We were all introduced to Brad Bird eight years ago when he worked at Pixar. His wild and zany charisma could clearly be seen all over "The Incredibles" (2004), and a little less so much in "Ratatouille" (2007). But if you saw the making of doc*mentaries for the former, then you could clearly see how perfect a fit Brad would be for a series like this. Fortunately Tom Cruise and company thought the same thing.
In the fourth outing, IMF Agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) finds himself needing to escape from a russian prison to pursue a nuclear strategist with apocalyptic beliefs. And for the third time in the series, he and his team find themselves disavowed along with the entire IMF, but that doesn't really matter since they've gone rogue twice before. The technical guy, Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) joins Ethan in the field this time and comes off like an IMF fanboy. He reminded me of Brad Bird's enthusiasm from the making of 'Incredibles.' There's also the usual forgetful member, this time Jane Carter (Paula Patton). However, the mysterious chief analyst William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) is the most intriguing addition to the team. He's got a dirty secret, well, sort of. It was implied it was something sinister, but maybe that was just me. Anyway, the gist of it is that his secret was underwhelming. Let's just say it accommodates the cheese factor from the predecessor. Oh, and sorry, Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) only makes a cameo. Very disappointing. I'd rate this team third behind the team from the predecessor and the original.
This film sports the weakest villain of the franchise: nuclear strategist and russian consultant Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist). Besides a video playback in the beginning, he may only have a few scant lines. He doesn't really have a presence at all. He's just a blank face that's there when he needs to be. It's a shame too, considering Nyqvist has recently garnered international attention as Mikael Blomkvist in the swedish versions of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy. And he was good in those. Brad Bird didn't take advantage of this talent, though screenwriters Andre Nemec and Josh Appelbaum didn't do the character justice either. So it's partially forgivable, but Cruise and Bird should really have seen this problem considering that the studio could really careless with a multi-billion dollar franchise on their hands. That's also known as a guaranteed audience.
The format of the story is very similar to the last film, in that it's constructed around five action scenes with the story in between taking place on the fly. Though also like before, the action serves the story by telling it rather than being there for the hell of it. Locations include Russia, India, and most impressively the United Arab Emirates. And I say most impressively since the stunt featuring Ethan Hunt scaling the Burj Khalifa in Dubai was done for real. It wasn't a set. They removed windows and used some pretty strong cables and an even tougher harness to let Cruise do whatever he wanted. This was definitely 'the scene' of this installment, and Brad Bird doesn't miss a beat in directing these action scenes. Overall however, I enjoyed the action sequences of the predecessor more. But the way these latter two installments follow the same format with better audience appeal may paint a picture of what the franchise's future holds.
In the end, Brad Bird's live action directorial debut is a big hit, but the absence of Luther Stickell, and the format being almost exactly that of the predecessor which was a better movie makes this film's faults more noticeable for that simple reason: it's not as good and follows the same format. Hopefully if there's another sequel we'll see a different style, but I doubt it given how profitable this venture was.