The Reel Deal


Quick Takes on Three Films

Film Insight by Tyler Malone

December 2011


Reel Rating: 3 out of 5

The fourth installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise is much like the previous three: fun fluff that acts more as a star vehicle for Scientology’s main attraction than as an actual attempt at a great cinema experience. Never the great action franchise that Bourne or Bond are, Mission: Impossible is like the idiot brother that always manages to be better than you’d have thought it’d be, but not quite as good as it could have been. Thus, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol delivers quite a lot if you go in with low enough expectations.

Some action sequences are perfectly rendered by animator Brad Bird in his first gig as a live action director, so there is much to like here, if what you are looking for is ridiculously over-the-top but well-done action set pieces. Brad Bird definitely has shown he can direct live action, though I’d personally prefer he stay in animation (after all, he gave us the phenomenal Ratatouille and The Iron Giant–both infinitely better movies than this forgettable popcorn fantasy). But there’s as much cheesy camp in Ghost Protocol as there is well-done action. That’s not to say that I expect all seriousness and realism from a Mission: Impossible movieof course I don’t–but I do expect decent writing from any movie, and it seemed mostly missing from this installment. It was just one action set piece followed by another action set piece, with a few cheesy lines or (not so) silly gags to connect them. The Kremlin blows up and then Tom Cruise is scaling the tallest building in the world with magic sticky gloves and then there’s a sand storm and a chase and it goes on and on and on. It’s non-stop action, much of which is decently directed and executed, but there’s not much else here. But are you expecting there to be a lot more if you’re going to see a fourth Mission: Impossible? No, you’re expecting Tom Cruise to do some ridiculous stunts in some intricate action set pieces. And he does them here in droves.


Reel Rating: 3 out of 5

I have my reservations about Guy Ritchie as a director because it seems to me that many of the choices he makes are slapdash. He chooses quirky camera angles and slowed down special effects not for any real reason, like say Tarantino, who, whether you like him or not, is methodical and meticulous in everything he does, but just because Ritchie thinks it’ll be cool. He’s like a wannabe hipster who goes to Urban Outfitters to buy all those faux-vintage t-shirts because he wants to fit in at a Williamsburg bar, not realizing that you can’t fake cool. He always feels like he’s trying too hard to impress. And, let’s face it, Guy Ritchie hasn’t been cool since Snatch, if he even was then.

That said, his version of Sherlock Holmes, in both the first and now second installments of the new franchise, is an intriguing character. Robert Downey Jr. reinvigorates the role of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic detective. And Jude Law is a perfect Watson as well. The new installment may not be cinematic gold, but it is enjoyable. I think in the hands of a more ingenious director and/or more capable writers, this version of Holmes could have been even better than it is, but regardless, it is, as I say, enjoyable enough. And, after all, Ritchie has to be making something in his post-Madonna resurgence, and hey, at least he’s not making another Swept Away, Revolver or RocknRolla. These Sherlock Holmes movies are his best since at least Snatch, if not Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (which I would say is his only truly great film). This new Sherlock Holmes continues on the same trajectory of the first film in the franchise. So, if you liked the first film of Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes franchise, you’ll probably like the second. If you didn’t like the first, I doubt this will win you over. I personally found it fun, if inevitably forgettable.


Reel Rating: 2.5 out of 5

A movie isn’t obligated to offer up likeable characters. There are plenty of movies that don’t have any characters I love or admire or respect, but they still manage to be interesting and engaging. In fact, some of my favorite movies are littered with completely unappealing characters. But Young Adult not only contains no likeable characters, but also few truly engaging scenes. Though it’s received relatively good reviews from other critics, I think they’re just still under the Diablo Cody / Jason Reitman spell, because I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be admiring here. For a supposed dark comedy, I didn’t really find this film all that dark or all that comedic; it’s just annoying. Not only are the characters and scenes pretty disagreeable, the writing in general highlights all the flaws that were easy to gloss over in Diablo Cody’s writing in something as warm and fuzzy as Juno. And Jason Reitman’s direction feels so bland. Seriously, what am I supposed to be enjoying or appreciating here? What’s the point of this annoying film about an annoying young adult writer who goes back to her hometown to steal her ex from his wife and his newborn baby?

Admittedly, it’s not a bad film. Cody and Reitman might not have hit the right notes here, but they still aren’t amateurs. It did get a few laughs out of me, and there are a few great moments (very few). There is the beginning of something here perhaps, but it never goes anywhere. The material never materializes. Charlize Theron does her damnedest to elevate the material, but it just wasn’t in the cards for this movie to be the great film it seemed to think it was.

I just kept asking the whole time: What am I supposed to be admiring about this hour and a half of mediocrity? Trying to clutch at straws, I guess I could say, I am glad that it didn’t veer down a corny, heartfelt path of usual Reitman fare, but it also didn’t go anywhere else. It’s as though Reitman didn’t want to be Alexander Payne this time around (as he usually does), which I commend, but he ended up doing nothing, being no one, and going nowhere. My favorite part of the film was the end: in part because this unrealistic, self-involved and utterly annoying character is not redeemed whatsoever (which is better than if the movie had turned toward sentimentality at the end), but more so because the credits rolling meant I could get up and move on with my life.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is a film directed by Brad Bird and written by Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec, based on the TV Series created by Bruce Geller. It stars Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg and Paula Patton. The IMF is shut down when it’s implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin, causing Ethan Hunt and his new team to go rogue to clear their organization’s name.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a film directed by Guy Ritchie and written by Michele and Kieran Mulroney, using characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It stars Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and Jared Harris. Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson join forces to outwit and bring down their fiercest adversary, Professor Moriarty.

Young Adult is a film directed by Jason Reitman and written by Diablo Cody. It stars Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson and Patton Oswalt. Soon after her divorce, a fiction writer returns to her home in small-town Minnesota, looking to rekindle a romance with her ex-boyfriend, who is now married with kids.


Official Site: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

IMDb: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Official Site: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

IMDb: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Official Site: Young Adult

IMDb: Young Adult

Written by Tyler Malone

Photography Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Design by Jillian Mercado


Press Photo from Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Photography Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

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