In a time when people are deciding that their spies need to be gritty, realistic and brooding, its great to have a series that is still willing to have fun with idea of secret agents. As much as I loved Skyfall, there is something great about seeing a traditional spy film, with huge ridiculous action set-pieces, gadgets that push the boundaries of realism and a tongue-in-cheek sense of fun running throughout.
I would never have thought that the Mission Impossible franchise would be the one that would keep the traditional spy values alive. From the very beginning though, with Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt breaking out of a prison, humour, action and a sense of fun are completely present and correct.
It was actually really refreshing and slightly strange. If we go back to the very first film in 1996, this was a series that was taking itself much more seriously than Bond was. A serious and sometimes confusing film which had one or two action sequences but was much more about Tom Cruise running a lot and being suspicious.
Fast forward fifteen years and we have a u-turn, with the two series switching places and Tom Cruise’s spy franchise delivering the action and unbelievable stunts that Bond was much more famous for.
It doesn’t disappoint either. There is a fantastic section in the middle of the film that begins with Cruise scaling a huge building in India and ends with a car chase through a sandstorm. In this whole sequence alone, the amount of gasping, edge of your seat and thrilling action moments that occur could probably overtake anything we saw in the very first Mission Impossible movie. It has cool fights, tense confrontations and plenty of twists to keep you guessing and it only last for about forty minutes.
It’s strange to think that over four films, Mission Impossible has managed to carve out its own franchise staples that we expect to see over and over again. I like the idea of the masks, never knowing who is who, be it villain or hero. The theme tune is as iconic as Bond’s now and although we don’t quite have catchphrases, the way in which Hunt’s team receives missions is a franchise must-have. You can tell how recognisable these elements have become because Brad Bird, the director, was willing to have fun with them, slightly changing some aspects to get a laugh.
It is the humour that is beginning to give Mission Impossible a slight edge too. There was always a great light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek humour to Bond which is slowly returning but is nothing like what Mission Impossible delivers. The interactions between Cruise and Simon Pegg are fantastic and Pegg has managed to firmly place himself as solid, comic relief in another successful franchise.
The element I always enjoyed about Mission Impossible was the team element. Unlike Bond and Bourne, this wasn’t supposed to be a film about one man on his own. Cruise does most of the spy work but it is about the team element and Cruise is ably supported, not just by Pegg but also by Paula Patton and Jeremy Renner.
Renner has done a great job of getting a foothold in more than successful franchise. He is almost certain of a return in Avengers, is the new face of Bourne and could well take the helm in Mission Impossible if need be. He doesn’t quite have the comfortable spy charm that Cruise has developed over four films but Renner has proved that he can handle action and could take lead duties if Cruise ever decided to step down.
As impressed with the movie as I was, after the forty minute, high-action, explosive set-piece in the middle, the film began to stumble a bit. Any action film has to be careful not to over-extend itself too early and unfortunately Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol did exactly that. The finale, as tense and action-packed as it was, never really reached the impressive level that the scaling of the building did in the middle of the film. The ending felt slightly damp in comparison.
Overall, Mission Impossible is delivering a fun, tongue-in-cheek traditional spy franchise that others are actively distancing themselves from. Where it once was the more serious movie series, its found the gap in the market and proved that fun and humourous spy films can still be done and in a very good way. Tom Cruise is great as Ethan Hunt and he is ably supported both comically by Pegg and with the action by Renner. I just hope there is more life in the Mission Impossible series yet.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)