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Mission Impossible: The Hollywood Wink

I’m currently working in Crawley a lot. There is a Cineworld cinema close to the hotel, so I’ve invested in a 15 GBP monthly unlimited card. I figure it’s something to do while away and it plays well with Orange Wednesdays when I return (no cash changes hands other than the unlimited card for two people). The key issue now will be rationing the use a bit as I really need to start aggressively managing my time again like I was on the MBA. Still, a once a week strategy might work.

This weeks film was Impossible Mission: Ghost Protocol. The film left me with the bad taste incurred by the Hollywood wink.

The Hollywood Wink is something simple but insidious. It’s when the film fails to take the premise, set-up or genre conventions of a film seriously, and instead has the script and the protagonists acknowledge with a big, small or even subtle knowing wink, that what they are doing is ridiculous. The issue is, unless you’re purposefully writing a comedy, this should never happen. Don’t get close to it. Never even acknowledge it. The characters live in a world in which the premise, set-up and genre conventions are just the laws of the milieu in which they live so they would accept them and not question them.

This was why the first three Impossible Mission films succeeded. The pace, intensity, ‘magical’ masks, the propensity of the action, superlative character competence and the high-octane melodrama were immutable laws of the cinematic espionage milieu. No one questioned them. The possibilities and dangers presented by a world with such rules were woven into the script because they were the immutable laws of the universe. The ridiculous infiltration sequences, always from above, weren’t incredulously queried or given a ridiculous wink to camera, they were a part of Ethan Hunt’s DNA and a skill to be feared and planned for by his enemies.

Not in Ghost Protocol.

The superlative character competence is gone. The characters often query or question tactics, events and actions. Even Ethan Hunt gets exasperated at times with the danger he put himself in despite the fact it’s all supposed to be within the acceptable risk of his capabilities. At times, it’s almost as if he ‘looks to camera’ because you’re seeing it from the point of view of someone else in the scene. This tended to make the relatively bland action scenes even weaker. A few scenes with a comedy strand are based off staples of the concept or natural outcomes of the milieu. True, they often pull back from full on ridicule and comedy, but it’s present. It’s like the writers couldn’t commit to the film they were writing and just had to add just enough to make sure the audience knew they were rolling their eyes.

A hero is only as good as his nemesis and on this front Ghost Protocol fails miserably. He’s not confronting the CIA or charismatic villains played by actors like Dougray Scott or Philip Seymoure Hoffman. The bad guy is basically a cypher with no charisma, no quality to get under Ethan’s skin and played by a forgettably actor. Hell, they don’t even interact significantly. The concept behind the villain is fine, some sort of organisation that believes in renewal through nuclear Armageddon, but it’s not used in any intensely dramatic way.

Ghost protocol had just enough entertainment value to keep me going, but I was continually waiting for it to get better. It didn’t. Ultimately, if you like others I’d recommend you give this one a miss or catch it on DVD on the cheap. While I’d like to own the others as I’d watch them repeatedly, I can’t see me watching Ghost Protocol again. Ever. Something is obviously wrong when the only thing you take away from the film was the hot, blond female assassin and you wish she’d been in it more.

About Ian O'Rourke

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