The Set of 400: #244 – My Favorite Sandstorm

Today! Because our media is no more truthful than yours, American –

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

Directed by Brad Bird

Starring Tom Cruise (x2), Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist, Anil Kapoor, Lea Seydoux, Josh Holloway, Ving Rhames (x2), Tom Wilkinson

The second, last, and best film in the series on this list, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol resurrected the brand from virtual extinction after the solid but underperforming third entry in 2006. Really, the only film in the group that sucks in any major way (to quote, I don’t know, Pauline Kael, probably) is II, which was super lousy. But once they worked out the formula (“It’s like the Fast and the Furious movies, except in half the shape with twice the age!”), it has been running like the proverbial well oiled Tom Cruise ever since. These last three movies – Ghost Protocol, Rogue Nation, and Fallout – are largely interchangeable in quality and action, not unlike James Bond movies of the ’70 or the ’90s, but the one that still features the two most memorable set pieces is this one here.

Jiminy!

Dubai! What a dull setting for anything! It’s just desert, and then one gigantic building! That shouldn’t work at all. And yet, they build the most thrilling action sequence of the last decade around this architectural monstrosity, while a sandstorm is bearing down on the town. Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is accessing the macguffin room from the outside, meaning a lot of highwire death-defying, while various personas are being adopted and criminals fooled elsewhere in the building. Fights break out! Windows are broken! Sand! And then – chases! Just a dynamite half hour of non-stop action.

The finale almost matches it, with Hunt’s dueling, car-crashing punch fest in the open-air cylindrical parking garage. Pixar great Brad Bird wasn’t fooling around at the helm of this thing – as a live action movie it more resembles the thrilling derring do from The Incredibles than anything, yet remains more-or-less grounded in a physics-based reality. The plot details may escape you – nuclear bomb? Probably a nuclear bomb threat – but the adrenaline rush remains in the memory.

And that’s how these movies keep on trucking. I don’t get so bogged down in the technology or the stunts to really question the hows and whats of the science involved. The running and jumping and explosions carry these things, while having immeasurably forgettable villains and interchangeably gorgeous foreign locales. Again, it’s what James Bond wishes he was doing consistently, instead of in every other movie for the last two decades.

#392 Mission:Impossible co-stars Cruise and Rhames join the Two-Timers with their return to the list for playing the same roles! Don’t worry, Ethan and Luther have no future appearances in the months to come!

Coming Monday! Verily, I say unto you, the days spoken of in the Apocalypse are nigh!

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