Oh Tom what have you done? Even with the sound fixed this looks bad, like Suicide Squad dimensions of quantum interstellar density black-hole bad;
Oh dear. I’m on the record as being a fan of the Cruiser, and I was aware this was in the works, I think as part of that whole effort of Universal to exploit their intellectual property of those classic monsters. Looks like they’ve fallen at the first hurdle as this looks…..poor;
Apparently, even old horror movies must now be transformed into blockbuster action CGI fests, because that approach worked so well for Van Helsing didn’t it? Idiots….
Welcome ladies and gentlemen to our briefing bunker, while the facilities are modest they should satisfy our urgent intelligence requirements. Please make yourself comfortable and avail yourselves of our refreshments, the cognac and cigars are the best we could muster at such short notice I’m afraid, and…what’s that Agent Bracken? No (chuckles), no the Havana you are nursing is not a lethal prototype from our Cuban CIA cell, and I assure you our chemical sensors would have alerted us to the presence of any clandestine explosives, no matter how miniscule. Now…what’s that? Oh, yes, that’s right Agent Mendoza, this is the cognac we secured during the Pegasus Exfiltration, our success in that cryptozoological incursion almost made the whole Tangiers fiasco worthwhile didn’t it? Yes, 1988 was a particularly tough year for the department wasn’t it? Now, please let me begin, we don’t have much time as our position is immediately compromised, but a swift contextual revision is critical so please pay attention. In the first Mission Impossible picture – and for urgent brevity we will paraphrase this sobriquet as M:I going forward – the espionage super-agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) faced a terrible dilemma – his elite squadron had been compromised by an antagonist arms dealer, forcing his crew to divest themselves of their secret operation and go rogue. Four years later we recruited a primary asset from an oriental cell but his skills didn’t translate well to the North American theatre, as he wove a routine tale of an IMF turncoat arms dealer forcing Ethan Hunt and his crew to divest themselves of operational oversight and go rogue. With the threat neutralised, with equilibrium restored six years later a promising new cadet from our directors guild manufactured a new dossier, where the M:I crew faced an indiscriminate threat, forcing them to go off-line in order to defeat a cunning foe – a black market arms dealer who manipulates the team into going rogue. Enshrined in domestic bliss in 2014 Ethan suddenly faced a deadly new challenge – his team had been compromised, forced to go off grid and battle a Soviet nuclear expert turned arms dealer, their only hope of success to detach from central command and….erm…and go rogue.
The dossier for our next mission, should we decide to accept it, features Ethan Hunt and his clandestine colleagues facing a secret terror cell of arms dealers known as the Syndicate, forcing them to go….well, I think you get the gist. Returning to the fray alongside the devious daredevil is deadly British buffoon Benji (Simon Pegg), support specialist Luther (Ving Rhames) interference running operative William (Jeremy Renner) and honey-pot Swedish siren Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a character with the most blatant foreshadowing moniker since Count Alucard fluttered in from Transylvania. The latest franchise instalment is directed by Christopher McQuarrie, the highly regarded writer of The Usual Suspects and Edge Of Tomorrow, who also helmed Jack Reacher and the underappreciated The Way Of The Gun which has quietly gleaned some cult movie fandom in recent years. This film opens with a blast, with that stunt sequence which has been the central frame of the marketing push, and on-screen it is quite the heart pounding hymn to practical effect techniques. After achieving such giddy heights in the opening salvo I’m not sure the remaining two hours completely matches that adrenalized overdose, but the picture’s pacing and momentum rarely gives you a chance to catch your breath, with a tensile travelogue narrative that hustles from London to Marrakesh, from Austria to Cuba.
