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Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

I remember enjoying the twistiness and gadgetry of the first one “Mission:Impossible” movie,  and then thinking the second was too caught up in being “stylish” (all I really remember is slow motion doves flying up in front of a car chase) to be much fun.  The third was just a bad movie (but with a  good villain) that came at a time with the ill will directed towards Tom Cruise was perhaps at its peak.  The franchise looked dead at that point, killed by Cruise’s couch jumping and bad direction.

Cruise has made some attempts to rehabilitate his reputation, mostly by not jumping on couches and wearing a fat suit in “Tropic Thunder.”  Director Brad Bird does the same thing for the Mission: Impossible brand, bringing in Simon Pegg and a wonderfully irreverent script for “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.”  Even that title seems like a sly joke – a colon and then a dash?

Simon Pegg shows, as he did in “Star Trek,”  that he can bring comic relief to action films without being distracting or spoiling the action.  That’s really a balancing act, and I think he should get more credit than he does.  The travesty of “Paul” aside, he might be the best comic actor working today.  I’ll watch him instead Seth Rogen or Jonah Hill any day.

Brad Bird is really in control of this movie.  Without his name attached (I have so much respect for him because of “Iron Giant” and “The Incredibles”) I probably wouldn’t have bothered with this film.  But I love the direction he takes M:I, accentuating its essential silliness without losing the thrill of its action.

The plot is so twisty and ridiculous it’s almost impossible to follow, let alone remember after leaving the movie theater.  Let’s see…Simon Pegg and Paula Patton break Cruise out of jail, and they’re working on an operation at the Kremlin, when the place blows up and they get blamed, so they have to stage a car crash and go on the lam to stop a criminal mastermind who wants to blow the world up in order to start the evolutionary process over again (or something) and just might have the nuclear codes to do it.  Really, does it matter?  It’s convoluted and action-packed and there was at least one sequence where it seemed to me like the sudden twist made the whole operation pointless, but they went ahead with it anyway.

More important that what happens is the way it happens; everything this M:I team tries to do goes wrong.  Everything.  The famous mask-making machine sputters and dies halfway through a mask.  The gadget-gloves that allow Tom Cruise to go all Spiderman on the tallest building in the world…don’t work.  The sexy seductress freezes up in front of her target and barely manages to get him to the bedroom.  If these guys were any more bumbling, Rowan Atkinson should be playing Ethan Hunt instead of Tom Cruise.  We teeter right on the edge of comedy and parody, and yet still Brad Bird still manages to make a thrilling action film.

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