right down to the ambiguous red-headed robot lady, should I look for the undigested remains of any other recently-cancelled shows as the plot develops, like DOLLHOUSE or NIP/TUCK?

    – Do they lose those big blocks of text situated over the establishing shots? Because those are annoying.

    – How the fuck is Dawson Creek not the worst thing about this show? Can they share this technology with the cast of THE FACTS OF LIFE? I’d like to see Tootie again in something.

    – Do they have an episode where Chief Daniels finds his way back to his proper timeline, the one where he stars in quality HBO ensembles, not Whedon-lite pot boilers?

  58. Wow, Jareth, I thought it was unintentionally hilarious, but you genuinely seem to hate it! I have to say, I didn’t think the acting or scoring was that bad – hell, some of the more horror-themed scoring I thought was pretty effective. I dunno what Joshua Jackson has done to make people hate him (besides “Cursed”, which, ok, is a pretty good reason). As for the other two… well, let’s just say the lead female doesn’t exactly break the mould of lead females in J J Abrams’ world, and the old guy gets seriously annoying at times.

    But in all fairness I can’t answer your questions because I couldn’t get beyond episode five or six. So… yeah.

    On a completely different subject, dunno if you get it over in America, but right now we have a “World of Warcraft” advert showing on the tellybox featuring Chuck Norris kicking a rhinocerous in the face. I guess they guy had to do SOMETHING to raise his profile before “The Expendables 2″…

  59. Paul: I’m going to wait and see if FRINGE gets any better before I decide whether or not I hate it; I’m only on episode four. The fans keep telling me to stick it out for a while because it gets better, and I suppose if I can sit through all of DOLLHOUSE I can sit through this. But I’m pretty sure it won’t improve much; my problems with the show run pretty deep into its DNA. Joshua Jackson is the least of the show’s problems, though THE SUMMER GLAUMINATOR CHRONICLES did a better job rescuing that 90210 dude’s reputation.

    Also, that Chuck Norris advertisement is all over Red Letter Media. Maybe that’s why Plinkett sounds so pissed off when he introduces Half in the Bag.

  60. Stu – Oh man, a M:I remix of FOURTH PROTOCOL? Fuck yeah. (Now that one was a solid spy thriller. James Bond as the evil Russian agent.)

    Come to think of it, I’m surprised they never considered playing off that whole nasty Pakistan/India nuclear dynamic. I mean why not?

  61. Don’t get the MI:1 love. DePalma utterly destroyed the suspense by revealing that Cruise had worked out the not-dead Voight was the baddie well before the train sequence. Why? Why have Voight reappear with an apparently believable story and then the very next moment destroy it?

  62. Wow, Jareth. I’m not a FRINGE fan*, but somehow your post made even me want to stand up and defend the show! (Don’t worry, I won’t. I’m too lazy today.)

    *Well, I loved the 1st season, when it was mostly just a typical crime drama, with a SciFi twist (as in “someone got murdered, but instead of getting shot in the back, he got vaporized by some laser gun and now they have to find out who did it, why and how he was able to create such a gun”), but then they blew it with a a story arc, that was even for me too stupid and by the end of season 3, I was so mad at the show that I stopped watching it.

  63. “Don’t get the MI:1 love. DePalma utterly destroyed the suspense by revealing that Cruise had worked out the not-dead Voight was the baddie well before the train sequence. Why? Why have Voight reappear with an apparently believable story and then the very next moment destroy it?”
    Actually, I’ve always been uncertain if that was meant to show that Cruise had worked it out, or if it was showing Phelps visualising what really happened, in an attempt to create tension for the audience by letting US know something Ethan doesn’t.

  64. That Ethan/Phelps scene is amazing. I agree with Stu, and will go even further: Making Phelps the bad guy at this point and in this manner (esp. by showing events that contradict what we’re hearing described) pulls the rug out from under the first-time viewer because it’s not the way important info gets parceled out in most movies. Even if the viewer thinks they get it, there’s some doubt because of the timing, the ambiguity, and the fact that they’re now questioning Phelps.