Yes, yes, I understand that time is of the essence Agent Domino and that you are expected in Amsterdam in three hours as part of our Baccarat gamble, and if you’re not there to oversee the diplomat’s mistress dead-letter drop then our whole European nanotechnology containment strategy is in mortal jeopardy. So let me be clear – this is one of the finest entries in the franchise, possibly the best, a fine addition to this years multiplex missions after a few misfires and aborted operations which should have been abandoned at the blueprint stage – yes I’m looking at you Terminator Genisys and Jurassic World. The screenwriting ingenuity that McQuarrie mustered in his earlier efforts is replicated in Rogue Nation, with a pleasing blend of intrigue and action, even if he can’t quite maintain the high-wire act of devious plotting and seizure inducing manoeuvres all the way through to a mildly anticlimactic third act post-mortem. Nevertheless two sequences individually are well worth the price of admission alone, the first a heavy Hitchcockian homage set against an Austrian opera sourced assassination, a brilliant melange of camera movement and simultaneous axis of activity, underlined with a masterful deployment of sound and silence. The second is a North African aquatic insertion, synchronised against the IMF team’s blend of specialised infiltrations, barely letting the audience come up for air before diving into a pulse pounding motorcycle chase. One curious omission in the film though is that Ethan’s wife Michelle Monaghan has been completely liquidated from operations, a rather clumsy decision as the entire point of the third film was her rescue and she even had a cameo in the last picture. This absence was presumably engineered to provoke some sexual chemistry between Ethan and the darting duplicity of MI6 asset Faust, she’s been closely modelled on the Ingrid Bergman icon of Notorious, her manipulative motives and shifting allegiances a major proponent of the film’s narrative nuance. Sean Harris is the movie’s villain pitched with a quietly retrained revulsion, moving through exposition laced scenes like a venomous turtle necked Gestapo officer, ruthlessly dispatching malfunctioning henchmen with barely a snake coiled blink of regret. That said Rogue Nation’s overall tone is danger lightened with a few controlling bursts of sharply clustered humour, as the Syndicate’s ideological ethos is never fully explained nor entertained.
No need to raise your hand Agent Popov, we are quite informal here and we don’t stand on ceremony like that Kremlin fronted seduction gulag you were raised in. Oh, you wish to understand the equipment manifest? Well, our initial data scourge indicates that the franchise is deploying the latest retinal capture technology, shot on the Alexa 65 6k digital camera the craftsmanship of crisp cinematographer Robert Elswit is simply exquisite, retaining an element of grain in certain blast shield bludgeoned interiors, giving him an energetic break from his usual conspiracies with Californian chimera P.T. Anderson. Our economic analysis also excavates some intriguing backers, with primary funding for the mission sourced from Asia-based investors China Movie Channel and Alibaba Pictures Group, an intriguing sign of the changing manifest of modern movie funding financiers. Apart from the genre fun of scheming spies and ingenious subterfuge what I like about this franchise is how individual directors bring their baggage to each assignment. I’ve re-watched I and III and they are individual action movies with a personal imprint, from the opening frames of I it’s an atypical De Palma deconstruction of on-screen identity and deception, of the act of seeing and the contorted consumption of visual intelligence. III takes things to a personal level with an emotional crutch for Ethan’s efforts – saving his wife – and although I can’t speak for II I’m guessing there is heroic bloodshed aplenty and acrobatic aerial wildlife as per John Woo’s mercurial modus operandi. Rogue Nation shows wilful disavowal of the Snowden revelations, of the troublesome tendency of asymmetrical monitoring and the existential crisis of raping citizens privacy rights in order to protect them, it doesn’t trouble itself with these real world worries preferring instead to maintain a cover story of pure entertainment and action movie antics – an Obama era picture if ever there was one. So I hope you’ve found this info-dump useful ladies and gentlemen, my contacts have just advised me that it’s wheel ups in T-Minus three minutes for the North Korean helicarrier extraction, and we can debrief on the finer details of the chimera sub-orbital weapon when we penetrate the airspace of that continually troublesome peninsula. I understand that agents are already scoping the fieldwork for an MI:6 shoot next summer, until then the recently decrypted Spectre should keep you spooks sustained, but until October Rogue Nation is a big budget blast, a successful rear-guard defence of 2015’s major studio investment in tent-pole tenacity;
I do like the Mission Impossible series, apart from the second one they have been a consistently entertaining sequence of fun big budget delirium. Here’s the teaser for the new one which a nervous Paramount have moved forward to July, so they don’t go toe to toe with J.J. Abram’s intergalactic assault on Avatars crown of the biggest box-office ever;
EDIT – Well now here’s the full trailer, looks pretty darn exciting. That money shot of Cruise clinging to the side of the plane has already become something of a ‘thing’, given that he did actually do it the bloody mentalist. I cant actually remember the last blood thumping action movie I really enjoyed, at least one that wasn’t some SF hybrid. Still, John Wick’s out soon so there’s that to beat…..
