The Mission Impossible series has been a mixed bag at best. The first was a hyper convoluted and verbose; the second simplified the plot and delivered high octane thrills; the third was sappy and, in terms of plot, all foreplay & no climax. So, despite the uneven graph of the series, the makers are back with a fourth. The film marks the live action feature debut of Brad Bird, who has previously helmed two Pixar animation classics, The Incredibles and Ratatouille. Heavily promoted in India, particularly with the presence of Anil Kapoor, the paid preview was packed to the brim.
The plot: Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his crew (Simon Pegg & Paula Patton) are on the run after a mission is compromised and the Kremlin is destroyed. The US and Russia are on the brink of war as a consequence and without any resources, support or back up, Ethan and his team must prove their innocence and save the world from nuclear holocaust. As they jet set around the world, accompanied by an analyst with a dark past (Jeremy Renner), time is running out.
The first thing you notice in the movie is just how much Tom Cruise has aged. My god, he looks old! You almost want to recommend Olay to him. Nevertheless, he more than makes up for it through his performance. As he daringly jumps off the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, races his car through a sandstorm and kicks some serious ass, it’s easy to look past the age factor and appreciate the physicality of his performance. He is the foundation of the series, and in that capacity, he is still strong.
As for the film, it is broadly divided into three acts. The first two acts (set in Moscow and Dubai respectively) border on brilliance. They are fast, funny and have some highly innovative action set pieces. The action work is more old school, relying on death defying stunts rather than just computer generated imagery. Also, the dig at the Iron Curtain is particularly clever. While the technical wizardry may be a little hard to stomach at places, the rapid pacing and the sense of fun that Brad Bird brings to the enterprise help it go down smoothly enough. The sense of thrill and adventure is more pronounced here than in any of the previous films. The other major strength of it is the humour. Simon Pegg gets his moment to shine and he really brings the house down in several places. Jeremy Renner proves himself to be a competent future replacement for Tom Cruise.
Unfortunately, the third act, where the action shifts to Mumbai, is dull, overlong and clunky. The climax pales rather evidently in comparison to the rest of the film. Anil Kapoor has a small role as a sleazy billionaire and those expecting a classy affair are going to be disappointed. Also, being from Mumbai, it is easy to see the little flaws in the production design; particularly, the use of Southern languages on notice boards in all places. Also, Michael Nyquist’s villainous Kurt Hendricks is never fleshed out well enough to make a lasting impression.
Nevertheless, by the time you realize this, you care little and are willing to forgive the film for most of these things. Overall, this is easily the best entry in the series edging out the second film which was, in my opinion, the previous best. It is quick, nimble and loaded to the brim with great action. So sit back, enjoy the mission.