    The Phelps-as-bad-guy angle got a lot of angry ink back then, as did the complaint that the movie was too confusing for many audiences. And sure enough, the movie’s business fell off much faster than spoonfeeders like Twister and Independence Day. I’m not sure there’s been a franchise movie since that dared to even temporarily let its audience feel temporarily dislocated …

  65. Inspector Li:

    “The Phelps-as-bad-guy angle got a lot of angry ink back then, as did the complaint that the movie was too confusing for many audiences.”

    This is the one thing I blame AICN for. They PANNED this film, for the most part. They didn’t “get” it. And so we got MI:2, MI:3 and MI:4… and although I didn’t hate MI:2 and MI:4, to say they’re not as good as MI:1 is a massive understatement.

    Stu:

    “Actually, I’ve always been uncertain if that was meant to show that Cruise had worked it out, or if it was showing Phelps visualising what really happened, in an attempt to create tension for the audience by letting US know something Ethan doesn’t.”

    Ethan worked it out. There’s a brilliant moment where it shows a shot of Emanuelle Beart blowing up the car with the agent in it, and then Ethan shakes his head, says “no”, and it switches to Jon Voight doing the same thing. As though Ethan doesn’t want to face the fact that Beart may have done it. There’s so much ambiguity there – just how close is he to her? How much are Phelps’ suspicions justified? etc.

    There’s about a dozen scenes like this which could have “multiple meanings”. Watch the scene where the knife drops again, for example. Then look at Cruise’s expression. Is he horrified because the guy’s going to find the knife there, or is it because he’s just realised that it’s an identical knife to the one that killed Kristin Scott Thomas and that the guy who’s right behind him was the person who murdered her? ALL of this is suggested by a single backwards glance. It’s a brilliant piece of direction and, I have to say, the best “straight protagonist” performance I can think of outside of Kurt Russell in “The Thing”.

  66. All I knew about MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE was that stupid late 80’s TV series and the famous theme song back in 1996. I went into DePalma’s movie a 12 year old kid that just wanted an entertaining movie. That movie ended up blowing my fucking mind.

    Like I didn’t give a fuck that Jim Phelps was the bad guy; Jon Voight was fucking brilliant in that shit. I love his batshit acting when the twist comes in and the re-enactment. Henry Czerny was fucking legend in this shit and actually made the midget Cruiser seem intimidating by playing a great foil and getting Tom to step up with quality acting in a blockbuster. The MIGHTY DUCKS guy got killed off. Danny Elfman’s score was the shit. That movie just fired on all cylinders as far as I’m concerned.

    Was so good I went back to see it at the dollar cinema months later. Too bad the sequels were all just “eh”. Though I still haven’t seen this one but it’s technically a spinoff and not a sequel or something. Cause you know the lack of number and all.

  67. How can I forgot that the movie had some of the most awesome action setpieces of that day. Classic shit with the infamous rope scene and the way DePalma lays all that out. Masterful. That was the movie of that summer not INDEPENDENCE DAY (ID4 makes no fucking sense as an abbreviation).

  68. *forget

    LMAO damn weed and liquor.

  69. ya know I actually saw the original Mission: Impossible in theaters back in 1996, but I’m 22 years old and 1996 is a long fucking time ago for a 22 year old, so I don’t remember much about it, I have not seen it since, I guess it’s really ripe for a re-watch eh?

    as a matter of fact, the first movie that I have a clear memory of seeing in theaters is The Lost World: Jurassic Park in 1997, anything prior to that I only remember vaguely, like I can tell you that I saw it, but that’s about it

    I saw Toy Story in theaters, I saw The Hunchback of Notre Dame in theaters and I saw The Lion King in theaters, but in all those cases I only remember very, very little

    I actually did see Jurassic Park in theaters way back in 1993, but I only remember one scene (the scene where Grant pretends to be electrocuted to scare the kids, I remember the whole theater laughed), I do remember that it knocked me on my ass though

  70. I was doing some research and kept seeing mention of a John Woo 3.5 hour cut of MI2 but no details. Was any record ever made of it? I’m sure a lot of it was rough assembly but what was in there? Are there any sources for such things?

