Mission: Impossible. Ghost Protocol (2011)

Standard

Director: Brad Bird. Paramount/Skydance/Bad Robot/FilmWorks/Stillking Films/TC Productions

ACTION/ADVENTURE/FANTASY


Producers
: J. J. Abrahms, Brad Burke, Tom Cruise. Writers: Josh Applebaum, Andre Nemec. Camera: Robert Elswit. Music: Michael Giacchino. Sets: James D. Bissell.

Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist, Vladimir Mashkov, Ivan Shvedoff, Anil Kapoor, Lea Seydoux, Josh Holloway, Ving Rhames, Tom Wilkinson.

SYNOPSIS

After the Kremlin is blown up, Ethan Hunt’s (Cruise) IMF agency is implicated and officially disbanded. Forced to clear their name, Cruise and his team (Pegg, Patton and analyst Renner) turn rogue to catch the real culprits and restore the lustre to the name of the Impossible Missions Force.

REVIEW

Now limping home with the fourth instalment of the blockbuster franchise, surely co-producer Cruise could have the title changed to something more factually correct – as we have now established that these missions are in fact completely and utterly possible.

One thing he should definitely get changed is the title credits sequence – sometimes these can make or break a movie, either setting the tone for what is to come with artistry the following film can sometimes struggle to match or being completely forgettable so as not to detract from the feature or the movie’s budget. Here, they are the film, summarising the whole movie. For those who don’t close their eyes, the plot on its own is somewhat superfluous.

M:I4 treads a well-worn path to audience satisfaction; the satisfaction deriving from the remarkable stunt work, a good deal of which (it is said) is performed by the star. Forget the ridiculous and overly convoluted narrative structure (employing multi-layered flashbacks), the fun as with the other films comes not from why Cruise et al solve the problems they are faced with, but more with how they do this and what gadgets and trickery they employ. Here we have a dizzying array of invisibility screens, balloon cameras and levitation chain-mail suits to fix the audience’s eyes and ensure the nonsense jibber-jabber the characters utter flies conveniently over their heads.

They also make those aforementioned stunts seem just slightly more plausible, but none the less incredible to watch. The piece de resistance here is Cruise’s stomach-jumping traverse and run around the outside of the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s mighty megalith the ‘Burj Khalifa’. If you don’t suffer from vertigo before watching this scene, pre-book yourself some Cognitive-Behavioural therapy sessions for when you have.

Cruise is looking too long in the tooth to be shilly-shallying from skyscrapers, which might explain the preponderance of ‘young uns’ supporting such silly geriatric antics: Hurt Locker‘s Renner gets second billing as the shifty analyst with a few secrets up his sleeve, sexy Patton scores well as a thoroughly self-reliant tough girl, Pegg provides the comic support and well-haired Kapoor is also amusing as an oily Indian playboy of a certain age. Lost‘s Holloway pops up briefly as an IMF agent who meets his end in double-quick time.

The series is looking as tired as its star, but there is clearly some mileage still left here – the constant product placement of a certain Apple invention (IMF systems are seemingly built around them) shows there is a lot of money still to be milked from this cash cow.

Rhames, who starred in all of the previous MI films, appears here uncredited as the same character; Wilkinson likewise eschews creditation in a brief cameo as the IMF Secretary. Monaghan, Cruise’s wife in MI3, also rears her head again.

 

 

 

The Debt (2010)

Standard

Director: John Madden.

Marv/Pioneer (15)

DRAMA

Producer: Eitan Evan, Eduardo Rossof, Krys Thykier, Matthew Vaughan. Writers: Matthew Vaughan, Jane Goldman, Peter Straughan. Camera: Ben Davis. Music: Thomas Newman. Sets Jim Clay.

Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas, Ciaran Hinds, Jesper Christensen, Romi Aboulafia.

SYNOPSIS

A ménage a trois develops between Mossad agents Chastain, Worthington and Csokas when they are charged with capturing a notorious Nazi war criminal and bringing him to trial in Israel. Years later, as Chastain’s daughter Aboulafia launches a book about their heroic act, a dark secret between this now mature group (Mirren, Wilkinson and Hinds) surfaces that threatens to wrench them apart.

REVIEW

Goldman and Vaughan, if nothing else, have a wide range of interests when it comes to making movies. From the tongue-in-cheek fantasy of Stardust, the blockbuster comic books Kick-Ass! and X-Men: First Class to this, a remake of an obscure 2007 Israeli drama that is about as serious as you can get, they certainly get around the block in terms of genre. Here, they persuasively explore the rocky foundations on which hero worship can be built.

The Debt is a little like a revisionist Marathon Man, but although it lacks that film’s scenes of extended dental torture, it more than makes up for it as the vile and unrepentant Nazi Christensen (clearly based on Josef Mengele) is force-fed gruel for what seems like the entire of the middle part of the movie. It’s during these sequences that the script comes to life as Christensen uses psychology to divide the group and conquer and utters distasteful anti-semitism.

Christensen adds further grit to an already superlative raft of performances from a cannily cast group of actors. Mirren and hot young thing of the moment Chastain (The Tree of Life, The Help) were clearly chosen not just for their acting but also their close physical resemblance, though it is more of a stretch making us believe that the relatively diminutive Worthington would grow up to be the strapping Hinds. The characters’ nationality also gives the cast a chance to flex their chameleon vocal talents.

Madden, a director who has achieved some success with thoughtful drama (Mrs Brown, Shakespeare in Love, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin) was a sure hand for a difficult subject matter, but still manages to inject some startlingly gruesome moments (we open with a man being run over in bone-crunching detail) and stomach-knotting tension (catching the Nazi doctor; and the surprise climax will have you on the edge of your seat).