TACOMA, Wash. – Action has never been my favorite film genre. On the flip side, I am a huge fan of the director of the newest installment in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise, Brad Bird.
With this in mind, my review will be different than anything you’ve read about this film. My focus will be on the director.
Although the Corvallis, Oregon, native does not consider animation a genre, for the purpose of this article [and sanity of my readers], Bird’s career has largely been founded by cleaver animated sitcoms (“The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill”) and films (“The Iron Giant,” “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille”), known more for their great characters and witty plots than their ink cells or pixels. These are the strengths that he brings into the popular spy series.
Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol
Staring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, and Michael Nyqvist.
Rated PG-13, for sequences of intense action and violence.
Now Playing everywhere.
Tom Cruise reprises his role as Ethan Hunt, super-spy and unofficial – and undisputed – IMF team leader. At the beginning, Hunt’s team, Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) , breaks him out of a high-security Russian prison, then they must infiltrate the Kremlin and prevent a rouge group from stealing nuclear launch codes (they aren’t called Mission: Impossible for nothing).
But things take a turn for the worse when madman (literally) physicist Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) swipes the codes from under IMF’s nose and blows up part of the Kremlin explodes, the iconic clock crashes to the cobble-stoned streets below.
IMF is blamed for the explosion (naturally), and the U.S. government issues “ghost protocol,” essentially officially dissolving the organization as if it didn’t exist in the first place. The officially non-existent team picks up another member an analyst named Brant (Jeremy Renner), and must both clear their good name and save the world from complete destruction.
There where quite a few signature points common in all Brad Bird films.
One was A113 on the class ring at the beginning. A113 is more than just a nice number it’s the name of a classroom at the California Institute of the Arts (or Cal Arts) where Bird and other famous animation storytellers, including John Lasseter and Tim Burton, perfected their trade.
The number has made numerous appearance in Cal Arts student’s films ever since. Some noted examples include the Master’s apartment number on “The Brave Little Toaster” and Andy’s mom’s vehicle license plate in “Toy Story.”
I wonder how Andrew Stanton has incorporated the famous room number in his upcoming feature?
I also noticed that, alongside the dramatic scaling sequence at the Burji Khalifa tower and the fight in the sandstorm Dubai, there was several splashes of comedy, mostly coming from geek Benji Dunn. One of my favorite spats occurred toward the end, in a spat between him and Hunt about Pluto not being a planet anymore.
Such highlights are common in all of Bird’s films, and were perhaps some of my favorite moments of the entire film.
Another Brad Bird signature that I have found particularly refreshing is his integration of family and family relationships into the fabric of all his films.
From Hogarth and Annie Hughes to Bob and Helen Parr, and even Remy and Django, none of these families are all that perfect, nor do they get along all the time. But in the end, the love and devotion they feel toward each other is stronger than before.
This was incorporated here with the death of Hunt’s wife, Julia (Michelle Monaghan), a few years earlier. Although she never makes a true appearance in the film, she is very much a part of the story. As Hunt is remembering, his connection to her is so strong that you can almost feel her presence, as if she’s standing right there.
This is something that only Bird could manage, even in a film of this magnitude. The end, in my opinion, was as strong as the moment in “The Incredibles” when Mr. Incredible breaks down, convinced that his family is no more.
I will admit, I did see this movie for free (AMC Theater passes where among my Christmas gifts this year), I would’ve gladly paid the price for the ticket – I might have even sprung for the IMAX price. It was well worth it.
Animation might not be a genre in Brad Bird’s mind, a view I tend to agree with. Never the less, his live-action directorial debut was a brilliant success. He shouldn’t quit animation, but he should consider broadening his horizons to all forms of storytelling.