    Also funny they went from numerical MI2 to Roman numeral MIIII, prompting a hilarious pronunciation by Stephen Colbert. I still like to call it “Miiiiiiiiiii…”

  71. I’ve been marinating on a couple comments from this thread, made by Mr. M and Joe:

    “I suspect I found the hand-to-hand scenes unsatisfying, which tends to kill a movie for me”

    “I guess it might just come down to personal preference; I tend to like action that might be considered more straightforward or conventional, like a shootout or hand-to-hand fight.”

    I don’t think the hand-to-hand combat in this movie was bad, but it was definitely perfunctory. It was just kind of like white noise. That wasn’t a problem for me, because generally hand to hand fight scenes have to be extraordinary for me to take notice of them anyway – my action preferences align more with crazy stuntwork (preferably with a minimal amount of CGI tarting it up) and chase scenes, which the movie nailed. Everything had a really cinematic sense of movement which I loved.

    The sandstorm foot chase was superb, and it’s a great example of how the movie excelled at making difficult set pieces look deceptively simple. Foot chases are hard to pull off to begin with – it’s so easy to make ‘one guy running after another guy’ seem rote and boring because it’s been done so much before, and also easy to fall into an obfuscating trap and try to make up for lack of conviction or storytelling capability by tarting the scene up with crazy filmmaking effects. The chase in MI4 tells a very clear mini-story about a very muddled situation, which again is pretty difficult. Every beat of the chase is clear and credible in terms of motivation, character action, geography, and it’s also creative in the way it adds in new developments and avoids repetition. Like much of the movie it seems like ‘simple’ filmmaking, but what it really is is flat out great storytelling.

    There was one little touch that really spoke to what I think the movie did well – during the climax, when it’s crosscutting between Cruise fighting Mr Badguy and Renner fighting the henchman to turn on the circuit breaker, there’s a shot of Renner grasping the handle to turn the power on for a split second before being torn away again by the fighting. The action itself had a clear ‘character’ to it, like in animation or silent movies, and it’s incredibly effective. Even though intellectually there was zero suspense about the nuke hitting San Francisco, I was on the edge of my seat because of the cumulative effect of excellent visual storytelling touches like that.

    I mentioned this in a previous post, but I can’t think of many recent action movies that run 2 hours and change and yet are this lean and well paced.

  72. Man, I gotta see this movie again so I can see all this awesome stuff everybody else keeps talking about.

  73. well guys, guess what? I just saw this tonight, my dad for some reason really wanted to see this, so we all went

    and man, my local theater really sucks, it was in a somewhat small theater, that’s not really the problem, the problem is that the screen was all fucked up, it’s kind of hard to explain, but I’ve seen movies in that particular theater before (although not for about 4 years) and the screen was in just fine condition, I wonder if that theater has changed management since then and if the current staff just doesn’t give a fuck? I mean is it really too much to ask that when you pay money to see a movie the screen isn’t fucked up? it shouldn’t matter if it’s a smaller theater

    so that stymied my enjoyment a bit, but even so I still had fun, it’s just a fun little spy movie, it’s not maybe something I have a strong desire to watch again anytime soon, but it was cool

    I wish I could have seen it in IMAX

  74. 98% of what I’d say about this one has been covered in some form throughout the above talkback already.
    Mish-mash of comments goes something like this: Yes, the villains’ motivations were murky, and the trailer fucked up a big portion of the fun-ness of the feature, and I actually didn’t much like the opening credits but at least it showed that this is one serious action movie not going for “gritty,” and yes the whole thing moved with such breathless momentum that it was fun & compelling pretty much the whole way through unless you’re drunk and put up an early shield against enjoying PG-13 fights.

