DIRECTOR: Brad Bird
May Contain Spoilers!
It’s been 16 years since Brian De Palma teamed up with Tom Cruise to bring the cult 1960’s TV series to the big screen. Back in 1996, Mission: Impossible was seen as overly complex and too much so for a summer blockbuster, certainly when released alongside other tent-pole movies such as Independence Day, also released that year.
But, after two other directors, the worst been John Woo for number 2 and then the reasonably good J.J. Abrams for Mission: Impossible III, it’s now the turn of Incredibles director, Brad Bird to take the reins. So, we’ve gone from the director of gangster movies, a Hong Kong action maestro and the pretentious director of Lost, Fringe and the 2009 Star Trek reboot, to the man behind the brilliant Pixar movie, The Incredibles.
A strange choice but on the other hand, The Incredibles was a different film for the animation studio, being more family action in tone, something which can lend itself to the genre in which the M:I films reside. There’s not much to say about the plot, you can work that out for yourself. World in peril, IMF team disavowed but go on anyway and there are a number of outlandish set pieces.
The most notable of which is the scaling of the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa in Dubai. I had heard a lot about this scene, particularly how it lent itself to the IMAX format so well, but you don’t need IMAX to appreciate this. This isn’t just about images of height invoking the feeling of vertigo, this is a well crafted sequence from start to finish, which whilst spending some time on Hunt’s (Tom Cruise) assent up the and down the tower, Bird (Ironic?) uses every trick in the book to turn your stomach, and it works. This was one of the most gut wrenching sequences that I’ve ever seen! I have never felt the sense of vertigo as I did during this scene but ultimately, it was the best part of the film.
The entire sequence in Dubai is good, even the sandstorm car chase, but the rest, whilst having its moments, fell a little flat. The characters weren’t particularly engaging, the plot was overly complex to point of just being confusing for the sake of it and the action was to few and far between. It was punctuated by dialogue scenes with said too little to keep my interest when really you are looking at a light-hearted Bond or Bourne, and it tried to take itself too seriously.
It worked best during the scenes in Dubai and in the Kremlin as they use the innovative and just damn cool projection screen. Hunt is not as interesting a character as Cruise thinks that he is. I don’t care about his wife, which is quite important, especially in the contrived and overly upbeat ending, and even though I liked Jeremy Renner in this, his motivation’s in this area just feel overly melodramatic and little silly. He’s a secret agent with a guilt complex over a failed mission… Seriously?
The overall impression of this film is that there should be no more. This is now, absolutely, a vanity project for Cruise, if it ever wasn’t already after the first one, which was and still is defiantly the best, though that’s not to say that there’s not a fair bit to like here. Like I keep saying, the Dubai sequence alone is worth the admission price and there a plenty of nice nods to the previous films and it was nice to see Renner rather than Cruise do the final act, ‘impossible mission’ into the computer, and that scene’s nod to the Langley computer room scene from one, with the bead of sweat falling, was a nice touch, but it wasn’t enough.
It overly relied on the same gags throughout such as Hunt continually missing his marks when making his theatrical leaps; firstly when trying to jump onto a moving van, then the brilliant moment when he tries to jump back into the tower and then in the final fight, when his jumps into a car on a moving platform and again misses. Once or maybe twice would have been a nice touch but this is just of character for our super spy and just looked liked a cynical attempt to move closer to the Bourne franchise. But Mr. Cruise, this is not James Bond and you are no Jason Bourne!. This is a loose remake of a 45-year-old TV series which many of us don’t even remember, or care too for that matter. Bond has made its move towards Bourne but that’s fair enough as Bond is iconic and Bourne already owes something to Bond, but this is a light action franchise with little continuity to speak off and nothing to gain by moving in this more realist direction.
So, how did Brad Bird do? Not bad at all. He handles his visual well, the direction was good but the script was just a little slow and light to justify the so-called weight of the plot, and the CGI in the final sequence was rubbish and the VFX team should be utterly ashamed of themselves. Bird should not, but it’s quite possible that he was held down by the sheer weight of Cruise’s ego.