2011, Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton. Directed by Brad Bird.
Anyone who knows me knows me that I’m a real fan of action/adventure – to a point. I like big-budget, thrilling, fast-paced, completely implausible, globe-trotting, good guys vs. bad guys, movies that don’t give me time to stop and catch my breath long enough to question “why did he do that?” But I’m also discriminating; I don’t like to spend my meager funds and precious spare time on less than stellar examples of the genre. It has to hold the promise of being spectacular to get me interested in even watching the previews.
Every now and then a movie comes along that I would ordinarily place on my “must-see in a theater” list – possibly in the #1 spot – without knowing much of anything about it. Sometimes it’s because of a truly talented director, other times it may be due to a particular actor I enjoy, or it could be the latest in a franchise that has delivered great entertainment before and the hope exists that the newest installment will as well.
The opposite is also true. Once in a while I will put a movie on my “avoid at all costs in any format, run screaming from the room if perchance I happen upon it playing on some random television somewhere in the future” list. I think this list is much shorter than my “must-see” list, but it does exist. There are some premises that are so bad, some stories so devoid of entertainment value, and some actors that I despise so much, I will go out of my way to avoid seeing any movie that contains them.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was not in either category, although it almost made it to the “avoid at all costs” list. I confess – I can’t stand Tom Cruise, or as I call him, Mr. Miniature Man.
The last Tom Cruise movie I enjoyed him in was 1992’s Far and Away. The most recent role I enjoyed seeing him play was Les Grossman, the obnoxious Hollywood mogul in Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder. (By the way, if you haven’t seen Tropic Thunder you’ve missed one of the most hysterically funny send-ups of actors taking themselves too seriously ever filmed. It’s like Three Amigos in Viet Nam. Rent it. Watch it. Laugh yourself silly.) Let’s just say that I recognized the character immediately as Tom Cruise, and had no problem believing that he was playing the part without make-up or hairpiece; I was convinced that he really was actually playing his own, true obnoxious self. That’s how much I don’t care for Mr. MM.
On the other hand, I have become a big fan of Simon Pegg. LOVED him in Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, Paul, and 2009’s Star Trek, the excellent reboot from J.J. Abrams. That was one good reason to put Ghost Protocol on my “must-see” list. Another reason happens to be that I was a huge fan of the original Mission: Impossible television series. That’s actually strange, though, as I was much too young to understand what was going on in any of the episodes the first time I ever saw them; my older brothers, however, were enraptured with all things glamorizing espionage during the Cold War. Ahh, the 1960’s…. Well, I may not have understood the big picture, but the music was awesome and the way people kept ripping off full-face masks to shockingly reveal their true identity was something you just didn’t see anywhere else.
So there was my dilemma – Ghost Protocol co-starred one of my favorite comedic actors AND it was based on an old favorite, long-running hit TV show that had already begat three feature films, but it starred obnoxious Mr. MM. My brain froze, locked up tight whenever I tried to determine which list it belonged on.
Miraculously, I was spared the fate of terminal brain freeze (at least for now) when a dear friend of mine suggested we see it. “Uhhh… you know, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is also in theaters, I could see it again,” I ventured. No, it wouldn’t do but for us to see a movie that neither of us had already viewed. The clincher was when she said she had a gift card for the movie theater, plus a five-dollar-off coupon for snacks from the concession. (See the aside for details on the adventure that was our encounter at the theater concession stand.) It only took a microsecond for me to rationalize that with the tickets paid for by a gift card provided by someone else, no one could accuse me of paying to watch Mr. MM, and I could enjoy Simon Pegg in what would hopefully be a real rip-snorter of an action/adventure movie.
I was not disappointed – this latest installment of the Mission Impossible franchise takes off like a missile and has you clinging on for the entire thrilling ride! One of the best things about it were the many elements of the original TV show incorporated into this one, like Pegg’s Agent Dunn hopefully begging for the use of those famous full-face masks, infamous “sting” operations to trick the bad guys, foul-ups at critical moments, suspicious behavior from possibly untrustworthy team members, glamorous private parties to be infiltrated, the beautiful yet deadly and seductive female agent. Yet it was thoroughly updated for a modern audience in today’s world; the IMF team was not out to topple a foreign government, they were sent to stop a crazy terrorist. Even though the basic premise of preventing an insane individual from destroying the world is a little hackneyed and threadbare, you can’t have an espionage team with cool gadgets turning up in worldwide exotic locales and getting into impossible situations that only their superior wits and fighting skills can get them out of without it. That’s just the way these super-spy movies, like the super-hero ones, work.
Simon Pegg was definitely one of the biggest highlights of the whole film for me, playing the technical gadget genius. He is perfection itself in a role where he provides some comic relief, delivering lines that make hilariously brilliant observations about the absurdity of the situation as only a “regular guy” can. The exotic foreign locales were lovely, the car chases were thrilling (especially the one in the sandstorm), the fight scenes were flinch-worthy, and I enjoyed getting to see Mr. MM repeatedly get beaten up.
Actually, if we are insisting on total honesty here – not that I know any good reason why we would – I was mentally substituting a different actor for Mr. MM throughout the entire movie. Had they cast my choice of actor instead of Mr. MM, my rating surely would have shot up to Two Full Buckets. Go see it; you can envision any actor you want in the role of Ethan Hunt. Who knows? You might enjoy it even more that way, too.