THE RETURN OF THE KING : MI4, GHOST PROTOCOL

imageIt started happening about a month ago. I was hearing and reading things I feared would never been said again about him. Shy but positive remarks, signs of an genuine awaiting for him. I could sense something was changing but I would have never imagined that it would be such a drastic turnaround. Until last tuesday night.

MI4 : GHOST PROTOCOL was released in France last Wednesday. His success has been immediate. But it is not the impressive number of people who went and still continue to see it that overwhelmed me with joy but the incredibly positive and enthusiastic comments they were making about it. What finished to warm the heart of the 13 years old girl that still beats in me like a drum at the sound of his name are the praises Tom Cruise has been receiving for his performance. Last june, I wrote what can be qualified as a profession of my undying love for him. I told you about the sadness that took me over seeing such a good actor being ridiculed and slammed for ludicrous reasons. I exhorted each and everyone of you who hated him  solely for his looks and for his faith to not deny that he is still one of the best actors in Hollywood. I wrote that calling without much hope, thinking this prince would still remain in exile for a couple of years at best. I am glad I was wrong. 


       

 It seems that the hateful madness against Tom Cruise is over. People are breaking free of censuring themselves, finally allowing themselves to like him, to find him talented, attractive and above all things, to EXPRESS their fondness. I heard those clamours, I felt this wind of liberation but I needed to go to a cinema to witness with my own eyes THE RETURN OF THE KING.

Rendez-vous was taken last tuesday with my friends to be at 7 pm sharp at the UGC of les Halles. We knew there was going to be a lot of people but I personally didn’t expect such a huge crowd. The movie was going to be projected in one of the  biggest room of the cinema complex but still, when we were finally able to enter it, we had a hard time finding seats. The place was booked and a friend of ours even didn’t get a ticket because he arrived too late. I wasn’t satisfied with my own seat, being to close to the screen but my best friend put it into perspective for me : “That way you are closer to Tom !”. Before and sometimes during the screening, I took a look at the audience. There were teenagers, adults and even old women. I remember that this sight put a smile on my face and that I thought : “ He’s back”.

                                                           ∞
           

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          NO PLAN. NO BACKUP. NO CHOICE.” is the tagline of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE : GHOST PROTOCOL and it is hard to refrain from saying that it basically summoned Tom Cruise’s situation.

After the debacle of War of the Worlds in 2005 and his subsequent firing from the Paramount, questions have been raised about his capacity to still attract spectators. Furthermore, now aged 49, would Tom Cruise have any credibility as an action hero? According to the American and European box-offices and the great reviews, the answer seems to be YES.

Sitting in the cinema, waiting for the movie to begin, I was not concerned at all about Cruise’s acting. I was worried about the direction the franchise had taken. I haven’t really liked any MISSION IMPOSSIBLE since the first one, directed by Brian De Palma in 1996. There was something about that one, an atmosphere, a simplicity but yet an amazing controlled intensity that I never found in its two sequels. I especially disliked the third instalment (2006) because of J.J. Abrams directing. Don’t get me wrong: I loved Lost but when I watch a Mission Impossible movie I don’t want to have the impression to still be stucked on the island. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what this third chapter looked like to me. It’s with great relief that I discovered that Abrams wasn’t directing the new one, only producing it. The directing command of Ghost Protocol had been given to Brad Bird who until then was used to write, produce and direct movies for Pixar and Disney (he is the mastermind behind the hugely successful The Incredibles in 2004). With such a new-comer in the universe of humans directing, the franchise was guaranteed to be given a radically new direction and boy, it took the high road!


LIGHT THE FUSE - Ethan Hunt.


imageThere is no other clearer way for me to say it than this : GHOST PROTOCOL is as  good as MI:1, perhaps even better. It is two hours of precisely controlled and choreographed spectacular action scenes, two intense hours balanced with a fresh dose of humour always infused with a perfect timing to give you the opportunity to catch your breath.

Catching his breath is a luxury Ethan Hunt doesn’t have in MI:4. After the bombing of the Kremlin for which Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team have been framed, they are held responsible by the Russians and disavowed by the American government which means that they are ghosts, with “no backup”, no access to any sort of resources. They just have no choice but to accept their mission which is to stop a mad physician from starting a nuclear war .