Oh to have been a discreet fly on the wall on that pitch meeting. I can picture it now gentle reader, the trembling junior producer nervously approaching the cigar chomping studio mogul’s vast mahogany desk, as P/A’s and aides circulate the domineering space in a cyclone of frenzied activity, of invoices to be signed, premieres to be RSVP’d, of script edits to be authorised. ‘Ya got 15 seconds kid’ grunts the mogul, ‘what ya got?’ His voice quivering, the producer begins ‘well….its a gritty SF action movie, based on a very popular Japanese novella, with humankind fighting a desperate…. ‘No, no, NO’, the mogul brusquely interrupts, ‘gimme a pitch, not war and fucking peace’. ‘OK’ stammers the perspiring producer, ‘it’s Saving Private Ryan meets Looper‘. The mogul blinks. Realizing he’s losing him the quivering producer makes a desperate fumble, ‘No sir, it’s err…it’s..’ – his eyes light up – ‘it’s Rashomon meets La Jetee‘ he anxiously beams. ‘RASHOMON?‘ barks the impatient mogul. ‘OK, OK’ the producer stammers, ‘it’s…erm…..Starship Troopers meets Groundhog Day?‘, his affectation desperately raising on the last word. The mogul smiles, ‘Ya got yourself a deal kid’, a cheque for $150 million dollars mysteriously materializes and drifts down into the producer’s outstretched palm, and in two hours director Doug Liman and screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie are off to the time twisted races….
Based on the murderously titled All You Need Is Kill this is the Cruisers latest punt into SF attuned action-movie waters after last years mildly distracting Oblivion, for my money this is a much more direct demolition of plutonium grade blockbuster fun with an efficiently disarming pretence at its core – I think it was Churchill who said that ‘death is not the end of the beginning, but the beginning of the end’. Cruise is Major William Cage, an advertising executive turned military communications envoy after a meteorite shatters into mainland Europe, releasing a horde of multi-tentacled ravenous critters who swiftly overrun the continent and threaten the very future of all mankind. After arriving in London Cage is blackmailed by General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) into embedding with the first suicidal wave of a major counter offensive, a mission targeted on the historical war scarred beaches of Normandy, joining a rag-tag group of grunts armed to the pearly white teeth in new robotic exo-enhanced battle skeletons. The new technology provides an ineffective defence against the dazzlingly swift octopi enemy, and not even the presence of the morale boosting ‘Maiden of Verdun’ Rita Vrataski (an emasculating Emily Blunt) can turn the tide of battle, as the enemy had clearly anticipated the offensive and mercilessly slaughter the swiftly disembodied strike force. But there is a frantic complication, Cage is rebooted after every death to the day before the offensive to begin the mission anew, and he swiftly discovers that only Rita may hold the solution to his limbo lethal destiny…..
Edge Of Tomorrow is a lot of fun, and with a few reservations due to a slightly unimaginative final act it takes its unique selling point and instructs Tom Cruise to run with it like some otherworldly insectiod shived a firecracker up his scientology clenched ass. Not having read any reviews I’d stake the planets future on a wealth of comparisons to computer game narratives given the alignment of the younger medium’s designs and story-telling infrastructure, including re-spawn abilities, memorizing game maps and anticipating ambushes, building his initial pen-pushing white-collar coward into a bad-ass killing machine as he incrementally levels up his agility, dexterity and killing abilities. It’s from these elemental origins that the film builds a thoroughly entertaining and occasionally amusing momentum, not straying into any philosophical musings on such immortal abilities, instead training its crosshairs on sheer action movie techniques by championing epinephrine over existentialism.
