Hollywood never wants a franchise to end, and that’s perfectly understandable from a economic point of view: franchises are brand recognition. The advertising is halfway done before you’ve even started. That’s why we’re getting a Spiderman reboot, and why the Borne Trilogy is getting revamped with a new Borne – incidentally starring Jeremy Renner, who plays a key role in Mission Impossible 4: appealing to the younger generation. He’s not replacing Cruise, but he’s there to make sure everyone has someone to drool over. Let’s face facts, Tom Cruise may still be an A-list actor, but he’s on the same slippery slope Bruce Willis, Stallone and the others have already slid down. He’s not sliding just yet, mind, but it’s clear he could not have carried the male lead alone, even though he tries to steal the show as much as possible.
He succeeds a lot, actually, though Jeremy Renner shines with what he gets to do as well. The movie is still Ethan Hunt’s show – I mean, it’s Mission Impossible for fuck’s sake, and he has of course accepted the mission once again. This time, however, the mission gets blown up, and the Kremlin along with it. The entire IMF is disavowed, leaving the remainder of Hunt’s team on their own as they try to stop a Swedish doomsday scientist from starting a nuclear war.
I’m going to be up front about this: I have no memory of Misson Impossible 2 and 3. They were as forgettable as Die Hard 4 or the last Bond movie (wasn’t that about water?), but MI4 picks its fight well. We get to knock out a few Russians, avoid cliche Arab terrorists, and still get a villain worthy of an action movie. Michael Nyqvist plays him a bit zombie-faced for me, and his motives are skimmed over like Michael Bay’s script meetings, but at least he doesn’t appear cartoonish or explicitly anti-American. He’s a nice, modern day terrorist: he just wants to see the world burn.
There are other plot holes large enough for another MI movie to fit comfortably inside, but most of them just had me waving my hand frustratingly at the screen for a few seconds, before being, almost inexplicably, drawn into the action once again. I felt like a cat who knew someone was trying to give me a shot, but I kept getting distracted by a nice ball of yarn.
Tom Cruise does a lot of this pulling. He puts on Ethan Hunt’s face like he never took it off, and his intense stare has lost none of its potency. He has a new cast of agents surrounding him, and the movie has a nice blend of team building and conflict to keep me interested in all of them. Simon Pegg, (bias disclosure: a personal favorite) seems to have been lumped in as a comic relief, but he pulls his weight and his one-liners don’t distract too much from the heart pumping action. I think this has more to do with his uncanny sense of comedic timing than the jokes in the script. He’s just fun to watch even when he’s completely stone faced while a team mate’s life is being comically hung in the balance.
There were, as I said earlier, moments of incredible annoyance. Sometimes I felt like I was watching an Apple commercial (strangely, the only other computer brand, Dell, slapped its logo in my face on the computer being infiltrated – I’m surprised they allowed that). The biggest “what the hell?” moment was probably an agent not wearing a bulletproof vest. Sure, they don’t wear them when infiltrating places (they might be searched) but at a random drop off at a busy station? Moments like these make you wonder if you shouldn’t be signing up for the IMF yourself and give them a few pointers.
It’s also a problem with today’s tech savy youth. The technology in MI is suppose to lie somewhere in the very near future, but when the tables are strewn with today’s Apple products (or maybe it’s an iPad 3?) it’s hard to deny all the rules they break. Either that or spies have their own personal App store (Please note I’m very proud of myself for not doing an iSpy joke).
Mission Impossible (1) will always be blurred by nostalgia. Whenever I hear that theme song, I only remember the first one, that first thrill. I miss a lot of the best elements in the newest installment, but it also gets a lot of it right. There are thrills, the theme gets played, and Ethan Hunt can still do daring stunts (though he did look mighty surprised he managed a few of them!). I may prefer to let franchises die before they get their third sequel, but I enjoyed myself so I guess I shouldn’t complain too much.
Dice roll: 4