The Transamerica Pyramid is the target of a nuclear strike in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, the latest thriller off one of Hollywood’s most dependable assembly lines. Pixar’s Brad Bird is not the first to wreak havoc on San Francisco, though the Golden Gate Bridge, rather than the city’s tallest skyscraper, is a more popular bull’s-eye.
Doug MacRay could have been a contender. He robs banks and armored trucks for a living, moonlighting as a blue-collar construction type. Once upon a time he had a chance to escape the mean streets of Boston’s clannish Charlestown neighborhood, and with them the legacy of his father, a career criminal wasting away in Walpole’s Cedar Junction prison.
Doug (Ben Affleck) was a hockey player with a scorer’s touch, but instead of going pro he fell into the family business, emptying vaults for the neighborhood crime boss (Pete Postlethwaite) and setting aside just enough cash to harbor dreams of a better life. He has a tight-knit crew and a guiding sense of principle, though the two are often at odds.
He’s touted as a dark horse in Oscar’s Best Actor race, a relative unknown in a field of nominees highlighted by presumed frontrunner Jeff Bridges and George Clooney. Yet Modesto native Jeremy Renner, the fair-haired star of Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, is no stranger to the screen, or to awards consideration.
Americans have made their will known at the polls and the box office, and the message is clear: Our military presence in the Middle East is only slightly less popular than the movies inspired by it. The Hurt Locker may not change that sentiment, which felled recent offerings like Ridley Scott’s underrated Body of Lies and the equally overlooked Rendition, but that takes nothing away from Kathryn Bigelow’s most gripping thriller to date.