The problem with reading movie reviews before watching the movie is that it taints your expectations. This may come as a shock to you all (because I hate everything), but I actually like the Mission: Impossible film series. Despite Tom Cruise bouncing on Oprah’s couch, I’ve always enjoyed him in movies. And no, I’m not a Scientologist. Or am I? Anyway, back to my point. I had been following the reviews when this movie was released, it was getting great scores from the critics, and came in at a whopping 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Well, if that’s the case, then the movie has to be good, right?
I found Mission: Impossible 4 to be anything but good. The fault really lies with me, as I had read so many good reviews, I went into the movie expecting it to be good. But as with 99% of Hollywood garbage, it was just another steaming turd of mediocrity. After the movie was over, I realized how MI4 got so many good reviews in the first place: the critics had expected it to be terrible, and when it wasn’t, they found themselves pleasantly surprised. That’s the only rational explanation, because this movie is really just another entry in the book of terrible sequels that should not exist.
The movie begins with a scene that looks like it came from a straight-to-DVD Alias spin-off. A miscellaneous spy is being chased, shoots a few bad guys, and then is suddenly killed by a beautiful blonde. Just before he dies, his cell phone tells him in big bold white letters that she is an ASSASSIN. What app was he using anyway, Assassin ID? Considering how useful it was to him, it better not have cost more than 99 cents in the App Store. The scene ends with his girlfriend, another spy, crying over his dead body and screaming “KHAAAAN!” as the camera zooms up and away from her. I don’t think the scene was supposed to be funny, but I was laughing my ass off.
Next, we watch Ethan Hunt (played by Tom Cruise) being broken out of a maximum security Russian prison. Why is he there, anyway? Didn’t he retire at the end of MI3? It’s not important. The answers to those questions will come in glossed over exposition in the last seconds of the movie. The real question is, how can Cruise look as nonchalant as possible while escaping from incarceration? To put it simply, his former partner Benji (played by Simon Pegg) and the female spy from the first scene bust him out using a combination of high-tech gadgetry and explosive devices. But before Cruise leaves, he brings an informant along with him, who plays no part in the story at all, and serves only as a vehicle to show the audience how Cruise is LOL STILL A TOTAL BADASS AFTER ALL THESE YEARS LOL!
From here, Cruise’s team gets tasked with stealing something from the Kremlin. What he was supposed to steal, I don’t remember. It was just a vague MacGuffin that serves no real purpose other than having Cruise go after it. It turns out someone else takes it first, blows up the Kremlin, and then Cruise’s team is disavowed. The remainder of the film features Cruise and his team trying to steal back some nuclear launch codes or something. I don’t know. It didn’t make a lot of sense. But nuclear launch codes is what every spy always has to steal, so MI4 has them going after nuclear launch codes. It would be too much of a struggle for the writers to come up with something original. Their brains would probably explode.
Speaking of explosions, this movie has hilariously awful CGI. When the Kremlin exploded, I thought I was watching a scene from a movie made 10 years ago. Seriously, the CGI is terrible. It is phony, clearly low-budget (which is perplexing considering the film had a large budget overall), and the use of Green Screen sticks out like a sore thumb. Again, I was laughing out loud as Cruise ran away like a goon from the CGI Kremlin blowing up. The CGI would have been acceptable given the technology of 10 years ago, but today there is no excuse for it looking so bad. As a correlate to that, they used special effects in scenes that didn’t require them, such as a conversation occurring inside a van, where the exterior visible through the windows was Green Screen. Couldn’t they have just put the actors in a van and driven around, saving a lot of time, money, and effort? *facepalm*
The movie jettisons all semblance of plot structure and coherence in favor of simply moving from one action sequence to the next. Cruise runs away from some bad guys. Cruise swims away from some bad guys. Cruise climbs the tallest building in the world. Cruise bashes his head against a wall so hard he should have brain damage, but he is completely fine. Cruise chases some bad guys in a low-budget CGI sandstorm. Cruise fights some bad guys in a weird automated parking garage. The action scenes are completely interchangeable. They could exist in any place, mix and match them, and the movie wouldn’t be the slightest bit different. That’s one of the biggest problems with the movie. It is so woefully generic, it is nothing more than a typical paint-by-numbers summer shit spectacular.
One thing that was really bad in this movie was the casting. They chose Paula Patton to play “Spy of Indeterminant Race” who recites her lines with all the angst of a high school drama club member; and they chose Lea Seydoux to play an expert, world-class ASSASSIN who can’t be any older than 25, and struggles to stay awake in all of her scenes; finally, Jeremy Renner shows up to steal Mission: Impossible from Cruise and then moves on to take the Bourne series away from Matt Damon. If Jeremy Renner gets typecast, it will be as “Guy Who Takes Aging Action Franchises Away from Their Original Stars.”
I had been fairly excited that Brad Bird of Pixar fame was the director. Every Mission: Impossible film had a different director, and brought a completely different style to each movie. Since Pixar typically makes great films, I thought he would really infuse some life and charm into this aging franchise. Unfortunately, he didn’t. There is a lot of humor in this movie, much more than in any of the other films, so he clearly brought that. Although most of the intended humor isn’t very funny, and things that are supposed to be serious end up as hilarious – for example, the frivolously retarded scene in Mumbai. The action scenes are not original, the CGI looks goofy as hell, the casting choices are poor, and the performances are largely terrible. As the director he presided over all of those. The fact that he OK’d all of these things means he is barely more competent than Michael Bay. He should probably go back to animation.
The movie ends after its action scene quota is used up, and it reaches a bloated running time of 135 minutes. In the final action sequence, Cruise aborts the nuclear missile launch and screams, “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” like a jackass. I’m glad he yelled that out. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have known that he saved the world. The denouement features Cruise and his team hanging out in Seattle. Ving Rhames gives a cameo, which pissed me off, because he could have easily replaced any of the other douchebags in this movie and at least provided some interesting acting. Not necessarily good acting, but at least interesting. We also get a super-quick explanation of why Cruise had been in prison in Russia, and why, bizarrely, he isn’t allowed to be with his wife any more. And then, of course, we get the mandatory segway into MI5.
MI4 is a movie that does not deserve to exist. MI and MI3 were cool spy/action movies that worked on different levels. MI2 was crappy, but most second movies in any franchise suck. At the end of MI3, Cruise’s character reached appropriate closure to his story arc. There was no reason for him to come back for another adventure. Oh wait, I forgot, there is one: BIG FUCKING PAYCHECK. Other than that, there is no reason for this movie to exist. And since it got rave reviews from the critics, and made $700 million at the box office, MI5 is inevitable.
I guess I learned my lesson: never believe any reviews. Not from the critics and not from friends. Not even this one.