"Your mission...should you choose to accept it...."
Ain’t it always the same?
There I was, enjoying a brief writing hiatus at the end of the year. Catching a breath before the dawn of 2012 when Starburst magazine goes back to print with my Future Imperfect column as a monthly feature. (Oh, I have plans - BIG plans for some of the things to be covered. The first six months topics have already been agreed - all that remains is the research and the writing. You know, the fun stuff)
On the site, I thought that the interview I did with Jon Mack was a good feature to go out on, so didn’t really contemplate writing anything new, really.
Then I innocently wandered into the multiplex and saw a film that practically knocked me straight out of my sneakers.
Like I said earlier.....ain’t it always the same?
To be honest, this fourth Mission: Impossible kind of caught me by surprise. I didn’t know they had one in production until I saw the teaser trailer in the summer and I still can’t understand how that somehow passed me by. I was only too aware that the first was in production - I mean Brian DePalma directing a reboot of the sixties classic series - EVERYBODY knew about it. My interest had been piqued initially when DePalma was intending to bring the Man From U.N.C.L.E. to the big screen, then settled for Mission: Impossible instead. I often wonder how DePalma would’ve treated the adventures of Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin. They were always more fantasy based and larger than life than the Impossible Missions Force team. Whereas Solo & Kuryakin were like a couple of globe trotting James Bonds, capable of dealing with anything in any part of the world, Jim Phelps and the IMF were caught up in more covert undercover black ops scenarios with the team comprised of various specialists.
When I saw the first M:I film, franky I wasn’t happy with one major aspect. Jim Phelps, the team leader played by Peter Graves from the second season now had Jon Voight in the role, which was okay - but to make him a double agent selling out his team? Come ON!
Tom Cruise took the role of Ethan Hunt, the disguise expert and logical successor to Martin Landau’s Rollin Hand and Leonard Nimoy’s Paris characters. A guy who would inherit the mantle of leading the team. I saw the film and despite my dislike of giving a major character a major character change - it was a good spy actioner. That was that.
Who would’ve thought that John Woo would be the man to bring a superior sequel to the screen with his incredible eye for action? Or that six years later in 2006, that J.J.Abrams would up the ante even further with the third movie?
The choice of director this time around was as surprising as it was inspired, as Brad Bird took the centre seat. Yes, THAT Brad Bird - Pixar Animation regular, and director of Up, The Incredibles and Ratatouille. It seems that an animation director really is the best guy around to bring a film with huge action set pieces like this one to the screen.
The mission itself is huge, beginning with the breaking out of Ethan Hunt from a Russian prison and moving swiftly on to infiltrating the Kremlin before it all goes wrong and the ultimate sanction is applied. You know the catch phrase used in every episode "should you or any of your IMF team be captured or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions"? Well that’s been the threat since the beginning. If any of the team are caught, they’re disowned and left for dead by the US Government (hence Ghost Protocol). So when things get screwed up beyond all recognition in the Kremlin, Cruise and Co are suddenly out on their own in a hostile world with no allies, no backup and very little tech.
The action goes from Moscow to Dubai to Mumbai, India, as Hunt’s team have to go rogue to stop a crazy terrorist who has acquired launch codes for Russian nucelar missiles. They also have to clear their own names.
Whether Hunt is perilously climbing the side of the world’s tallest building, the magnificent Burj Khalifa in Dubai, engaged in a car chase through a sandstorm or fighting for his life in any of the movie’s exotic locations - I constantly thought that the M:I moves are now what the 007 movies were back in their heyday, and that Hunt is the logical successor to Bond. (To me, the classic Bond movies ended with Die Another Day, the Daniel Craig films aren’t Bond in the accepted cinematic sense.)
I’m hoping for another instalment in the M:I franchise in a few years - and that’s another thing that keeps this series fresh the length of time between the films. (1996, 2000, 2006 and 2011) They’re not formulaic clones vomited out every other year. There’s a good gap, and the plots are radically different each time.
Also, the formula lends itself to this kind of change. Should the charismatic Cruise ever decide that he’s had enough, then his character is easily replaced in the team and the films can go on. But I’m hoping that wont happen for a while. I like Tom Cruise, I rate him pretty highly as an actor and if reports are true, he’s a likeable guy in real life and crazy enough to do most of his own stunts whenever he can get away with it.
How fitting that the last cinema trip of the year should also yield the year’s best action film.
So, as the year closes, we can look forward to 2012, more action, more geekiness, more Marvel & DC characters on screen -plus the film I’ve been longing to see for decades - The Avengers.
There’s never been a better time to be a geek.
Copyright © 2010 - 2011 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.