I really need to start bringing along earplugs when I go to see the summer blockbusters. I seriously watched much of this with my fingers in my ears, and since much of the dialogue is shouted over gunfire and the theater sound system was turned up to eleven, I could still hear perfectly well.
The standard action movie “crack team” concept is in place here, but poor Ving Rhames, Maggie Q, and Billy Crudup don’t get much to do, since Tom Cruise is a walking, talking, shooting, leaping, flying Swiss Army knife of a guy, who can handle with casual grace everything from a rocket launcher to his fiancee’s friends’ probing questions about his job. He speaks German, Chinese, Italian, and even a little English!
The plot is absurd; its only purpose is to provide an excuse for explosions. Cruise is irritatingly bossy and self-satisfied. The movie treats Michelle Monaghan, the fiancee, like a twelve-year-old girl treats a Barbie, with condescension and arbitrary violence. The great Phillip Seymour Hoffman is made so one-dimensionally evil by the puerile script that not even an actor of his talents is able to make a human being out of his character. Some details–using an automatic baseball pitching machine to create a diversion, a desperate running gun battle in search of a cell phone signal–are so flat out ridiculous they make me wince in embarrassment.
On the plus side, some of the set pieces–particularly a helicopter chase through a field of windmills ending with a karate chop writ very large, and an extraction from the Vatican involving a cassock, rubber mask, Lamborghini, and manhole (it’s not as kinky as it sounds)–are conceived with some wit and style. And the exteriors shot in China (Shanghai and Zhouzhuang) are interesting to look at. Watch for the amused faces of the extras in the crowd scenes who can’t keep in character as Cruise sprints past them on his way to save Monaghan.
But none of this is particularly surprising or insightful, is it. It was 126 degrees outside and my AC at home was on the blink, so it was nice to pass 126 minutes in the cold noisy dark. That is pretty much all.