Secret Agents: The Sad and The Sexy

Movie Review By: Ben Boquist

Don’t you just hate when you’re climbing around outside the tallest building in the world and your suction gloves stop working? Or how about when you’re wearing a magnetic suit inside a super computer at dangerously high temperatures?

It’s all in a day’s work for secret agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) in the captivating fourth film of the Mission: Impossible franchise.

Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol is as fun and colorful as a cartoon. Which is hardly surprising considering its director. Brad Bird – the genius behind such animated masterpieces as Ratatouille, The Incredibles and Iron Giant – helmed this most recent Mission: Impossible film.

Fans of the previous films will not be disappointed. This movie has enough fight sequences, explosions, sex appeal and spy gadgets (My favorite was a giant screen that projected an empty hallway) to entertain the 12 year old in all of us!

There’s something undeniably sexy about secret agents. They’re brilliant, mysterious, conniving and they have the coolest toys.

Or… so goes the Hollywood fantasy.

One of the great things about coming from a family of movie lovers is that Christmas is full of trips to the cinema. During one of these I took in a different kind of spy movie.

Whereas Ghost Protocol resembles a cartoon, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a dark, moody, anxiety ridden look at the real world of espionage.

Set in bleak-looking, overcast London during the Cold War, Tinker Tailor follows a mild-mannered veteran (Gary Oldman) called out of retirement to expose a Soviet spy at the heart of the British intelligence.

Smiley’s world could not be farther from the glamour of Ethan Hunt. In contrast to the space age Mission:Impossible technology, the 1970s “spy gadgets” are laughable.

There’s nothing fun about Smiley’s job, as friend after friend comes under suspicion. He cannot trust his coworkers, his long time acquaintances or even his wife. Life in the secret service is full of doubt, suspicion and betrayal. The supporting cast is equally brilliant, from Tom Hardy to Colin Firth and Mark Strong. In short, this is a spy movie your “elitist” friends will love.

Oldman’s performance is eerie. He hardly ever raises his voice above a calm whisper and eyes the other characters with sad, tired eyes. The effect is a haunted man who invites you to share in his anxiety. Which brings me to another difference in the two films. Ghost Protocol made me jump several times with its high stakes fight sequences.

But Tinker Tailor utilizes a different kind of suspense. Instead of jumping, I gradually became more uncomfortable and more full of… despair. Yeah, that’s the only word for it!

“There’s an ugly truth,” the film seems to tell us, “behind the sex appeal and the glamour.” And then, as always happens after a good movie, I began to absorb the truth nuggets both films had to offer.

In case you didn’t know, that’s what good movies do. They offer truth nuggets.

For Ghost Protocol, the message is that fantasy is a fun diversion from life.

For Tinker Tailor it is that people aren’t meant to live like this; Fear destroys people, and we’re never lonelier than when we can’t trust.

And that, my friends, is the power of cinema!

If you’ve recently seen these films (or really, any great movie) I’d love to hear what “truth nuggets” you gleamed from them…

(Go ahead and leave a comment :))


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