    Thoughts that haven’t been covered here yet:
    -Shaun of the Dead guy is a poor IMF agent. I hope he retires to non-field work. He’s a non-hacker.

    -I don’t give a shit about Tom Cruise’s personal or offscreen life. Never have. He’s a good actor & stuntman.

    -The shot of hot chick kicking blonde chick out the window is the hottest thing I’ve seen in the cinema in months.

    -IMAX is such an American-style format. I love it.

  75. Yeah, the one criticism of MI:GP I have a big problem with is the complaint that the story is slight and has no personal weight. Because all action movies now have to make it personal for the hero. Look, we all love movies where they kill Steven Seagal’s family and he has to get revenge, but that doesn’t mean EVERY movie has to be personal. It doesn’t mean that every James Bond movie since LICENSE TO KILL has to somehow involve Bond’s past.

    Those were interesting diversions in MI:III and OHMSS but it’s really weak screenwriting now that someone’s going after the hero’s family or something. Why can’t it just be a mission he’s got to do because he’s awesome? I loved that about MI:GP and it totally didn’t need the crutch of a “personal” connection. In fact it kind of made fun of the personal connections in a great way that I really appreciated.

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  77. Jareth Cutestory

    April 14th, 2012 at 8:09 am

    Majestyk: I’m not sure if you’re going to bother watching this one again on DVD, but I just did, and I’d like to confirm your reaction to your first viewing: “airless montage of phones and faces” pretty much sums up my response to this one too. Also: a generic, strained rehash of much of TRUE LIES (never my favorite Cameron movie to begin with) without the campiness or plot structure would also describe my reaction.

    It just all felt so perfunctory. Like you, I’ve seen action that was shot far worse than this, but seldom action this uninvolving. The character “arcs” seemed obvious, trite, too tidy by half, and, like FAST FIVE, ultimately unnecessary.

    They also never seemed to settle on what sort of tone they wanted, which is a pet peeve of mine. Is it a psychological revenge flick, as Cruise’s one-note Bale-like performance wants us to think, or a parody, as Pegg’s (pretty awful) performance suggests. Renner seemed embarrassed by the weak crisis they gave his character, or maybe he was just trying to not look into the creepy dead eyes of the Poor Man’s Zoe Saldana. The overly grim and gritty elements completely undid the gadget-based stuff, making it seem like a farce.

    In fairness, I didn’t hate the movie, and it wasn’t a chore to sit through – for the money they spent on it that should be the bare minimum – but it certainly didn’t engage me in any way.

  78. Yeah, I still plan to give it another chance. After all the fun I’ve had at other movies this year I still find MI:4 inexcusable as a theatrical experience (I think after THE RAID and HAYWIRE we can all now agree that, no, the action was NOT well-shot and well-edited, it was just slightly better than what we had learned to settle for at the time), but it’s probably a perfectly acceptable time-waster on DVD.

    I’ll try to stay sober for it.

  79. Jareth Cutestory

    April 14th, 2012 at 9:12 am

    When a multi-million dollar franchise star vehicle fails to live up to the modest standards of any random episode of BURN NOTICE, you know there’s a problem. Whatever the shortcomings of the Poor Man’s Guy Pearce who stars on that show, he’s a bundle of charisma and charm compared to Cruise.

  80. Well, I kept my promise from upthread and gave it another shot on DVD. I don’t hate it anymore but I still think it kind of sucks. It’s just never involving and seems to go on forever. It all feels very, very plastic, like an actual action movie that’s been replicated by computer simulation.

