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Tom Cruise's "Mission Impossible" vs. Robert Downey Jr. & Jude Law's "Sherlock Holmes" This Weekend

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Tom Cruise Vs.  Sherlock Holmes this week at the movies

Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows is in the inevitable follow up to Guy Ritchie’s surprise hit two years ago that “re-imagined” the sleuth for a new generation. For all things considered, Shadows is the typical sequel: louder, bigger, and inferior on almost all counts.Sherlock Holmes game of shadows

The film starts promisingly and carries that momentum for a good while.  After a gripping opening in which we are introduced to the brilliant, evil Dr. Moriarty (Jared Harris), the film zeros in on Dr. Watson’s (Jude Law) wedding, which is fast approaching. Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) pledges to take him out for one more night of debauchery, and then throw in the towel on their adventures.

Of course, the night doesn’t go as planned and Holmes winds up in extended fight trying to protect a gypsy fortuneteller named Simza (Noomi Rapace), who is attacked by a thief. It seems that someone is trying to kill her for reason, and Holmes must figure out whom and why.

His clues lead him back to the infamous Moriarty, who initiates a deadly game of chess with the detective, one involving humans as pawns. He declares that harm will be brought upon Dr. Watson and his wife on their honeymoon, and so Holmes is on foot to foil the honeymoon and protect them from danger. Soon him and Watson are back on the case to solve the mystery and stop a psychotic genius from creating another world war.

For a while, the serviceable Game of Shadows coasts along on some decent action sequences, and the engaging chemistry between Downey and Law, a component that propelled the first film. Sadly, that film also featured the capable and quick witted Rachel McAdams, who is not present here. The empty Rapace, who carries a worthless role, replaces her. McAdams has more warmth and presence in her five minutes of screen time than Rapace has the entire film.

Additionally, Ritchie’s obnoxious style choices start to derail the film half way through. His tactic of having Holmes possess “spider senses” as well as a super human ability to play out scenarios in his head, is overused. It’s interesting the first time, grating around the fourth time. Speaking of excess, his use of slow-motion practically kills the rhythm of the action sequences, especially an escape through the woods set late through the film. It’s overly stylistic and pretty tedious at that.

As the seemingly endless film crawls to it’s climax, there are a few moments that spark it back to life, but nothing so special that makes this mystery worth solving. Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows is not an awful film, but it neither has enough smarts nor enough satisfying action to warrant a recommendation.

Mission Impossible's First Film Since 2006 Comes Out This Weekend

mission impossibleBrad Bird, on the other hand, knows a thing or two about delivering a clean, crisp crowd-pleasing action sequence.  He successfully executes those expert sequences and revitalizes the Mission Impossible franchise, one that has lain dormant since 2006. Ghost Protocol, the newest of the bunch, is the best film in the series and is the action movie to beat this year.

The thin story in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol  is strung along by a series of wall-to-wall action set pieces. The opening is one of those extravaganzas, in which government agents help Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) escape from a Russian prison so that he can embark on a new missionto penetrate the Kremlin. Inside of the lush landmark, a madman named Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) is trying to obtain a file that contains release codes for nuclear weapons.

When the plan becomes foiled and Hendricks detonates a large bomb that levels the Kremlin, Ethan’s team are branded terrorists, and shut down. This makes it complicated to stop the criminal, who en route to a famous hotel in Dubai. Once there, he plans to meet a hired assassin and make a trade for the lethal codes.  The race is on to get there first, and stage an ambush before anyone leaves the hotel with the dangerous information.

Joining Ethan this time around is the lethal and beautiful Jane (Paula Patton), who carries rage for a partner that was recently executed, as well as computer whiz Benji (Simon Pegg) whom has assisted him before. The other new addition comes in the form of Brandt (an excellent, neurotic Jeremy Renner), an advanced financial analyst who’s highly honed combat skills lead the others to believe he is hiding a thing or two about his past. Together they try to thwart Hendrick’s plans before nuclear missiles are launched all around the globe.

Ghost Protocol is first and foremost, an action film, and it’s a very good action film at that. Car chases, bone crunching combat, skyscraperscaling; it’s all here. Bird has only helmed animation prior to this point (The Incredibles) but the transition to live action is more that seamless. His direction is constantly on the gas pedal, literally hurtling action pieces at the viewer back to back.  He also creates a gorgeous scope, capturing the beauty in exotic locales such as Moscow and India.

Bird also takes the same approach with Tom Cruise, who is a wonder himself. He slams into walls, topples off buildings and flails through the air at incredible speeds. He’s also 100% committed to the role physically, weaving in and out of said set pieces as if they were an obstacle course. Aside from being in great shape, he also displays a near effortless blend of confidence and charm, hardly a whiff of the cocky, fratty Cruise that audiences had come to know.

The third act of Ghost Protocol does start to lag a little, only because Bird can’t possibly keep up the kinetic high he established earlier in the film. There’s also a little too much suspension of disbelief going on, even for a movie of this type. Still, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is rock solid fun, and is best enjoyed on a big screen.

That is your mission and you should choose to accept it.

 

Contact Jim Teti at jteti@philly2philly.com

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Mission Impossible photos from Paramount Pictures

Sherlock Holmes photos from Warner Brothers