MISSION IMPOSSIBLE IV: GHOST PROTOCOL: (Grade: PG-13 for sequences of intense violence): To appreciate this latest big budget production, starring & co-produced at Paramount Studios by Tom Cruise, it would be good to look back at Cruise's career, which began with the young upstate New Yorker who lived for a time in Canada, grew up in a religious Catholic family headed by a brute of a father whom he called "a merchant of chaos." Cruise was also the brunt of jibes & violence from his peers even when his mother took him to America with her and ensconced him in one school after another - 15 in all during 12 years of his young life. He grew up tough, wary, physically active, prone to resist rules & regulations. His good looks, bright demeanor, & a strongly confident appearance got him movie parts, including the 1983 "Risky Business" in which he gained a certain amount of fame for his song & dance in skivvies.
From there, he shot to stardom in dozens of films ranging from light, fluffy 1988 "Cocktail" to brazen experiments which garnered critical acclaim if not always box office appeal - films like "Rainman," "Born on the 4th of July," "The Last Samurai," ""Valkyrie," "Eyes Wide Shut," and "Magnolia" - and, of course, the first three "Mission Impossible" crowd pleasers. Through all this, he flipped in & out of relationships with a passel of attractive actresses, beginning with "Risky Business" co-star Rebecca De Mornay - raising eyebrows as he sired a number of children with them even survived one accusation of being homosexual.
Though he never won an Oscar, he was nominated for three Academy Awards & garnered three Golden Globe Awards.
Actor & producer, and seemingly in total control over his life (thanks to a sincere conviction as a Scientologist), Cruise, now at age 49, returns to the screen after a few recent flops with renewed energy & enough ambition to prove that he is able to climb tall buildings, zip around the world almost effortlessly, and outperform all other action heroes from Douglas Fairbanks to the present. And you know what, folks, if you can believe just about every critic in the books, he has done it.
Title for the movie is a bit misleading. Except that it revives special agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) once again, it bears little resemblance to the earlier episodes. Cruise, writers Josh Appelbaum & Andre Nemec, and director Brad Bird take themselves less seriously, seeming to enjoy the action, the pace, and the dare-devil series of cliff-hangars so that we needn't feel the pseudo-seriousness of otherwise formulaic plots.
Sure, once again we have Hunt on the run, from one country to another, leaping from building to building - even hanging precariously from the tallest building in Dubai - being aided or not by a team of his selected actors, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner & Simon Pegg - this time implicated in a global terrorist plot that begins with them being blamed for the bombing of the Kremlin (an amazing visual & symbolic effect), now on the run incognito as the Ghost Protocol, thus providing an opportunity to construct one daring stunt after another right to the final Jenga-style set-piece of brilliant domino precision that takes place in a car park.
Whether taken seriously or not, the acting & plot are rudimentarily formulaic, with the Hunt team, while on the run, are after the ubiquitous madman threatening world stability, etc., etc.
As one might expect, the production values are top notch, the action shots created for maximum suspense, the locales exotic as always, all supported by Robert Elswit's sharp photography, Paul Hirsch's swiftly-paced editing, and backed by Michael Giacchino's expectedly high-powered music.
Some serious cutting would help improve the overlong nearly 2 1/2 hours (which only serves to emphasize the well-traveled narrative terrain).
As for Cruise, abetted by a clever director he is back in front seat once again, proving to us as well as himself, that he can still hold his own in the most strenuous situations. (Grade: B+)