Imagine you’re Ethan Hunt. You’re chilling out at a plush beach resort, knocking back a cold beer and eyeing the cheese. Your bikini-clad waitress brings you one of those drinks with an umbrella in it. You clearly didn’t order it but it does look interesting, and you aren’t inclined to say no to her. But then, that umbrella turns out to be a messaging device that says something on the lines of:
A megalomaniac has obtained control of a nuclear device and is likely to detonate it in x hours. The world teeters on the brink of destruction. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to stop said megalomaniac and save the world. If you are stupid or unlucky enough to get caught while doing this, we strongly recommend suicide, ’cause we’ll disavow you and you really don’t wanna drop the soap in the showers of those foreign prisons. This message will self-destruct in five seconds.
It’s that highlighted phrase that always gets to me. Ask yourself how likely it is that you’ll say: “Nah, I’m having too good a time here. You carry on without me. I’m sure there are other agents chomping at the bit and hoping I’ll turn this one down so that they can get a nice bullet point on their resume.”
Maybe it does happen sometimes. Maybe, like Terry Pratchett says, in some other universes this would be a very short movie. But he does choose to accept it, and it isn’t such a short movie after all, but it does manage not to outstay its welcome.
As thrill-a-minute rides go, though, this one is more entertaining than most. For one thing, the action set pieces are as spectacular as one would hope. For another, the movie plays like the other MI/Bond movies would play if all those cool gadgets worked like they really do in the universe we inhabit. The device conveying the mission brief doesn’t always self-destruct on schedule, for instance.
And yet our intrepid heroes keep plugging away and finding ways around all those little glitches, even if they’re hanging from a glass wall on the Burj Khalifa. And while they do this, they find time for the odd wisecrack or two. The actors inhabiting these roles (Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg) do a wonderful job of making it all work. The villain (Michael Nykvist, who plays Mikael Blomkvist in the Swedish film versions of the Steig Larsson novels) doesn’t have much to do, primarily because his opponents are more busy debugging than saving the world from him. But what little screen time he has, he uses effectively. Anil Kapoor is present primarily for comic relief (although I am not entirely convinced that this was intentional).
Here’s the thing, really: I watched the entire movie questioning every little thing that went wrong, asking myself how it would all get explained in the end by some grand plot twist. With that came the realization that, had it not been for the labyrinthine deceptions that characterized the first movie in the series, I would probably have just leaned back and let things go bang all around me.
Baradwaj Rangan, in his review of the movie, says:
They could design a game from these films. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to recount the plot in detail.
Personally, I liked it better when that mission was impossible.