*. With this, the fourth film in the Mission Impossible series, one can clearly see the formula that has now been established. As far at the action goes, Ethan Hunt and his background team break into places that are impossible to break into and then break out of places (sometimes the same place) that they end up being trapped in. Ethan will climb up cliffs and tall buildings and he will leap from cliffs and tall buildings. A car will race through traffic. Cars will be blown up. And Ethan will run. A lot. Sprints even. Given how many takes he must do for even the simplest of these shots I’d say Tom Cruise really is in great shape.
*. In terms of plot there is also some consistency. That consistency being inconsistency. As this movie begins we learn that Ethan’s wife has disappeared (only to be picked up somewhat mysteriously at the end). This is good because we don’t have to waste any time watching Tom Cruise trying to be a ladies’ man. Another discontinuity has Cruise jumping back into field work, as well as having a new boss. I think in every movie thus far he’s had a new boss.
*. Again we have a villain who is a throwaway. Little explanation was given of Davian’s plot in Mission: Impossible III (what the Rabbit’s Foot actually was even becomes the punchline to a joke), and in this movie I had no idea what Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) was up to. He wants to blow the world up because it’s part of a natural process? What good will his directing that process do? How is he going to profit from it? For a while I thought he might have been someone like Zobrist in Inferno, pursuing a kind of environmental agenda, but that doesn’t seem to be it. I think these movies just don’t want us to think about these things too much. How many lines does Hendricks even have in this movie, aside from the ones in the recording Hunt and the gang watch?
*. As with the Bond franchise, each new Mission: Impossible movie has to up the game by taking us to more exotic locations and giving us bigger effects. I give Ghost Protocol high marks for its inventiveness and production values. Climbing the outside of the Burj Khalifa was spectacular. The dust storm in Dubai and the parking garage fight in Mumbai were both well concieved and executed. It’s an odd mix of technical cleverness and invention with total indifference to logic and coherence that is the Mission: Impossible signature.
*. Director Brad Bird was doing his first live action film and he handles it well as comic book adventure. The days of De Palma and Woo aren’t even memories any more, handing off to pure generic thrills. But it all turns out nicely. The structure of the story is hopelessly clunky and I didn’t understand why they had to include any of the stuff with the Indian media tycoon, as it wasn’t very interesting and didn’t end up having any necessary part to play. But as I’ve said, these movies don’t care very much about the story. Big chunks of irrelevant material are par for the course. They just want to move you along to the next big moment and they don’t worry about connecting the dots.
*. It took a while, but with this movie you really got the sense that the franchise was hitting its stride. Critics approved and audiences ate it up. So there would be more.