Mission Impossible 4 – The Return of the Stereotypes

MI4

Mission Impossible 4 is an incredibly awesome movie. For about 80 minutes. And then the trainwreck begins. To watch it till the end is a mission so impossible, I am tempted to quote Xzibit the Great: Yo dawg, I herd you like impossible missions, so I put an impossible mission in your impossible mission…you get the idea.

So, to begin at the beginning: An MI movie has been long overdue and we were duly excited to watch it in the best IMAX theater in the city. And AMC had arranged for a nice little treat for us: after all, how many times do you get a chance to have your movie introduced by the director himself! So, Brad Bird – yes, the Pixar man – appeared to thunderous applause, spoke a couple of minutes about the awesomeness of IMAX and thanked our patronage. And then, if that wasn’t enough, what followed drowned us in a complete ocean of awesomeness. The trailer time was fully taken up by an exclusive 10-minute footage of ‘Dark Knight Rises’! I am not going to say anything about it except that it was stunning (read that in caps please).

So, we were quite pumped when the movie actually started. And start it did well. An intriguing opening, a nice introduction to Ethan Hunt (an excellent-looking Tom, even after all these years and all the scientology madness). It was a wee bit funny to see that the director had actually considered ‘Russia’, ‘Kremlin’ and ‘Nuclear war’ to be in-vogue topics for a 2011 movie. But, who cares much about the relevance of MacGuffins anyway and so we happily let that pass. A few moments and a pretty cool optical illusion trick later, we came to the best sequence of the movie – the Burj Khalifa sequence.

Spellbinding it was, to watch the magnificence of the tower on the IMAX screen, only to be matched by the nerve-wrecking thing-a-magic that Mr. Cruise usually does in these MI movies, to the power of four. Great sequence and Tom really pulls this one off in style! This itself will be well worth the admission price. When that was followed by another blinding (literally) chase sequence, you had to ready yourself for a smashing last act. Dear oh dear, how wrong would you be!

You know how the villain usually has the thing that makes other things blow up, but just not the thing that is needed to trigger the thing that blows up things? Yeah, that one. And of course you know that he has to travel to another country to get that thing. This country happens to be India. This part of the movie is also called Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, part II – The Return of the Stereotypes.

Those of you oldies who have seen the 1984 Spielberg movie will remember all the stereotypes. So, let’s do a quick comparison:

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Mission Impossible 4
Indy, Short Round and that perennial whiner of a woman would end up in a river in a nameless forest. A sinister old man would walk along the bank and the sitar ‘toing toing’ would play in the background. Ethan Hunt would tell Brandt and co. that they are going to India. Cut scene to a dome covered by birds in India and, yeah you know it – enter the sitar ‘toing toing’.
The sinister man would communicate with Indy with a conspicuous namasteying hand. The supreme moron Anil Kapoor who plays Brijnath in MI4 would greet Paula Patton with a conspicuous and pukeworthy namaste. (For the record, I am an Indian and I don’t remember the last time I namasteyed anyone with a folded hand).
Indy and co. would meet the Prime Minister of Pankot and a few moments later, a bunch of random saree-clad Indian girls would be dancing for no reason in the courtyards and pathways of the palace. Ethan and co. would enter the hotel of the above mentioned supreme moron and a bunch of random saree-clad Indian girls would be dancing for no reason in the main hall of the hotel.

You would think Hollywood would have learnt a thing or two in 27 years. Hell, no. Brad Bird doesn’t even try. For good measure, he throws in a portrait or two of suggestive kamasutra-type paintings and a hotel full of glittering-saree-clad women. And all these are supposed to somehow portray Mumbai (even though the scenes seem to be from Hyderabad or Bangalore, but that’s minor detail, I guess).

Let me attempt to explain this stereotype with an equivalent. Consider the following scene set in mid-town Manhattan: A dirt road cutting across a dying grassland. A lone horse. A moustached rider complete with a fedora and a gunbelt. He sees out of the corner of his eyes, an african-american kid robbing an unsuspecting white couple at gunpoint. In the horizon, we see the Statue of Liberty, silently watching everything, juxtaposed with the Golden Gate bridge which connects the two ends of the Niagara Falls and…what? You can’t consider that? I thought so.

Now, as this Anil Kapoor dude already has ‘international acclaim’, he apparently thinks that he is a super actor or something. Thus begins a string of facepalm moments when he tries to get seduced by Paula Patton who apparently has no idea how to even act like a seductress, I mean, for real. By the time Anil Kapoor is done with his antics, if you are from India, you will feel like a pile of shit, I kid you not. And, to top it all, he carries that smirk on his face as if saying, to quote Bill Maher, “nailed it!”.

While all this is happening, the movie has already taken a wrong turn into a dark alley and is heading straight towards the sewage dump. No great plot devices. No smart twists. The action is reduced to Jeremy Renner fist-fighting dude-x and Tom Cruise fist-fighting dude-y. They fight on a multi-level parking lot with some attempt at cleverness, but I couldn’t care less, as I was already waiting for the end credits to roll.

I have great respect for Brad Bird based on his previous movies like The Incredibles and Ratatouille. A man who can make Ratatouille has to have sensibilities that are at odds with what we end up seeing here. I strongly suspect that he started crafting the movie very well (resulting in stuff like the Dubai sequence) and then ran into some production pressures and some political/financial/Cruisial needs to finish the rest of the movie in India which resulted in this gooey mess. To see that this movie has a 95% on rottentomatoes while an excellent movie like Sherlock Holmes 2 has just 63%, is puzzling to say the least.

I still would recommend this movie. Please go see it (preferably in IMAX) and if there is an option to pay something extra and walk out when they display ‘India’, do consider that strongly. And if you happen to see Anil Kapoor somewhere in real life, please do take the time and effort to let him know… :)

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