The fourth instalment of the Mission: Impossible series opens with Ethan Hunt (played by the returning Tom Cruise) being broken out of prison and then almost immediately thrown in to a mission to break in to the Kremlin to obtain a set of stolen nuclear launch codes.
The plan goes terribly awry and ends with a large explosion, for which Hunt is blamed; resulting in his organisation, the IMF, being disbanded. He is then left with the task of tracking down the man behind the explosion, who also has the codes, and assembling a team to help him do so.
‘Stopping a madman bent on nuclear destruction’ isn’t the most original or complex of plots, and this isn’t helped by the fact that Hendricks, the madman in question, is a rather cardboard-cut-out 80’s bad-guy, right down to his ambiguous ‘villainous accent’ which sways somewhere between British and Russian.
It is, however, a clear and simple narrative, which serves to link a series of action sequences while keeping them sufficiently gripping.
Brad Bird demonstrated in ‘The Incredibles’ that he knows how to direct a good action film, with just the right mix of explosions, gadgets and chases. He puts this to great effect in MI4, with some genuinely gripping set-pieces, of which the vertiginous ‘skyscraper scene’ featured prominently in the trailers, really stands out.
What makes this film stand above its predecessors is the handling of the cast. Previously, Mission Impossible films have been used as Tom Cruise vehicles, and as a result the only character to invest in was Ethan, with everyone else around him serving as plot-devices. MI4, on the other hand centres around the TEAM carrying out missions; a story that is far more faithful to the TV show on which the franchise is based.
Simon Pegg, for example, has been given a larger role to provide comedy amidst the action, as tech-geek Benji, and Jeremy Renner (having proved his acting chops in The Hurt Locker) has been given a chance to act alongside Cruise rather than behind him.
Overall this is a thoroughly by-the-numbers action film, which is almost nostalgically formulaic. While this isn’t a bad thing, it is slightly disappointing that Bird didn’t show a little more of the originality and flair that he so obviously put in to ‘The Incredibles’.
Platform Rating: 7/10