Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Paramount Pictures

Rated PG-13 for violence and intense action sequences.

Cruise And Company Go Undercover For Dangerous Assignment In Russia

Before he could intercept a courier carrying the activation codes for Russia’s nuclear devices, an American spy (Josh Hollaway) is slain in Budapest, Hungary, by a blonde assassin (Lea Seydoux). She was working on behalf of Cobalt (Michael Nyst), a person of interest whose identity can only be determined by infiltrating top-secret files located inside the Kremlin.

That dangerous assignment is accepted by the latest crack IMF team assembled by Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) with the usual understanding that the secretary will disavow any knowledge of its existence if they are killed or captured. So, when a detonation by Cobalt destroys the Kremlin during the operation and America ends up accused of the bombing, the President of the United States has no choice but to issue a Ghost Protocol declaring them rogue agents.

This leaves Hunt and company blamed for the attack, and the only way they can clear their names is by tracking down the real culprit and retrieving the codes before he can trigger a weapon of mass destruction. That, in a nutshell, is the premise of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, the fourth and arguably finest installment yet in the international espionage series.

Directed by Brad Bird (Ratatouille), the picture ups the ante in terms of state-of-the-art gadgetry and eye-popping feats on land, sea and in the air. Besides the visual capture of action unfolding against breathtaking backdrops of exotic locales as far afield as Moscow, Dubai and Mumbai, the production has been blessed with a plot compelling enough to hold your attention for its duration.

A mature Tom Cruise is in top form here, displaying a relatively sophisticated savoir-faire in lieu of the easy boyish charm that’s served him so well in the past. His talented supporting cast includes Simon Pegg, who offers comic relief, periodically, as his bumbling new sidekick, Benji Dunn. And joining them for the roller coaster ride are Paula Patton as sultry Agent Jane Carter, and Jeremy Renner as William Brandt, an IMF bureaucrat pressed back into field duty by unusual circumstances.

Michelle Monaghan and Ving Rhames reprise their roles as Hunt’s wife, Julia, and his best friend Luther, respectively, but only in blink-and-you-missed-it cameo appearances. Regardless, nostalgia is not the reason to check out this action flick, which is all about the death-defying stunts designed to have you scratching your head while wondering, “How the heck did they do that?”

A welcome addition to a beloved film franchise that is only improving with age.

Excellent (4 stars).

Running time: 132 Minutes.

 

Pariah

Focus Features

Rated R for profanity and sexuality.

Latent Lesbian Summons Courage In Out-Of-The-Closet Drama

17-year-old Alike (Adepero Oduye) has been hiding a big secret from her parents, namely, that she’s gay. But that fact is becoming more and more difficult for the latent lesbian to suppress, given the raging hormones that have her yearning for a girlfriend.

Lately, she has struck up a Platonic friendship with Laura (Pernell Walker), a high school classmate who is already out of the closet. This development doesn’t sit well with her mom, Audrey (Kim Wayans), who is so deep in denial that she doesn’t recognize any of the telltale signs of her daughter’s sexual preferences, such as frequenting a gay bar.

Instead, the meddling mom tries to discourage Alike from hanging out with a bull dyke named Laura by introducing her to Bina (Aasha Davis), a girl she presumes to be straight. But the best-laid plans often go astray, since there’s such a thing as lipstick lesbians. And sparks fly when the two hit off.

As the truth emerges, Alike’s home situation grows increasingly uncomfortable, between her Bible-thumping mother and her police officer father (Charles Parnell), who doesn’t like the rumors he’s hearing down at the local liquor store. Soon, the poor kid has no safe harbor, and has to negotiate her way daily down a rough block in Brooklyn marked by intolerance of her homosexuality.

Is it any wonder then that she might feel like a pariah, a social outcast struggling to find acceptance. Pariah is also the title of this semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age drama directed by Dee Rees. Although the picture does feature a number of superficial parallels to Precious, it is in no way derivative, and addresses a very different theme of equal import to the black community.

A sobering look at what it might very well be like to grow up lesbian in the ‘hood.

Very Good (3 stars).

Running time: 86 minutes.

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun

 

For movies opening December 30, 2011

 

The Iron Lady (PG-13 for violent images and brief nudity). Meryl Streep impersonates imperious Margaret Thatcher in this intimate portrait recounting the private life and political career of the former Prime Minister of Great Britain. With Jim Broadbent, Anthony Head and Iain Glen.

 

Angels Crest (R for profanity and sexuality). Dysfunctional family drama chronicling the blame game played in the wake of the accidental death of a toddler (Ameko Eks Mass Carroll) as his estranged parents (Thomas Dekker and Lily Collins) and members of their tight-knit community try to make sense of the tragedy. With Jeremy Piven, Mira Sorvino, Elizabeth McGovern, Marty Antonini, Dave Brown and Gillian Carfra.

 

A Separation (PG-13 for mature themes). Marital crisis drama revolving around a feminist (Leila Hatami) who files for divorce in order to raise her daughter (Sarina Farhadi) anywhere but Iran over the objection of a husband (Peyman Maadi) who wants her to stay to help care for his father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi) suffering from Alzheimer’s. (In Persian with subtitles.)

 

El Sicario: Room 164 (Unrated). Good cop/bad cop documentary featuring the shocking confessions of Chihuahua’s former chief of police who admits to killing hundreds of people while moonlighting as a hit man for a Mexican drug cartel. (In Spanish with subtitles.)

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