    I think a lot of the problem is that Cruise never really interacts with anyone else in the movie. Him and Pegg (on rewatch, Pegg’s character is pretty insufferable and has no business being in the field, especially on an important mission like this) might as well have been greenscreened into their scenes together. It was like they were in two different movies. In every other movie in the series, Cruise had some kind of emotional hook to make him feel somewhat human. Here, all he had was the mission, and it made him completely hollow. There was nothing to him at all. No arc, no desires, no relationships. He didn’t care about anybody and nobody cared about him, and he didn’t even make that look badass. He was just the hero-shaped hole at the center of the movie.

    And the villain was really the lamest I’ve ever seen. He made the guy from LETHAL WEAPON 3 look like Darth Vader. I thought it was hilarious when they obviously post-dubbed in one line about him being ex-Swedish special forces to half-assedly explain why a fucking scientist could go toe-to-toe with the world’s toughest secret agent. Would it have killed them to throw in a couple of scenes of him talking to his henchman so we could get to know the guy who wants to destroy the world? Of course, those wouldn’t have had Cruise in them, so that obviously wasn’t going to happen.

    There were a few good sequences, but pretty much everything (except the two shots of people and cars falling down the center of that parking garage) after they left the tower in Dubai was a waste of time: the magnet suit, the unimaginably lame Indian guy subplot, Renner’s whole backstory (introduced at the fucking 90 minute mark–what kind of bullshit storytelling is that?), and good christ, that denouement. That fucking denouement. Let me get this straight: Hunt lets his wife’s get kidnapped, sends her into hiding in a strange city with a bodyguard following her around all the time, and when her ex-husband stalks her (potentially leading his enemies right to her, because he’s just that considerate), she still smiles at him like he’s just such a charmer that she can’t help herself even though he lied to her and ruined her life and made it so she can never see all the friends and family we met at the beginning of MI:III. No. This is not what people do. This is not a happy ending. Stop the triumphant music. It’s a lie.

    And where’d he get the body? Renner said they found the mutilated corpse of a woman that they assumed was Hunt’s wife. Who was that poor Serbian Jane Doe that will be buried in an unmarked grave because Hunt fucked up?

    Speaking of ruined lives, if I was Renner, I might be a little pissed off that Hunt’s shitty plan killed his career as a field agent and made him live with the guilt of getting an innocent woman killed.

    I was thinking, though. It might have been really cool as an animated movie. It’s got that same breezy tone that I can’t stand but all cartoon movies have. Most of the special effects looked pretty fake anyway (the Kremlin explosion was pretty unforgivable, in my opinion). You’d lose the vertigo of the one cool sequence (the tower) but otherwise I think the generic plot and goofy characters would make more sense in a cartoon. As live-action, though, I think it just feels safe and perfunctory. It’s a movie full of ostensibly awesome stuff that never really feels like it’s happening.

  81. Mr. M, I completely agree with you about Cruise.

    I also groaned out loud when (MILD SPOILERS) in the climax Cruise just happens to use a BMW for like the fourth time in the movie. It was the most blatant product placement since that Pepsi machine’s heroic appearance in the climax of DOUBLE TEAM.

  82. Also, is it just me or did the Russian secret service assassinate the American secretary of defense with zero repercussions? That’s a pretty high-ranking position, in my opinion. I bet someone would have noticed.

    It’s stuff like that that makes the movie feel phony, like it was made up by children.

  83. Awful movie. How this got so many good reviews I’ll never know.

    It’s competently made but it’s just a vacuum. It’s a Gap ad.

    And from the back with his shirt off, Cruise is starting to look like fucking Bolo.

    Knock the roids off, Tommy.

  84. Coming soon MI5: BLACK FRIDAY starring Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Honda Civic, Coke Zero, & IPhone. Foreign bad guys want to blow up the world and Tom cruise will need the reliability and industry leading fuel efficiency of Honda Civic if he is going to stop them, and Simon Pegg is along for the ride to help carry his IPhone & refreshing Coke Zero.

  85. Knox Harrington

    June 10th, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Anyone see that trailer for the new Resident Evil movie yet? I’ve never seen anything like it.