I was a little worried about this picture when it opened with the frankly lazy 24 hour global news montage which is at best tedious 21st century movie shorthand to set the films narrative context, what happened to a good old-fashioned title crawl eh? After this an extended character driven cold opening – a rather brave choice these days when we’re conditioned to a blistering action set-piece to get the blood pumping – takes its time to set-up the universe and then incrementally builds the action and narrative twists, quite skillfully moving through its increasingly looped structure with a dash of potential romance here, a spigot of humour there, with exultingly executed action scenes stitching together the deja-vu dystopian destruction. As previously confessed I’m a fan of Cruise and he emits his usual efficient leading man star wattage, as a native Londoner it’s kinda fun to see him strutting around a deserted war evacuated big smoke, only a star with his international clout could have convinced Westminster Council to permit a helicopter to land in Trafalgar Square, a ‘stunt’ never permitted before so full marks to the producers for not resorting to the usual green screen manipulation. Following Gravity’s enormous success Edge Of Tomorrow was almost entirely shot in the UK, mostly at Warner Brothers studios in Leavesden and around other locations in the capital with a final shift to an eerie CGI soaked & flood drenched Paris, proving that our humble island is punching above its weight when it comes to efficient modern genre tent-pole productions. With the 70th anniversary of D-Day occurring next week (when the film opens in North America) the beach storming sequences lend the film a historical echo, less repetitively resonant of the deteriorating situation in the Ukraine than an ideologically desecrated UK should the hideous UKIP advance upon their European election ‘success’ (I dunno about you but emigration sounds more like an enticing option should those racist fucking twats continue to build their poisonous support during next year’s General Election), a once diversely proud world city rendered nothing more than a deserted plateau of racial sterility and Russian oligarch property speculators.
Heh, OK, the soapbox is now officially decanted, but one of reasonably decent SF’s chief strengths is in its underlying social and metaphorical DNA, right? Anyway, any SF film with Bill Paxton in it can’t be all bad – in this picture he’s a repeatedly glimpsed drill instructor during the opening act – as the only unfortunate wretch to have been killed by a Terminator, Predator and an Alien (though not at the same time, now that would be a movie) his brief appearance holds some fan boy fellated kudos, and Brendan Gleeson provides some hefty gravitas to the usually clichéd role of the inflexible military hierarchy. I really liked how the alien species in the picture is refreshingly, definitively ‘alien’, not another four limbed bipedal opponent with a few Star Trek inspired ridged forehead allusions to ‘otherness’, Edge Of Tomorrow also has a genuinely gloomy and murky visual palette which is illuminated with a few audience friendly cheeky Cruise wisecracks, without side-lining the always lovely Emily Blunt as some mere damsel in distress aside – with this and Looper under her belt she’s becoming quite the time-twisting trooper. So Thomas Cruise Mapother IV may find himself with yet another blockbuster hit on his hands in the genre stakes before Mission Impossible V lights a festive Christmas fuse late next year, now where was I – Ah yes. Oh to have been a discreet fly on the wall on that pitch meeting. I can picture it now gentle reader, the trembling junior producer nervously approaching the cigar chomping studio mogul’s vast mahogany desk……
When I heard that this week would see the new Edge Of Tomorow trailer I wondered why Escape From Tomorrow was getting another push given the tepid reviews it had after its modest performance in the US, clearly I am a fool as this is what they meant;
Like I’ve said I’m something of a member of the Tom Cruise Appreciation Society – professional help is being sought – so I thought this mildly looked OK, even with the standard issue post District 9 mech-armour and let’s face it, the presence of Emily Blunt always helps. At the very least the film has inspired one of the cleverest article titles of the year….
