In case you haven't been following news on the latest instalment in Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible series and its production, and before you die of shock at seeing a review of a live-action, spy film on a site about animation; allow me to elaborate:
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol marks the live-action directorial debut of Brad Bird, a CalArts alumni who worked to build up The Simpsons - directing the famed episodes 'Krusty Gets Busted' and 'Like Father, Like Clown' - later moving on to features animation, with the critically acclaimed, traditionally animated, The Iron Giant. However, where Bird is most widely recognised from, is in his capacity at Pixar. A member of the revered 'Brain Trust', Bird directed 2004's The Incredibles (for which he also provided the voice of superhero-fashion designer, Edna Mode) and 2007's Ratatouille. Now though, Brad Bird has pointed himself in the live-action direction, as he helms the fourth entry into the popular Mission: Impossible franchise. As there always are when an animation director crosses over to live-action, or vice versa - as visible in early comments Steven Spielberg directing The Adventures of Tintin, and fellow Pixarian, Andrew Stanton, directing Disney's live-action John Carter - there always some consternation and quiet concern that there skills in their first field may not translate to the latter format; however, there are no such problems here for Brad Bird, as M:I-GP is an awesomely action packed, fast paced rollicking ride.
Now, obviously this isn't an animated film, and though it has several overlays in the ven diagram of the animated realm, this shan't be an overly extensive review; merely my thoughts on the film. The film was, essentially, one two hour long fight scene - in the best possible way. The action was nonstop from the get-go. It's an utter thrill to watch, the fight scenes are wonderfully choreographed, intense and have you sitting on the edge of your seat the whole time. The story is a trifle generic, you know the sort: the bad guys (indistinct middle-eastern/European guy) acquire some form of nuclear weapon (in this case, launch codes) and plot some random plan to take down the west. Fortunately the somewhat derivative plot if more than compensated by the excellent way it's executed - Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is just all round exciting. Furthermore, the film is very grabbing; it has good characters and a strong script.
It's also a testament to Brad Bird's grounding in animation that he perfectly manages to balance action and comedy. M:I - GP is very funny, but it never loses it's spy theme, nor the constant sense of jeopardy, it merely injects some fun and makes the whole experience that much sweeter. However, the incredibly overly cheesy happy ending can also be attributed to Bird's animation background, so it depends which way you look at it.
Speaking of animation, there are plenty of references for the avid animation aficionado to look out for - although be careful not to let it turn into more of a game of Where's Wally than a film. Brad Bird, who has packed A113 into all of his feature films as well as some of his work on The Simpsons, manages to squeeze it in two places here: as an insignia on a ring and, slightly more cryptically, as a call signal; as well as Pixarian Teddy Newton (who provided the voice of Chatter Telephone in Toy Story 3, in addition to directing to the preceding short film, Day & Night) lending his voice to the instructional phone booth message that gives returning hero (Ethan Hunt) his mission. It's nice to see Brad Bird paying homage to his roots in animation.
There is all round strong acting here, and, while Tom Cruise may not be to everyone's tastes, he does a pretty good job in the lead role. However, for me, the strongest performances on display were that of Simon Pegg (as tech-savvy Benji) and Jeremy Renner (as field agent-turned analyst, William Brandt); who both turned in stellar, emotional and funny performances. Also, if this is a sign of how Renner handles himself in action thrillers, then I have high hopes for the next Bourne film.
To round off: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is brilliant. It's one of the most fun and exhillirating experiences you can have in the cinema - in fact, it's probably my favourite action film since 2006's Casino Royale. And what I took from this film, and what the point of this review is, is that: Brad Bird has a bright future in whatever medium who chooses to continue in!
Want to find out for yourself? You can order the M:I - GP Triple Play by clicking above (UK link).