(MINOR) SPOILER: CODA PAYS TRIBUTE TO DE PALMA'S FILM
I'll get this minor SPOILER ALERT out of the way first (don't read if you don't want to know)-- Brad Bird's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol ends with a cameo from Ving Rhames, playing Luther Stickell. After Ethan Hunt's latest adventure, Bird does a direct echo of the post-adventure scene in Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible by pointing the camera at a Seattle cafe's television, on which can be seen a newscaster explaining away the "official" cover-up version of the events which have just transpired in the film. The camera then pans through the cafe to find Ethan and Luther sitting at a table, enjoying a drink together as the two discuss the latest mission. (Bird's film also touches on the J.J. Abrams Mission story after the De Palma homage... not sure if the John Woo Mission is in here somewhere or not.)
I liked Ghost Protocol quite a bit. Bird really brought the playfulness to it that he spoke of in interviews, and the film has more than a few laughs coming from several directions, while still keeping a palpable spy-genre tension. The opening prologue brings the viewer right into the movie with a fast-paced chill, followed by a highly entertaining jailbreak mission. Worth noting is that Paul Hirsch, who edited the De Palma Mission, returns for the new one, as well.
While I feel the new film is the best one since the first one, I still feel that De Palma's is the best Mission so far. De Palma's film moves in a cooly fluid, insidiously beautiful way, with a layered, subversive element to the images. Bird's film advances in animated leaps and bounds, thrilling to the moment. Each version works, but it seems to me that the De Palma film has so much more to say about the dirty business of being a spy, and it does so rather chillingly.
OWEN & ARMOND REALLY LIKE 'GHOST PROTOCOL'
Two critics who really like Bird's film are Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman and City Arts' Armond White. Gleiberman includes Ghost Protocol at number ten on his list of 2011's best films, calling it the best in the Mission series. "In an action-ride culture that offers so much fake adrenaline," states Gleiberman, "it's cathartic to encounter the real thing."
Meanwhile, White begins his review of Bird's film this way: "Brian De Palma’s 1996 Mission Impossible was a cartoon even though he didn’t direct it like one. The sheer, exhilarating pleasure of Mission Impossible IV (officially subtitled Ghost Protocol) comes from star-producer Tom Cruise’s ingenious decision to cast animation master Brad Bird." White later continues, "Whereas De Palma’s hyper clear visual style was gravely emotional even when the action was absurd, it didn’t quite transform the TV-based material into the Fritz Lang revelation De Palma intended (despite the helicopter/train Chunnel sequence’s very obvious reference to Lang’s 1929 Spies). Bird’s movie is lighter, yet more visionary."
White further compares Abrams to Bird and De Palma: "Co-producer J.J. Abrams tried and failed to make a deluxe TV-movie in Star Trek. Abrams simply lacks a cinematic eye comparable to Bird (comparable to De Palma? Forget it.) Bird’s conceptual staging of a prison break, a choreographed seduction at a ball in India and a chase during a desert dust storm display a big-screen sense of movement that harkens back to great animation as well as silent movie slapstick."
In the final paragraph of the review, White claims that the Besson stable of directors is still the crew to beat when it comes to the action genre: "If Ghost Protocol was any better, it would match the splendid advance of action movie aesthetics that Luc Besson has spearheaded in the Transporter movies (especially Olivier Megaton’s Godardian Transporter 3) as well as Angel-A, Taken, From Paris with Love and this year’s terrific Colombiana. These recent heroic action narrative innovations by Besson, Paul W.S. Anderson and Neveldine-Taylor are accomplishing what De Palma was after. Hollywood is slow on the uptake. Tarantino, Eli Roth and their ilk can only amp-up brutality; they lack visual wit. But in Ghost Protocol, Cruise and Bird are catching up. It is a rare pleasure to salute a Hollywood action movie that gets it right."