Please don’t judge me but I quite like Tom Cruise. Not the Tom Cruise who promotes and follows an absurd and mindwarping cult or the Tom Cruise who goes bouncing around chat show furniture like a demented pinball you understand, but the screen Tom Cruise, the cheeky, glint in his eye and brusquely heroic chap with the occasional good one liner and unreserved ability to run with the concentrated drive of a constipated cheetah. I actually find the whole Scientology aspect fascinating, by all accounts despite his regal moniker Thomas Cruise Mapother IV grew up in severe poverty, physically and emotionally abused by his father, then due to a couple of lucky breaks and smattering of talent in his early twenties you find yourself one of the most famous, multimillionaire, desired and adored figures on the planet – that’s gotta turn your world view upside down and set you seeking a path to discern what’s it’s all about, and maybe finding answers and succor in all the wrong places. Beyond the franchise antics of his Mission Impossible franchise or the occasional tentpole tedium – Knight & Day was pretty terrible – I’d also argue that he’s actually turned in a handful of great performances beyond the usual Hollywood blockbuster framework, I think he speared an Oscar nomination for Born On The Fourth Of July and was searingly brilliant as Frank T.J Mackey in Magnolia, my affection perhaps not completely surprising given that his callsheet is essentially is a mirror image to many of my all time favourite directors – Michael Mann, Scorsese, Kubrick, P.T. Anderson and yes, even two for Spielberg. After those dual Science Fiction entries Tom is ‘cruising’ back into the constellation of speculative Tinseltown superproductions, strafing the first andromeda of 2013’s blockbuster season, commanded by the director of the recent Tron reboot Joseph Kosinski for a journey to Oblivion, a rather brave title which could invite all sort of humorous japes if the film isn’t up to scratch – and it isn’t.
Through a pre titles voiceover montage the scene is set – it is the future, and following the ravishing arrival of an alien species known as the Scavengers the moon was destroyed in a annihilating war, the resulting earthquakes and tsunamis rendering much of the planet uninhabitable. To compound this ecological misery the widespread deployment of nuclear weapons to eliminate the alien scourge has rendered much of the planet as irradiated wasteland, with most of the species emigrating to Saturn’s moon Titan to begin civilisation anew. A few stragglers are left however, as agents are required to monitor and patrol the seaboards where vast mechanical contraptions divine energy from the tides to power the pan terrestrial spacecraft, battling a guerilla war with the remnants of the extraterrestrial threat through the patrol of lethal firearm bristling battle drones which dispassionately prosecute an immolating insurrection. With two weeks left of his mission Jack Harper (Cruise with the most blatant ‘movie character’ name of recent memory) is a mechanic in Zone 49, partnered with his romantic companion Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) who also directs and monitors his repair and research activities from their modernist sky apartment, she acting as intermediary from the orbital mission control complex known as the Tet. Although their long assignment is almost at an end there is a submerged mystery to be solved, as Jack is encumbered with half seen glimpses and memory fragments of a 20th century New York long before he was born, where the monochrome vision of an exotic looking brunette (Olga Kurylenko) hints that all may not be as it seems…..
The influences are clear, take a dash of Planet Of The Apes, stir in a sprig of Mad Max, and warm with the scrolling deceptions of The Matrix and you’ve just served up Oblivion, a title which doesn’t really have anything to do with the film unless I’m missing something and my memory is faulty. You’d think that such a fertile ecosystem would result in a model of intelligent big-budget boisterous brilliance, but somewhere around the middle of the mission this film was dragged into a black hole and only partially regained control in his closing extravehicular maneuvers. Like Konsinski’s previous cartridge the film looks terrific, the visual adroitness of those shimmering edges and surfaces of this future fable are a wonder to behold, and the heavy deployment of CGI is state of the art quality which almost convinces the eye, but as usual the plot mechanics slowly drag the piece down to the ground when it should be soaring for the stars. Tom Cruise is very much in Cruise mode, not really generating much in the way of pandemic heroism, he doesn’t even get any great lines to spill as the expected set-pieces fail to deliver the requisite thrills and spatial spills. With fragmented shards of Zoe Bell, Morgan Freeman and Nikolaj Game Of Thrones Coster-Waldau my sensors detected problems in the editing booth, where half moulded hints at their relationships and importance to the overall mission now residing in a parallel dimension, alas around the midpoint the film becomes very cluttered and slightly confused, with Houston very much having a problem.
Oblivion does have its moments, a cluster of scenes which hint at the inherent possibilities in the source material, based on an unpublished graphic novel it at least it has some genesis in originality, if not quite the herald of a new fleet of first generation Sci-Fi shenanigans that we genre geeks so desperately crave. An early sexy scene between Jack and Victoria evokes memories of Michael Mann with its ethereal electronica soundtrack and pungently photographed silvered romanticism, and the Apple Mac inspired production design yields a temperate and cool atmosphere of gilded curves and techno fetishistic design, two qualities which neatly slot into the central mystery once the apologue’s real puppet masters are excavated. The major defect is that Kroninski doesn’t have the skill to build an emotional arc between Jack and his companions, both physical and collegial, and the triumphs of visual design cannot substitute the emotional void at the heart of the film which is very much the caverns that the film mines for poignant charge as it shifts into its final orbit.
