The MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE pics with Tom Cruise have made pots & pots of money, but it’s hard to think of anyone getting too worked up about them, especially after MISSIONs 2 & 3. (The one with a big lift out of Hitchcock’s NOTORIOUS/’46 was particularly distressing.) So, it’s a surprise, and a kick, to see what Brad Bird, plucked from the world of animation, brings to the mix. Anyone who saw THE INCREDIBLES/’04 will have some idea of what to expect in the way that film morphed from Super-Hero to James Bond/Spy vs Spy adventure, along with a physical look that drew from 007's signature designer Ken Adam. The controlling gag, then & now, was Bird’s nutty fondness for (of all things) the Roger Moore era Bond pics. (He makes a more convincing case for them then Moore ever did!) You know where he’s going right from the start, when the goofy devil-may-care tone of a doubled-up pre-title sequence is crowned with a full play of the classic Lalo Schifrin M:I theme. (Plus heaps of variations on same all thru the pic.) And Bird doesn’t sneak in the old references, but revels in them. As in INCREDIBLES, he tends to run his action scenes past their sweet spot, and three of the four MIF principals bring little you wouldn’t see on tv’s NCIS. But, rather like THE SPY WHO LOVED ME/’77 (which has a darn similar nuclear terrorism plotline), he doesn’t take things very seriously and gets extra points simply by surpassing expectations.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: The sweeping shots that open the big Mumbai party scene might have been shot & directed by Claude Renoir & Lewis Gilbert if those two had taken THE SPY WHO LOVED ME into India. Bird & Co. even throw in a dance routine for some girly retro eye-candy.
DOUBLE-BILL: Brad Bird’s first big screen credit, THE IRON GIANT/’99, is a little seen gem.