business news in context, analysis with attitude

I have never quite forgiven the makers of the original Mission: Impossible movie for turning Jim Phelps, the hero of the sixties TV series, into a bad guy for the film reboot. I’ve always thought that it was just a cheap plot twist, and one that put hero Ethan Hunt, played by Tom Cruise, on something of a pedestal.

That said, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, the fourth in the series, is a terrific spy thriller, probably the best in the series, and absolutely worth seeing. Directed by Brad Bird (amazingly, this is the first live-action film for the director of the animated films The Incredibles and The Iron Giant) with breezy self-assurance, MI-GP takes a relatively coherent plot about the potential nuclear destruction of the world by a mad scientist and flavors it with strong performances, a series of fabulous foreign locales, and some action sequences that are positively breathtaking.

These set pieces are done with a high level of style and a great sense of fun, which is something the previous films lacked. The centerpiece of the film has Cruise scaling the tallest building in the world, in Dubai, Spider-Man-style, and if you suffer from any fear of heights (as I do) these minutes of the film will make your stomach clench. But there also is an amazing chase sequence in a vertical, mechanized auto garage in Mumbai, and an escape from a Russian prison that is set to Dean Martin singing “Ain’t That A Kick in The Head.” And even a small, relatively unimportant sequence that has Cruise and co-star Jeremy Renner (excellent as a CIA analyst with a secret) trying to board a moving train is done with panache. In addition to Cruise and Renner, Paula Patton and the always hilarious Simon Pegg round out the excellent cast.

One of the things I liked best about MI-GP is that throughout most of the film, the IMF (Impossible Missions Force, not the International Monetary Fund, which stole the acronym) has been disavowed by the US government, meaning that they don;t have access to all the toys and gadgets that typify the series. What this means is that sometimes the stuff they do have doesn’t work right...which means that they have to overcome these obstacles with plain old grit, derring-do and ingenuity. Which is exactly what a Mission: Impossible movie should be about.

One suggestion. MI-GP was partially shot in IMAX format, and it is absolutely worth spending the money to see it in an IMAX large-format theater, if you can. The movie is breathtaking in this format - it opens on a shot of Budapest, and Mrs. Content Guy literally gasped it was so amazing. (And IMAX heightens the tension during the Dubai climbing sequences as well.)

A business lesson? One of the things that the Mission: Impossible series has done right, even if I did not always love the movies, was to bring on directors who had their own styles and take on the material. Brian DePalma, John Woo and JJ Abrams have all given their MI movies distinctive characteristics, and I think that has been smart - it keeps the series from being too predictable. I never would have believed that Brad Bird would be the best of them, though ... and if they do a fifth movie, I kind of hope they hire him again so he can try to top himself.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol - a terrific popcorn movie that you should definitely see, and try to see in IMAX.

I have two red wines two recommend to you this week...

The other night I was making risotto, and my sister and her partner contributed the wine to the evening....and it was the very pricey but utterly delicious 1999 Caymus Vineyards Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon. Just wonderful. Normally I would say that such a wine should be saved for a special occasion, but sometimes I think that good food, lively conversation and people you love are plenty special enough.

The other wine I would recommend this week is the 2009 Sangiovese di Remagra Superiore, which is a little bolder than a chianti and perfect with Italian food and a spicy red sauce. (And about a tenth of the price of the Caymus.)

That’s it for this week...and, as noted above in FaceTime, this year.

Have a great holiday...and I’ll see you on Tuesday, January 3, 2012.

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