A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Friday, January 29, 2016

Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol (Brad Bird, 2011)

I recently commented here that I didn't respond particularly well to Gregory Peck because, unlike stars such as Cary Grant and Bette Davis, he never surprised me with a line reading or a facial expression. I think the same is true of Tom Cruise, whose range seems to be limited to intensity: He never seems to unclench. That becomes apparent in this fourth installment of the Mission: Impossible series when he shares the screen with a much more versatile star, Jeremy Renner, who can be both intense and casually self-deprecating. I'm not saying Cruise is a bad actor: I thought his performance in Rain Man (Barry Levinson, 1988) was superior to Dustin Hoffman's Oscar-winning one. All Hoffman had to do was find a shtick and stay with it; Cruise was the one who had to grow and change over the course of the movie. It's just that he built his career on muscular action and a captivating grin that grew into a rictus as his career thrived. This Mission film is, I think, superior to the first three because it doesn't take on more than it can handle. It turns its heroes -- Cruise, Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton -- into fallible beings who screw up but manage to get on the right course at the last minute. It's all familiar super-action stuff, of the kind we've seen and marveled at ever since James Bond hit the screen. Renner and Pegg especially are instrumental in saving the movie from tedium, especially in their interplay in the sequence when Renner is called on to reprise the famous drop to within an inch of danger that Cruise did in the first Mission film back in 1996. This time, Renner has to do it with no restraint, free-falling until a magnet repels his magnetized suit, and both Renner and Pegg play it for laughs, something that director Brad Bird is skilled at providing. The screenplay (by Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec) tries to build some suspense around a secret that Renner's character, Brandt, is hiding from Cruise's Ethan Hunt, but that's just filler between action sequences.