Friday, September 15, 2017

Mission: Impossible 4 - Ghost Protocol

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Ethan and his team go to the Kremlin in pursuit of Hendricks, a Swede who wants to set off a nuclear weapon. After Hendricks blows up the Kremlin, the IMF is disbanded and Ethan's team is on its own in "Ghost Protocol" status.  They track Hendricks to Dubai and Mumbai where they must stop him from detonating his bomb.

Memorable Quote:
Your line's not long enough!  ~Brandt
No shit!  ~Ethan

There wasn't one highlight that jumped out at me.  I think I'll go with the non-flashy but gritty scene where Ethan escapes from the hospital.  I like the escape itself, even if in real life he'd be paralyzed from the neck down afterwards, and I also like how he then pilfers a few items to blend in with the crowd.

The villain is really disappointing, especially following all-star performances from Dougray Scott and Philip Seymour Hoffman.  I have no problem with the actor but rather how underused the character is.  An action movie is only as strong as its villain, and we hardly get to know Hendricks because he has so little screen time.  What makes him tick?  Why is he blowing up the Kremlin, stealing nuclear codes, and starting a war?  Why did he wear his subordinate's mask to the exchange in Dubai?  And most confusingly, why did he martyr himself by jumping off the car ramp at the end?

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • In the first scene, how is there a giant inflatable mat to catch the guy falling off the building?  The entire opening feels like a movie set where the director will come out at any time and yell "Cut."
  • Generally speaking I'm not a fan of sparking an intentional prison riot as part of a master plan.  We also saw this in 24 Season 3, and it always leads to collateral damage like prison guards getting hurt (or killed).
  • The circumstances around the escape make no sense.  In the van afterwards, Ethan says, "Mind telling me why you broke me out?"  So he didn't know that they were going to break him out, yet during the escape he knows exactly what to do and where to go (and even intentionally looks at Benji on the camera).  And somehow he is able to set up a pickup van to take Sergei, the prisoner whom he broke out, even though he didn't know about the escape and his team didn't know about Sergei.  
  • After getting the mission briefing from the pay phone, they are able to round up all their equipment (including military uniforms, remote control balloon, and magic screen) and get to the Kremlin in less than 5 hours.
  • I wonder if the Kremlin archive room is where they keep the pee pee tape.
  • When the bad guys bring along a nuclear expert to the meet to verify the codes, Ethan insists on giving them the real codes (over Brandt's protest) because it's their only chance to get Hendricks and if they lose him now then he'll just find another way to get a nuclear bomb.  Sorry Ethan, but I'm with Brandt on this one -- why are you assuming that this would be your last chance to get Hendricks?  And giving Hendricks the codes leads to San Francisco being literally two seconds away from getting wiped off the map.
  • This movie relies much more heavily on CGI than the first three movies do, and as is the case with most movies that rely too much on CGI, it weakens and cheapens the film.  The scene with the haboob coming into Dubai is especially fake looking.  And yes, I just dropped a "haboob" reference on you -- picked that one up from The Weather Channel. 
  • The plan is for Paula Patton to seduce the rich Indian guy (the actor is recognizable from Slumdog Millionaire), but how do they know that the guy will go for her?  I'm sure there's no shortage of fine-looking women at the party who would happily throw themselves at the wealthy host, and with all due respect to Paula, how can they know that one smile from her would be enough to get him going?
  • Ethan tells the Russian "Inspector Javert" who is tracking him throughout the movie that they are not enemies.  But what about Javert's men gunning down the IMF secretary and shooting at Ethan and Brandt in the river?
  • The ending with Ethan's wife Julia is bizarre as he watches her from a distance in a nighttime Seattle plaza, and then she sees him and smiles before going into a building.  Huh?  So they pretended she died in order to protect her, but why would Ethan have gotten married in the first place then unless he was willing to give up his spy lifestyle? I imagine they wanted to find a way to not involve Julia in this movie (a decision I support since I'm not a big Julia fan), but they didn't want to say that they got divorced and paint Ethan as a bad husband.  But he moved on from Nyah after MI2 and she was never mentioned again, and I would have been fine with Julia meeting the same fate.

Final Analysis:
While this movie was not as bad as I remembered, it's a huge drop-off from the first three films. Where its predecessors were edgy and serious, this one feels more cartoonish and light-hearted, almost like a comic book come to life.  And I suppose that makes sense since the director, Brad Bird, worked on cartoons like Toy Story 3 and The Incredibles. And there's way too much Benji -- I don't dislike him per se, but he's better in small doses like he was used in MI3.  When he's a major character, it makes the plot too campy and light-hearted -- I'm not looking for too much comedy in my spy movies. 

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