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« In Which We Die Slowly During A Mission Abroad »

The Most Magnificent of Protocols


Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
dir. Brad Bird
133 minutes

Tom Cruise's actual name is Thomas Mapother. He comes from a long line of Irish Mapothers. There was Uncle Vasho Mapother, something of a miscreant, potentially a talented lyricist, not an agent for the mythical IMF. In Ghost Protocol, Thomas Mapother gently insists "the entire IMF has been disavowed!" which is a traditional Mapother ululation, analogous to, "My wife has not taken care of the chores."

Deeply forgiving and deeply inspirational, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has not actually recently suffered the loss of his wife. This was a cover for something else, possibly a weekend alone. Give director Brad Bird $140 million for his first live-action film and you expect something decently entertaining. When they gave that money to Brian DePalma, he at least insisted on crashing a helicopter in a train tunnel.

The incandescent Paula Patton portrays Tom's #2, the creatively named "Jane." (Actors have to be "smalled down" to work with Tom like the hobbits in LOTR.) Despite being virtually Thomas Mapother's height, she looks like a complete giantess next to him. What must it have been like to be Rebecca De Mornay, living with Tom Cruise in an apartment in New York in the mid-1980s. Cruise's subsequent dalliance with Mimi Rogers represents a similarly frightening image in the mind's eye. We need to find that apartment and make it a shrine, if someone else has not already done that.

In Ghost Protocol Tom never touches a woman. He's active in areas around them, but he just hovers like a Jehovah's Witness or a Franciscan friar, which is also within his current range if you want to remake The Name of the Rose later on. The one time Tom stared into a woman's eyes she felt it was excessively confrontational and he's never done it since.

Other roles I could see Tom maturing into:

- concept piece where he portrays every character in Dr. Zhivago

- controversial scion in musical reimagining of Light in August (opportunity for blackface!)

- he plays Lars Von Trier, Lars Von Trier portrays Nicole Kidman, and Bryce Dallas Howard plays a whore

- Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms. (The heart of a composer lies in this man)

- sequel to Jerry Maguire where he accidentally runs over Cuba Gooding Jr. with his car

- The passion of the Tom

- Blade remake

At one point, Thomas Mapother drives a car forty feet straight down to the ground, it was extremely impressive. If he had aimed at Sawyer from Lost, he would not have received his check from J.J. Abrams. This is just the beginning of the collateral damage Hunt/Mapother is willing to cause. A foreign car is just not symbolic enough.

Ghost Protocol begins when Tom is rescued from Russian prison. Ghost Protocol doesn't show him being abused in the confines of his cell, but the fact that he enjoyed it is implied. Tom has grown quite close with his bunkmate, who believes he's a Russian and swears by his masquerading friend. (To protect his cover, Tom wears the same mask as in Eyes Wide Shut.)

Then this guy's bomb blows up the Kremlin. Not one seems very upset; we don't even see the wreckage, just a wall of flame as Tom strides away to find a hospital that takes his insurance. After that, there's a lot of climbing. Tom is very tired from the climb, and he looks all of his 49 years. Tom's wrinkles are appendages in themselves, because they extrude and wiggle in the air, separate from what it was thought time could not touch.

Tom ascends the phallic Khalifa Tower for about half of Ghost Protocol's screen time, which outside of Cliffhanger and Last Tango in Paris is a cinematic record. Having Tom Cruise scrape across the glassy exterior makes Brad Bird no less culpable than the people who did than same thing to Angelina Jolie or the entire cast of Tower Heist. It's a deeply emotional treck; there is a reason you have to watch all 133 minutes. The agony of the climb is the experience of mounting at length.

Instead of interacting with women or his environment, Ethan Hunt eschews such predictable trappings for a weird relationship with the other alpha male in the group, Brandt (Jeremy Renner), a field agent masquerading as an advisor to the head of the IMF (Tom Wilkinson). Hunt goads Brandt into several very awkward occasions where they are face to face, or holding a gun at each other, but not the trigger, just like holding it so you know the threat is always there.

Here we have a healthy and somewhat understandable fear of women. Men are completely susceptible to them. According to the 2010 census, women are more than twice as likely to be a double agent as a man. They require more of you than you ask, but what can you do but go on climbing?

Ethan Hunt was hurt by a beautiful woman. She was more into Jon Voight. She said she found him more virile. She betrayed Ethan and a lot of other people to do Jon Voight. She preferred him, overall. She wasn't averse to sampling Ethan, but ultimately her sympathies lay with Jon Voight.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here and twitters here. He last wrote in these pages about the journals of Susan Sontag. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

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