It was all about the choices. As in, there weren't any. The only film I was vaguely curious in seeing was The New World, but it was starting an hour later, and it was cold. So we (L. and P. and me) went and saw Mission Impossible. Two hours later we left, not actually knowing what the film was about at all.
Oh, sure, to a degree, it's simple: Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt, and there's evil in the world, and he has to go out and stop it. The evil is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. It's when you leave these little descriptions behind that everything in the film breaks down. For you see, no one in the film actually knows what it is that Hoffman's bad guy does. He might be an arms dealer. He might be a drug dealer. He might have shadowy connections to the Vatican. He might be so powerful that when you capture him, it will only be honours before armed men in helicopters and planes arrive to rescue him. Or, it might be that he is nothing but a decoy for a larger, more evil force. You'll never know, however, because not once does anyone stop to ask why it is that they are so interested in this guy.
Well, except for the fact that he has Tom Cruise's wife, who bares a passing resemblance to Katie Holmes.
In many ways, you have to admire director J.J Abrams for his choice to jettison any character building, over all suspense, or even an internal logic for the film. It's as if he knows that we don't really care what it is that Hoffman does to make him evil. It's simply enough for him to say that he's evil, and have him threaten Cruise's wife, and use that to justify everything within the film. It is as if Abrams knows that the only reason we go to see a film like Mission Impossible is so that we can watch some explosions and Tom Cruise run. Much like War of the Worlds, Tom Cruise is in fine running form for this film, and you'll see him run from action scene to action scene without pause to ask, "Why am I doing this?"
So, in many ways (all the important ways), the film is an absolute pile of shit. Yet, yet, I have to admit, a lot of the action scenes are slick and fast. They lack the operatic quality that John Woo's Mission Impossible II had, but right until the final twenty minutes of the film, when it catches up to the opening, the slickness and speed of each of the scenes is enough to keep you going. It's only once the film catches up with itself, where plot then begins to get important, since the revenge nature of the film is finished, that it falls over and dies. Plus, the action scenes get kind of stupid then. I mean, more stupid than what has happened before.
Abrams film is much like the majority of films out there nowadays, in that they are paper thin on plot, character, and anything that didn't require putting some explosives on a windmill and blowing it up. It's not that I don't like these things, but rather that, when this is all that you have, and even if you do it well, it's ultimately hollow. Mission Impossible is a hollow film. Without any time spent building its characters (I can't even tell you the names of any Cruise's IMF team, except for Ving Rhames' Luthor--but you'd want to remember his name, since he's been in all three films, and has been wasted in all three films)... but without any time spent building the characters, once the bullets start flying, and the girls start wearing slinky dresses, and the plastic faces are made to be worn--because you can't have a Mission Impossible film without using the fake face thing stupidly--you just don't care what happens.
I didn't care.