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‘Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol’

Jan. 19, 2012

3 popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger

Special to the Observer

 

Director Brad Bird’s “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol,” starring Tom Cruise as agent Ethan Hunt, reminds of that rather interesting guest who overstays his welcome. While amiable and engaging through dinner, after dessert his stories become repetitive. Unfortunately, the only way to edit the fellow would be to kick him out of your house.

Though free of said moral dilemma, the filmmaker nonetheless fails to lop a good 20 minutes off his otherwise rousing and wonderfully absurd adventure yarn. If the tale were to conclude after what surely seems like the third act, complete kudos would be in order. But a problem in story structure makes for a cumbersome addendum and gilds the lily.

It doesn’t help that, with the piggyback surplus slowing matters and giving us a chance to think, it occurs that the melodrama attached to the exhilaration is pure bathos. Odd in comparison to the stunning ingenuity it means to complement, its inclusion seems as disingenuous as a fast food restaurant putting a “trace of Vitamin C” in the hefty fries.

That said, this is pretty snazzy stuff, with enough spy-related gizmos and gadgets to fill any catalogues Hammacher Schlemmer or The Sharper Image might plan in the far future. And Mr. Cruise, adeptly sharing the limelight with an ensemble worthy of the gig, ostensibly reminds again that without him there couldn’t have been a “Rain Man (1988).”

Of course, just as the extortionary fees in such gambits have climbed from the hundreds of thousands into the billions over the years, the real estate at risk also hasn’t escaped the wiles of inflation. Threaten to knock off the local pumping station if they don’t fork over a hundred grand and they’d think you a piker. Now, it’s the whole world or nothing.

Dusting off the never completely settled Cold War friction, arch-villain/madman Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist), aided by his genius goony, Wistrom (Samuli Edelmann), has a strange plan to achieve world peace. It’s apparent he hasn’t heard the maxim about not throwing the baby out with the bath water. He’d like to just cleanse the whole orb.

That’s right, steal and activate the Russian nuclear launch codes and force humankind to begin anew. Witnessing the cold liquidations he performs while warming up to his scheme, it probably won’t make much sense to try and reason with the crazy. In short, this is an assignment for Ethan and Co., providing of course that they choose to accept it.

Since it’s the fate of the planet at stake, what kid’s soccer game is more important? So off they go, into the breach, maybe the best balanced bunch of crusaders the silver screen will see this week; and nice, too. As alacritous and welcoming as Snap, Crackle and Pop, surely these worthies deserve a positive Yelp review under the category, World Savers.

Paula Patton supplies charm and eye candy as Jane Carter. OK, so she runs like a girl. Still, she’s about the prettiest co-secret agent one could hope for, and can commiserate with Ethan in that she, too, lost a loved one to the cruel realities of international intrigue. Plus, the pulchritude serves a plot purpose when Jane is called to do the Mata Hari thing.

But the key-supporting bit is Simon Pegg’s reprise of Benji Dunn, techno geek extraordinaire. He could be streaming Netflix out of your kitchen faucet faster than you can say Ethernet megabit. While hardly as burlesque but nonetheless reminiscent of the jesting Hope furnished in the road movies, his wryness is a comedy relief for the times.

And naturally, if push comes to shove, in good nerd sidekick tradition he can be counted on to surprise us with an emergency whirlwind of kung fu fighting. Of less certainty is what might be brought to the party by special analyst William Brandt, the wild card foisted upon the gang when a sudden tragedy requires a complete rethinking of the plan.

‘Hmm,’ we surmise while scratching the stubble of our chin. ‘He sure is badass for just an analyst, don’t you think?’ While no great shakes, this enigma, etched appropriately enough by Jeremy Renner, will have some folks guessing. However, even I, who can rarely figure these things out, kind of grokked the soap opera-ish skinny in his case.

All of which is why this should appeal to the great unwashed. It’s lots of glitz and fancy derring-do, easily accessible without having to know the secret handshake. And, in a world where the spin increasingly obfuscates values, clearly identifiable good guys and villains make “Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol” a properly spirited entertainment.

 

“Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol,” rated PG-13, is a Paramount Pictures release directed by Brad Bird and stars Tom Cruise, Paula Patton and Simon Pegg. Running time: 133 minutes 

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