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.
For any actress, landing the title role in a movie like Lee Daniels’ Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, a powerful drama about an overweight, illiterate teenager who escapes her abusive mother with the help of a dedicated teacher (Paula Patton) and a social worker (Mariah Carey), would be a coup.
While director Alexandre Aja and longtime screenwriting collaborator Grégory Levasseur have proven themselves artful purveyors of fright, they too often squander their talents on stories that collapse beneath the weight of misplaced ambition.
Consider their singularly frustrating breakthrough, 2003’s High Tension. It’s a nasty slice of psychotic mayhem, straightforward and unsettling until, in its waning moments, Aja and Levasseur play fast and loose with the film’s internal logic. Their follow-up, a remake of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes, was little more than a technical exercise, but a mostly effective one, demonstrating that the French duo is quite capable of spinning nightmarish visions into tightly constructed yarns.