Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (aka MI-4)
U/A; Action, Thriller
Dir: Brad Bird
Cast: Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Michael Nyqvist, Anil Kapoor
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 5)
"Blue is glue," Simon Pegg's Benji helpfully informs IMF secret agent/superhero Ethan Hunt (Cruise) as he's about to climb up the side of Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower in the world, using only a pair of electronic suction gloves that light up when activated. Referring to the colour of that light, Hunt asks, "And what's red?" "Dead," says Benji, without batting an eyelid.
This sequence encapsulates the little that's good about Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, the latest entrant in this now 15-year-old cinematic franchise. The aforementioned nail-biting set-piece on the side of the Burj featuring Cruise, defying every bit of the 49 years he has allegedly spent on this planet, forms the centerpiece of this film. This may just be the most breathtaking action movie sequence of the year.
Also, there's Pegg playing tech expert Benji, an obvious comic-relief character, with admirable enthusiasm. Despite the movie's considerable lapses in screenplay, he remains the most consistent character throughout and the only reason to watch the screen when something isn't blowing up.
The rest of the movie, however, is quite disappointing, mostly because a lot more was expected from director Brad Bird, the man behind animated gems like The Incredibles and Ratatouille. Making his first foray into live-action, Bird knows his visual grammar all right; this film, shot in locations as diverse as Moscow, Dubai and aamchi Mumbai, is full of fluid, well-executed set-pieces shot and edited with surgical precision.
However, what it lacks is heart and a coherent story with plausible character motivations. The script by first-timers Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec crams explosions and movie references aplenty (there are nods to several of Cruise's past movies, from the previous Mission: Impossible films to Minority Report) but abandons logic. All characters are essentially one-note, even if back-stories are provided as in the case of Brandt (Renner), an IMF analyst with a past. An actor like him, noted for his powerhouse performances, looks noticeably subdued here while Patton, who plays team-mate Jane, has little to do apart from one badass fight scene and an embarrassingly bad seduction scene involving Indian billionaire Brij Nath (Kapoor).
This brings us to Kapoor's much-ballyhooed appearance, lasting all of ten minutes, wherein he channels his inner Prem Chopra and chews up as much scenery as he can. The laziness displayed here by the Indian production unit is appalling and, frankly, insulting. What fancy party in Mumbai plays Indo-jazz fusion music and features dancers clad in white gyrating in perfect sync next to opulent fountains? Why is there a Sun TV office in Mumbai? If they're shooting elsewhere and disguising it to look like India, why couldn't they make sure the license plates looked authentic, given that the climax is set in a multi-storey car-parking facility?
Even if all this sounds like nitpicking, the one thing a Mission: Impossible movie needs is a strong villain. In this case it's the half-baked Hendricks (Swedish actor Nyqvist), a Russian ex-military strategist who wants to start a nuclear war because, well, he thinks it's the right thing to do. He also gets minimal screen-time, even less than Benji. And finally, Cruise, admirable to watch in the action scenes, is at his wooden worst here, barely going beyond his usual gaze-intently-at-something style of acting. Whatever happened to the man we saw not too long ago in Collateral and Tropic Thunder, busting out acting chops no one thought he possessed anymore?
This movie is a money-spinning entertainer. With Bird at the helm, however, we expected an iconic action film with a strong emotional resonance. In that regard, this film is a failure.