But as Tyrell said all of this is academic and if like me you have a fetish for ruined civilisation, post-holocaust films then you will find much to savor, I will never tire of the iconography of world-famous monuments and citadels deteriorated to rust and ruin, the spectacle of disaster embraced by an unmolested nature venturing into our decaying cities and metropoli, the catnip of catastrophe if you will. I also (and don’t worry no spoilers) quite liked the ending, Kosinski (who shares a writing credit) having the sheer gall to throw in a couple of clear visual references to the mothership of the SF genre 2001: A Space Odyssey, his mariners sailing on the notion that love is the core dimension of our humanity which cannot be smothered by the technological or genealogical, powered by the twin satellites of instinct and memory. If the programmers spent a little more resources on debugging some of the act transitions and streamlining some of the narrative subroutines, or maybe aggregating the algorithms of the action set pieces this could have been great, as it is it’s a pleasant enough jaunt to a future world which doesn’t quite achieve full velocity, and won’t be hanging around and infecting the memory banks;
Next year is shaping up to be agreeably SF heavy, a welcome proposition around these parts. Here’s one of the bigger movies;
Hmm, I rather controversially like Tom Cruise as a screen presence but this looks pretty lacklustre, with Morgan Freeman trotting his usual wisdom fuelled side-kick schtick and a distinct lack of impressive visuals I ain’t holding my breath for anything particularly staggering….
When it comes to action movie franchises I have something of a soft spot for the Mission: Impossible series. I’m not sure why, the first installment was of course directed by Brian De Palma about whom I have serious reservations, although I do consider the initial 1996 picture as one of his simplest achievements as it centred on the surface thrills and deceptions of character that cinema always engenders, dutch tilts and this unreserved classic scene and all, without delving into his personal peccadilloes and perversions which leave me colder than a Siberian slush puppy. If memory serves the second episode, directed by John Woo, was terrible (I’ve only seen it once and have no desire to revisit it) but I really enjoyed part 3, ludicrously overcharged defibrillator climax and all because as a hermetic whole it was genuinely exciting and faintly innovative in its kinetic design and delivery, a refreshing alternative to the horrendously dull and overblown emissions of Tony Scott, P.T Anderson or Stephen Sommers, their vehicles choked in some Eighties derived quagmire of lazily constructed, insultingly derivative product whose clichéd manufacture define a cinematic medium that has definitively run its course. Mission: Impossible on the other hand is a franchise that attracts genuinely talented directors and screenwriting boffins who welcome the challenge to usurp previous achievements, to cleverly supersede the ‘wow’ factor with a redefinition of action movie boundaries, the scribes and storyboard artisans working in full harmony with their director to craft some terrific set-pieces, utilising the latest ingredients of editing, inventing voguish gizmos and utilising elite SFX to proffer clean and unencumbered cinematic epinephrine – an experience where sensation and stimulation is all. The latest installment of the series, Mission impossible 4: Ghost Protocol is the best of the series, an invigorating rollercoaster ride of a film, unadulterated throwaway enjoyment whose transparent title perfectly encapsulates its incorporeal qualities.