    It starts out as a Sony commercial (with TV ad voice-over guy) and then turns into a movie trailer. Really ridiculous. Then again, this is the Resident Evil franchise we’re talking about.

  86. I’m very, very late to this, but I just saw it for the first time and I never had more fun while watching a Tom Cruise movie.
    That’s all.

  87. Yeah I agree CJ. I didn’t like M:I 3 at all. I couldn’t even make it through the entire movie but this one was a pleasant surprise. Brad Bird owns in live action or animation and he proved it with this movie. In my eyes this is the “REAL” M:I 3.

  88. Oh, I liked part 3 a lot, but this is the first M:I (or Tom Cruise movie [that I have seen]) that throws every fake drama out of the window and aims for pure light hearted popcorn fun (In the best possible meaning of this term.) and succeds! It’s pretty much the first (and only) JJ Abrams production, that really feels like one of these 80s Amblin movies! And all that without even trying!

  89. Well, I guess it helped that they had a director who really worked in the 80s for Spielberg and Amblin a few times.

  90. One thing I remember about this film is where Cruise is trying to use the retinal scanner on the side of the train but he has to keep jumping up because he’s not tall enough to reach it. Was that supposed to be a dig at Cruise’s height? Because I find it really hard to believe that he would allow that kind of joke at his expense.

  91. CrustaceanHate – Its funny but that never crossed my mind until you mentioned it.

    Honestly I don’t think that was the intention at all. More like Bird or somebody thought “hey lets do a complicated twist to a boring accepted cliche to shake things up.” Even if Shaq was playing that part, the gag would still be funny, except he would be bending over while running.

  92. The Original Paul

    April 26th, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    Hey, remember when I said it was a really good year so far in the IT FOLLOWS thread? Well, apparently I was really, really tempting fate when I typed that. And in a shocking twist that nobody on earth could’ve predicted, it’s a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE sequel that’s broken my “win streak”.

    Yeah, I remember being relieved that this wasn’t as bad as MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 3. (Few things are.) Apparently that coloured my perceptions of the movie way too much, because I’ve just tried to re-watch it on DVD and couldn’t get through it. Everything Karlos and Majestyk have said is spot-on. I remember liking Renner’s arc, but Majestyk is right – it doesn’t even begin until two-thirds into the movie, by which time said movie’s degeneration into pure “formula” has been well and truly established. There’s no substance to this, no emotional hook, nothing to hold your interest. A couple of impressive scenes (the Dubai tower in particular) but that’s all. Damn it.

    It’s official, folks; the “best” MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE sequel (by which I mean the least awful, because seriously, who gives a shit about any of these films any more?) is the one where Tom Cruise face-dives into a giant concrete butt. Has somebody made an animated .gif of that moment yet?

    I’m off to watch EDGE OF TOMORROW again, or something.

  93. I re-watched this one prior to Rouge Nation and still felt it held up. Light and breezy (and thus light-weight) and no near as good as the original or Rouge Nation but better than the forgettable and dull part 3 and not as stupid as part 2 and thus not as crazy. Regardless I thought it got the job done and some of the sequences I think are a lot of fun so I guess my low standards accepted it. Maybe Bird will never be as good a director of live action as he is of cartoons but at least with this one he showed he’s at least okay and better than many jobbers (still haven’t seen Tomorrowland and that may never change) and at least is better than his contemporary Andrew Stanton with his not-very-good John Carter movie that the Internet assured us was going to be the biggest thing since Serenity and Scott Pilgrim vs the World.

  94. Remember when they originally wanted to kick The Cruiser off this one and replace him with Brad Pitt?

    Thank God that bulllet was dodged.

  95. No I do not! First I ever heard of it (or if I did, I forgot. I cannot see how that would have worked out. Maybe they were trying to tie Mission:Impossible in with Interview With A Vampire?

  96. It was around the time Hollywood was still trying to distance themselves from him for acting all coo coo for cocoa puffs in the media and Oprah’s couch. This joint was still in early development.

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