You may find this surprising but… I’ve never seen any of the Mission Impossible films. Given my fondness for cool spy thrillers it is hard to believe, I know but true. Interest for this particular title was first piqued by the lovely, Ruth’s review, then my dad saw the trailer for this and thought it looked like it might actually be good so I figured it’d be something fun to rent and watch – needless to say, that is a realistic expectation.
Working as one of IMF’s top agents is a way of life for the Secretary of State’s best “man,” spy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise). Five years ago he walked away from it all when the right girl came along… or he thought he did. What he didn’t anticipate was being pursued by those who’d do anything to see him suffer and die. Now for his troubles, he is sitting in a Moscow prison. Rumors abound as to the “why” of his ending up there: Some say Julia just left him, others assume he has “lost it” in the aftermath of his beloved wife’s death at the hands of a ruthless hit squad. Now the cunning field agent, Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and the tech-turned-field-agent, Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) are in need of Ethan’s skills. He may be a bit off in his game right now… but they need him, which leads the two of them to break him out of prison in a mission they assume is purely for rescue and extraction purposes. The new team was actually formed to see a mission complete. They learn they are in a race against time to stop a deadly attack on U.S. soil. A terrorist named Hendricks has been given access to nuclear launch codes, after an IMF sanctioned mission went array, a mission led by Jane – the repercussions of this man using the codes may see America never recovered.
Following the assassination of the Secretary leaves the team out in the cold. Without the official backing of IMF – the President initiates “Ghost Protocol,” and the newly-formed trio is left to their own devices and a sum of money set aside. They also acquire the assistance of an analyst named William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) – a man who is not all he seems… a man who shares secrets with Ethan’s past. Knowing he has little time to get done the impossible done, Ethan sets out to stop Hendricks in a jet-setting mission.
For some reason I’ve never much cared for Tom Cruise. That probably isn’t fair in view of I’ve seen him in very few movies (up until a month ago, I’d not even seen the film that made him the star he is, and even at that, I only watched the last fifteen minutes!) but there it is. Putting that out there as fact, I do think Cruise is the “face” of this franchise. (I’ll try to put aside all thoughts of him needing a haircut and just go with it. Really, I am trying.) Without his name front and center, there would be no more Mission Impossible thrillers. Let me tell you: That is a sad thought.
Most thrillers have trapdoors of a sort that they fall into. In many spheres they may not even realize it because film-makers are caught up in crafting the next “perfect,” million-dollar blockbuster but it’s an accurate and fair assessment. MI:4 does in a lot of the action sequences but it shied away from a lot of the typical ones – and I truly appreciated that. Even the romantic that I am, in particular, I liked it not exploring any of the potential romantic tensions. That often has too much of a tendency of getting “messy.” The beautiful locales certainly could have played easily to the romantics but they did not. All of the characters are suffering from a tragic back-story. Ethan and Jane had the people in their lives they thought were their “life loves” but for different reasons, both are now lost to them. I think that has made both of them more cautious while Jane’s wounds are still fresh – she hasn’t even really grieved yet. The film gets a bit caught up in tedious scenes and subplots – it falters here and there without being “exciting” and leaves us wishing we could speed up certain moments. Most are there to further the suspense, still, they could have been written or filmed differently but then the action sequences more than compensate us, considering they are not just high-octane but also insanely impossible. They are each situations that we groan and say, “only in the movies…”
All in all, I thoroughly loved my first “mission.” It wasn’t exactly as I expected (it doesn’t surpass my all-time favorite thriller trio) but it was good. The acting is nothing to sneeze at, and there is some really great humor (mainly at the expense of Benji). Tom plays this role very well, plus it was grand to see Jeremy in something prior to his highly-anticipated action flick this summer (it will be interesting now to see how he steps into a leading hero role without a name like Cruise headlining; here is is fabulous) and despite my initial conclusion that I wouldn’t want to, I may someday see myself to renting the first three films, and should there be a fifth (which looks more and more likely with each news story), I’d be thrilled to see more of Ethan’s adventures. Having not seen the prior films, I didn’t feel lost in this story, but I am also willing to concede that some subtle lines or character references were probably lost on me. So, the real question is: Will this be something I’ll choose to “accept” a second viewing of? You bet.
(What to know: Rated PG13 because of lots of flipping cars, accident scenes and hand-to-hand combat. Several main characters are beaten up or shot [some blood]. There are about two “epic” action scenes [a car chase and scaling a building]. One woman falls to her death off a top-story window [off-screen], a man is shot dead and his family threatened. There are a few minor sexually-charged innuendoes; Jane must seduce a target [she wears a low-cut, high-slit gown]. Elsewhere there are few profanities but it is very infrequent.)