 The scenario - written by Josh Applebaum and André Nemec who both worked on J.J. Abrams’ TV show Alias - is remarkable. This simple but revolutionary change in the Mission Impossible universe means that everything is possible. It gave Brad Bird the power to create extreme action scene one after the other – in splendid locations in Russia, Dubai and India - and also to give a new dimension to the characters, especially Ethan Hunt. Without any equipment or backup, it is not the agents that amaze us in MI:4, but the MEN. No longer protected by an army of technological innovations, the members of Hunt’s team prove their merits and Hunt himself doesn’t end up being just another action-man but earns the title of hero. J.J. Abrams “touch” can be felt in the development of the characters as his favourite themes – guilt, the inability to let go of the past – are very present in MI:4. Each member of Hunt’s team exorcise their demons within this unite, together. And it’s their ability to do so that allow them to be stronger than we would expect them to be after being abandoned by their peers. It is then clearly not the technology that the later provided to them that made them capable of performing exceptional actions but their inner strength.


image  Deprived of his usual panoply of gadgets and of any other choice than to save the world, Ethan Hunt pushes his very own limits and this time, he lets us know on several occasions that he knows that he is going far, very far.

Let me just bluntly state that you can believe th e hype: Tom Cruise’s stunts are mind-blowing. It doesn’t happen to me a lot but I was  actually genuinely shivering and holding my breath when he was escalating the tallest building of the world in Dubai.  This insane stunt was done by Cruise himself. He may be 49 but you wouldn’t believe it seeing him running, jumping, fighting like he does in MI:4. Ethan Hunt has aged, got married but his determination is still made of steel. Although it isn’t a dramatic scene, there is one that really made my heart skipped a beat: confronting the villain, Hunt tells him that he won’t leave without the briefcase he had been searching. The way Cruise delivered the line reminded me of the restaurant scene in MI:1 when Kitridge told Hunt : “ You look upset” and Hunt replied : “ You’ve never seen me upset” with such intensity that until that day I have this moment engraved in my head. In fact, w hat makes Ghost Protocol so great is that it brings you back to the essence of Mission Impossible but offering you at the same time the promise of a bright future for the franchise.


image Indeed, the rest of the cast is incredible. I had my reservations but they all  disappeared.

Paula Patton who plays agent Jane shows how a 36 years old actress in Hollywood can have class and stamina. She is highly credible in her role of a spy, making you forget and remember only when necessary that she is the sexy element of the film. Simon Pegg isn’t the Jar Jar Binks of Mission Impossible because paired with Cruise, he  emphasizes or diminishes the intensity of the later according to the situation. He is there to take a bit of the edge off and I don’t think it is a bad thing contrary to some reviews I have read.

Finally,  Jeremy Renner (Brandt) clearly appears to be a potential new leader for the IMF when the day Tom Cruise wouldn’t want be part of this adventure anymore would have arrived. He possesses the concentration of an Ethan Hunt but he also doubts, searches himself which makes him really likable and reminds you of a younger Hunt, especially in MI:1, where he lost his father figure – Jon Voight – in a very painful way. In fact, Hunt seems to be positionning himself as a mentor to Brandt. Finally, the supporting cast does its job as well. Léa Seydoux does look like the angel of death and Lost fans will be delighted to see their beloved Sawyer back in action.  


image  At this point you are probably asking yourself : “Is there anything that she didn’t like in MI:4 or is she really that crazy about Tom Cruise?”.

Well, actually there are two things. The first is the length of the movie: two hours and thirteen minutes is a bit too long, especially when it ends with a twist that is – in my opinion – unnecessary and damages a bit the storyline of one of the character (I am trying not to say too much to not spoil the ones who haven’t seen it yet but let me say that we see this character going through a lot of suffering for nothing which is quite frustrating). The second is the villain: he hasn’t been enough developed. There is just a mention of his craziness but it would have been great to see more of it.

However, these few negative points do not diminish in any way the greatness of MI:4. I saw the trailers that had been released since last summer containing sneak peaks of the spectacular destruction scenes and I wondered if I wouldn’t be amazed to see them then in the full picture. I can now say with any reservation that Ghost Protocol does not disappoint. Not only does it keeps every single promises it made to you but it also surprises you with his daring approach of the franchise, its humour and its depth. Pardon my French but … it is fucking good to see you again Ethan/Tom on top of your game !

 

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED !

 

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