Klavan On The Culture

Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol

Off his meds and ready for action!

Whenever you hear a movie star say he did his own stunts in a picture, you can be sure he’s lying like a network anchorman. Before the cameras can roll, a film has to be insured and no one will insure you if you put your star in danger. A Tom Cruise hangnail costs the production millions. You just cannot allow the guy to hang off a moving car—or even walk out of his trailer without strewing his path with feathers.

But the thing I like about Cruise is that he now looks so totally crazy that you really can believe he would hang off the window of a 100-story building or jump off a ledge onto a moving truck. Only when he’s sitting still, speaking ordinary dialogue, do you start to wonder why he was let out of the padded cell.

Cruise brings that crazy guy intensity to the latest Mission Impossible entry and holds the whole thing together by force of personality. It’s a fun flick, if you don’t mind the silliness, and I didn’t. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. And it delivers huge, innovative action set pieces that are a pleasure for their own sake. Most of the time you’re thinking more about the second unit team than the plot and characters—not so much Oh no, our hero’s in danger! but rather, Cool—I wonder how they did that? Still, I had a good time and so, by all appearances, did the cast and crew.

Clearly someone—the studio, director Brad Bird, the writers or maybe Cruise himself—committed themselves to giving the audience that good time first and foremost and you just can’t help but appreciate that. If the punters liked Cruise climbing a mountain in MI2, well, he can climb the outside of the largest building on earth this time! If we have two pretty girl characters, by golly, we’ll put them in a chick fight—dudes love that! There’s even a scene where statuesque Paula Patton strips to her push-up underwear in the middle of a car chase! My wife thought it was absurd and I, you know, agreed with her, ahem. No, really. Absurd. Really.

With the exception of the weirdly mesmerizing Cruise, who may not have known he was actually in a movie, and Simon Pegg who does a good job with the thankless role of comic cut-up, the actors seem to be memorizing rather than speaking their lines, but when it comes time for action, they all do a great job kicking and punching, and that’s where the money is.

So yeah, if you like the Roger Moore James Bond films, but think they’re dated, this is a jolly good time. (Great title, too, which actually makes sense in context.)

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