Tom Cruise vs. The World’s Tallest Phallus
All my life I’d wanted to see Officially Not-Gay Parkour Master Tom Cruise swinging from a giant phallus, and now, thanks to Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, I have! And in glorious IMAX! The plot could’ve used a little more, well… girth, to fully satisfy this lady (*pointing to myself*), but I admit with these wide hips I can be a bit of a size queen. Which is to say, it’s not the kind of story you’re going to remember anything about three seconds after you leave the theater, but as a framework to include every kind of shot you’d see on one of those vivid HD channels that electronic stores use to pimp the latest plasma screens, it’s brilliant. Russian cities! Shiny supercars (all BMW)! Towering skyscrapers! Bollywood parties! …Smooshed together mixed-race titties! If IMAX screens had a demo reel, this would be it. And Tom Cruise is a perfect fit. His blandly competent line readings just scream “movie actor!”
We catch up to Tom Cruise in a Russian prison, where his plucky gang of spy pals, including computer expert Simon Pegg and voluptuous Paula Patton (“Agent Honeypot,” I like to call her) is busting him out. They need his help to catch a terrorist! There’s a former Russian general who’s gone rogue, escaping his pen, goring three of his handlers and stealing the nuclear launch codes. He wants to launch Russian missiles at the United States in order to start World War III, so that, uh… the Earth can, uh… have a fresh start or some shit? You know, it wasn’t super clear on that point. But basically, it’s like War Games or Crimson Tide. If you’ve ever seen that South Park where the characters say stuff like “A secret government program… or maybe it was aliens… Who cares, f*ck you!” to move the plot past the exposition we’re all going to forgive anyway, it’s a lot like that. And rightly so.
Tracking a hitman (or to be more specific, a hot hitlady played by some kind of runway model), Cruise and Pegg, in full disguise, and speaking perfect Russian, infiltrate the Kremlin to steal back the launch codes. Only the bad guys get there first, and blow up the whole Kremlin! The international incident triggers “ghost protocol,” in which the secretary of IMF (“Impossible Missions Force,” not “International Monetary Fund”), played by Tom Wilkinson, as he explains it to Cruise, officially disbands the IMF, and all remaining members are disavowed by the US government and considered terrorists. Now Cruise and his team, which now includes Jeremy Renner, are on the run from the CIA, FBI, KGB, IRA, TTYL and countless Thetans, making it that much harder for them to track down the rogue Russians and stop them from starting a nuclear war.
Director Brad Bird, making his live-action debut here, previously directed Ratatouille, The Incredibles, and Iron Giant, all films with a lot of heart and humor. MI4 has almost no heart, and the four or five minutes of total screen time when it actually attempts emotion (mostly near the end) is close to unintentional parody. It doesn’t quite have “humor” either, but what it does have is a non-chalant breeziness that gives some of the sillier plot points a certain charm. When Tom Cruise jumps into Tom Wilkinson and Jeremy Renner’s limo, the first thing he does is ask to borrow a pen. Then he draws a sketch of the bad guy onto his palm, holds it up to Renner, and says, “Do you know who this man is!?”
TOM CRUISE DRAWS A SKETCH OF THE BAD GUY ON HIS HAND! IN LIKE THREE SECONDS! Even better, Jeremy Renner sees it and he’s like, “Well of course I know who that is! That’s Sergei Prokrajac, former Lithuanian fly-fishing champ, summers in the Volga, left-handed, smart, but a total paprika fiend.”
It’s not quite tongue-in-cheek, but you get the sense Bird knows exactly what kind of movie he’s making, and there’s an unapologetic beauty in that. What he does do brilliantly is stage spectacular set pieces. The climbing sequence on the Burj Dubai had my palms sweating like Tom Cruise at an all-male ballet, and in the same scene, Bird even managed to incorporate a massive Arabian sandstorm. Talk about utilizing your setting. If Bird had directed the wingsuit scenes in Transformers 3 instead of camera-shaker/noisemaker Michael Bay, that movie probably would’ve been much less of a sucky shitpile.
Another aside here — when the team discovers that Tom Cruise is going to have to climb up the side of the building, at first he’s all reluctant, like, “Welp, if it’s got to be done…” And Jeremy Renner’s like, “Quick! We only have 30 minutes!” And so they run over to the window, and the next thing you know, it cuts to Cruise, and he’s wearing perfect, knee-high mountain climber pants! Where’d he even get those, let alone change!? He draws, he shoots, he climbs, he speaks every language, and he’s smuggling an entire Lululemon in his ass just in case he needs an activity-appropriate attire? He can’t show up to Yoga class in a Pilates blouse, he’s Ethan Hunt for Christ sakes! The man is a one-man village people.
Anyway, the laziest review happens to be the most accurate here: If you’re looking for more of what you saw in the trailer, you won’t go wrong. And if you’re seeing it anyway, it’s definitely worth the extra couple bucks for IMAX. Just beware of gays in there.