I recently went back and read my last year's Top 10 picks to get myself into the mindset of my forthcoming 2011 list. The movies that I picked were all well and good but what is sad is how tragically unprepared I was. In a nut shell, the post went like this: "2010 was a crap year for movies and I had to stretch it to get to 10, oh but BTW I haven't seen anything that came out in December, A.K.A, awards season."
I can proudly say that I am MUCH more prepared this year, and that, combined with an altogether better crop of films in 2011, has made for a harder time narrowing the field down to 10. I recently posted my honorable mentions and I think I've finally settled on the final batch (now I just have to rank them, ugh) but there was one more movie that I wanted to give an honorary kudos to.
So, I would like to give you the first of what I hope will be an annual tradition here at Wood's Stock, the 11th Best Film of the Year Award. Number 11 is more than just "what would have been number 10 if it hadn't been for those meddling kids," it is a loving tribute to populist, popcorn cinema; a slot specially reserved for a film that was produced for broad, mass market appeal but still managed to keep things classy, smart, and show us something new. It's the "fun" movie that is ok to love.
The 11th Best Film of 2011 is...
Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol
While it is true that yes, I am a longtime fan of the franchise AND it's star Tom Cruise (greatest American action star, ever) the fact remains that M:I is in an exclusive class of multi-installment franchises that not only uphold their quality over time but (arguably) improve. Other such club members include LOTR, Back to the Future, Bourne and Harry Potter. While there are greater and lesser Missions there has never been an outright bomb.
Think of other major American film franchises, can they say the same? Batman? Nope. James Bond? Nope. Rocky? Nope. The Godfather? Maybe. Jurassic Park? Nope. Scream? Nope. The Matrix? Nope. Pirates? No-siree. Indiana Jones? Noooooooope. Star Wars? NOPE! (*sidenote, the word "nope" has already lost all meaning to me. Isn't that a weird word? Nope. Nope. Nope? What is that?)
And so we arrive at the fourth Mission, once again helmed by a new director per tradition (a brilliant move that has made each mission seem like a stand-alone action piece) this time Pixar alumnus Brad Bird making his live action directorial debut. Apparently the move to real life came easy to the director because Bird packs more seamlessly choreographed sequences into 2 hours than I thought possible and makes you go "did they seriously just DO that?". The narrative skips around the globe without taking a moment to breath while our team of rag-tag agents fight against time to stop nuclear war. In the hands of a lesser man (cough: Michael Bay) the moving pieces would become blurred and confusing but Brad keeps things quick, clear, and on point.
The film has its weaknesses, namely that the villain is essentially absent and the agents themselves are so good that not only is failure not an option, it doesn't ever seem like a possibility. I also would have liked to see more Face Masks, since that's the defining shtick of the franchise. I was also a little irked by some of the creative decisions that the writers took in regards to M:I-3 (my personal favorite of the 4) but I'll leave that spoiler-filled discussion for another day. Still, if it's spectacle you want then it is spectacle you get and more. Tom Cruise's star may have dimmed in recent years but I would hope that he wins some detractors back. He's surrounded by hipper, younger stars but this is still his show and he makes saving the world look good, and effortless.
Ghost Protocol shows us that a franchise once speculated to be on it's last leg is still very much alive. Here's to more missions for year's to come. B+