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to revisit Ethan Hunt (Cruise) whom is languishing in a Soviet jail, in a potential reference to McQueen’s trapped Cooler King he lazily ricochets and catches a discarded rock against the perimeter of his gulag’s solitary window, staying sharp, keeping in the zone, awaiting the moment of his inevitable rescue. After achieving a bravura jailbreak the first iteration of his clandestine team is assembled – Benji (Simon Pegg) as the technical support, Jane (Paula Patton) as the foxy infiltration/interference support – and the most Macguffin of plots is swiftly revealed as some Russian nuclear analyst codenamed Cobalt (Michael Nvqvisit, or the journalist dude from the Swedish version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) has gone mentalist and decided to seize the launch codes of the Russian submarine fleet in an insane effort to push the world into incendiary Armageddon. After piggy-backing the IMF cells incursion into the Kremlin Cobalt detonates a bomb and frames the team as US sanctioned terrorists, forging a new international crisis and forcing the powers that be to declare them persona non grata, as disavowed assets they are isolated in their mission to thwart his nefarious plans and soon they must traverse every emerging Hollywood market (Dubai = United Arab Emirates, Mumbai = India, Russia = Russia) in order to preserve the imperialist status quo. The new addition to the team is Brandt (Jeremy Renner), a CIA analyst whom is coerced into the mission when his and Hunt’s senior handler is assassinated, and his cryptic combat skills may just hint at a secretive past involving a prior history with our scientologist hero and his curiously absent wife from previous franchise iterations…
Sometimes one hungers for a fine selection of seasoned foie gras and sautéed potatoes with a drizzle of truffle oil, sometimes you hanker for a big, bloody, cardiac inducing cheeseburger and this is the menu on which Ghost Protocol presides. It’s nonsense, but it’s state-of-the-art, hugely enjoyable, clockwork precision Hollywood nonsense that stitches together a laughable plot with some extraordinary set-pieces which are beautifully orchestrated canticles of pure adrenaline and sensation, and I enjoyed every minute of it until the rather redundant character derived coda. But what arrangements there are to behold, the bar had been raised this year with both the canyon chase of Rango and the Spielberg crafted pursuits of Tintin but for me the central 45 minute Dubai gambol was this years vertiginous triumph, if you suffer from that particular phobia then this is one film you seriously need to avoid, especially in stomach throbbing IMAX as the camera tilts and plunges around the planet’s tallest man-made structure. It’s a sign of things to come for next and subsequent years, as the big, hollow but occasionally stylish and entertaining Hollywood merchandise relies more on surface and pyrotechnics in lieu of story, plot or narrative, in Ghost Protocol the story is barely stitched together yet excels as an unencrypted delivery system through poorly executed exposition scenes, perhaps they could have spent more time on the spy machinations of triple agents, international espionage or coveted secrecy, but that clearly wasn’t the mission objective.
Director Brad Bird transports his devious imagination from the success of The Incredibles to the live action realm – it was amusing to see this on his IMDB screenwriting CV – and the film seems consciously light and fluffy, with the merest lip service to character development for Hunt being unceremoniously inserted into the narrative in a wasted attempt to derive some redundant and pointless empathy in sequences toward the end of the film – one wonders why he bothered. The fun is all in the gadgets and brilliant invention, the early Kremlin caper alone has one fantastic and hilarious element which is a photo-ocular evolution of the best sleight of hand in this mostly forgotten heist. Buried in the Dubai aria is an elliptical masterpiece – yes I used the word masterpiece as in the context of this strand of movies that’s what it is – as simultaneous operations are thrillingly melded together, it’s a sequence that reminds one of the ‘pure cinema’ escapades of Hitchcock at his finest or the recursive nods of subsequent disciples. The tension is lathered on as the teams improvised plans are complicated and compressed with gasp inducing results, Pegg serves as comedic relief with appropriate restraint, Patton delivers more presence than a bargain basement Zoe Saldana, Renner proves himself as the potential Jason Bourne surrogate and Cruise runs with ruthless efficiency – the crowd loved it, as did I, so leave your brain in the foyer and submit to some surface, uncomplicated, genuine stimulation – highly (groans) recommended;
The muscular, husky elephant in the room I guess is the six-minute The Dark Knight Rises prologue which trailed before the movie and I’ll just say this – I was thrilled. Nolan is clearly pushing on from Inception in terms of gravity defying stunt work, I wasn’t expecting to see Carcetti from The Wire as a CIA drone, already contours of a Götterdämmerung rendition are emerging but they simply have to reappraise that sound mix – Hardy was incomprehensible and judging by everyone else’s reactions around me I wasn’t the only one scratching my ears. Nevertheless some more glimpses of the characters and paraphernalia of the film were revealed and it still got a round of applause at the end, no mean feat for a six-minute trailer. Nuff said.