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ScreenWise: Paul Meekin reviews Tom Cruise in ‘Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol’

Wed, Jan 11, 2012

I feel bad for Tom Cruise. All the fellah ever did was fall in love with Katie Holmes and find God, and now everyone thinks he’s a crazy person. Sure it may have been a bit melodramatic and over the top for him to jump up and down on Oprah’s couch, but he was in love, damn it.

Since that fateful day in 2005, Cruise has played a good-guy Nazi General in Valkryie, made a hilarious cameo in Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder and flopped hardcore with Knight and Day (which really might as well have been called Mission Impossible: Ethan’s Day Out). I suppose there must have been something crazy in his eyes that day on Oprah, that made every person in America refuse to take him seriously.

And it worked, because I can’t really take him very seriously, either. Of course, part of that is because Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol doesn’t take itself very seriously. Directed by Pixar alum Brad Bird, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is the fourth movie in the big screen reboot of the 1960’s spy series.

It’s also one of several oddly punctuated movies this year. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Happythankyoumoreplease, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and others have left me crying out in vain for an Oxford comma. Yes, I give an Eff about an Oxford comma.

Things open with Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) in prison. As a prison break begins all around him, he does the typical bad ass protagonist thing of throwing rocks against a wall and catching them non-chalantly. He’s eventually broken out of prison by two IMF agents: Simon Pegg and some chick (Paula Patton). Sure, these characters have names, Benji, and Jane, but I don’t think anyone is leaving the theater bothering to remember them. Anyhoot, they break Ethan out of jail, they engage in a criminal conspiracy involving the possible launch of a nuclear weapon, pick up Jeremy Renner along the way, end up in Dubai at one point. Then there’s a fight at a futuristic car park, the day is saved, and we even get the “You guys are my team” speech from Cruise at the end.

Just for me, none of these set pieces went over the top in a way I wanted, and the laws of physics are so consistently violated that I felt like I was watching a cartoon. And yes, I know this was directed by Brad Bird, who directs cartoons. So much time and effort was spent making the set pieces, particularly ones in Dubai and India, look real, why not have some real consequences to them, too. And normally I don’t mind suspending disbelief. In fact I loved the Transformers movies for just how delightfully bizarre they were, violating the laws of continuity, story, plot, and physics to provide such an entertaining spectacle I didn’t have any time to think about logistics.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol gave me plenty of time to think about logistics during long scenes of melodramatic blah blah I truly believe were put in the movie because someone thought they had to be there. During these scenes I had time to think the following things: “Hey, how’d they get that hotel room?” “Aren’t there other people in the hotel?” “I don’t think the Internet works that way” “How’d they get the money for that fancy airplane?” “Don’t you need a key to start a car?” “Why is she taking her clothes off?” “Wasn’t she just shot?” “Shouldn’t she be dead?” “Why do I care about his wife now?” “Did he really just say mission accomplished like that?” “Is Ethan Hunt really having trouble catching up to a 60-year-old man in a foot race? Is he having trouble kicking his ass, too?” “How does he have a new mission if IMF is disbanded?” “Who updates all this data?” “Why is he disappearing into the fog?” “Why is he suddenly obsessed with wearing hoodies?” “Is it over yet?”

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