As sleek and shiny as the surfaces of the world’s tallest building and the suits worn by Tom Cruise (Ethan Hunt) and Jeremy Renner (Brandt). One great action sequence after another, with just enough quiet moments to catch your breath. And it falls out of your brain an hour after you’re done watching it.
I like and admire director Brad Bird (The Incredibles and Ratatouille, the latter being one of my favorites of 2007), and this is a career-establishing move to live-action films. It’s clear that Bird’s imagination, nurtured in animation, brings a freedom and energy to his action sequences that most other action directors don’t possess. He’s not earth-bound in any way, and there is a visceral punch and joy to those parts of the film that easily lift this fourth entry in the series above the others.
Another high point is Jeremy Renner, whose intensity pulls the film up another notch, especially in his scenes with Cruise, who moves away from his normal baseline approach of smiles and one-liners when he acts with Renner. Renner doesn’t shine here as he did in The Hurt Locker or The Town, but he’s easily the strongest of the four leads. Having Simon Pegg as the comic relief is another bonus, but his humor isn’t always well integrated into the film’s rhythms and tone. Still, Pegg’s character is a happy presence that prevents the film from reaching intensity overload via the presence of Cruise and Renner.
There’s an uneasy alliance between the relative realism of the political tensions and violence in the film and the utter fantasy of some of the action sequences and plot points. The film is both grounded and cartoonish, often within the same sequence. It’s almost always dazzling, but it stretches disbelief too far, too often. The last-minute—rather, last-second—climax is simply beyond the pale, and undercuts the suspense and tension of the sequence it ends. It nearly mocks all that went before.
Suffice it to say that Paula Patton is a solid actress who plays the Bond girl with Lara Croft skills in this non-Bond movie.
As an action film, it works. Just suspend your disbelief to the max and enjoy the ride.