Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Haywire vs. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, two spy thrillers about betrayal, redemption, and lots and lots of violence in between.
Premise In Haywire, CIA-trained operative Mallory Kane (professional Muy Thai fighter Gina Carano) becomes the country’s worst enemy when she is betrayed by someone in her own agency. Butt-kicking action ensues as Mallory goes after the spies who tried to kill her, all played by some easy-on-the-eyes actors: Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, and Channing Tatum. Think of it as an amalgam of director Steven Soderbergh’s previous titles: Mallory has the believability of Sasha Grey of The Girlfriend Experience, the attitude of J.Lo in Out of Sight, and the slickness of George Clooney’s character in the movies he’s done with Soderbergh (Ocean’s 11 and 13, Out of Sight).
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol traces similar themes, but on a grander scale. Would it be the Mission: Impossible franchise if it didn’t? Tom Cruise returns, for the fourth time, to redeem himself and save the world, this time from international nuclear warfare (which he coincidentally also incites). When a mission goes awry and a package delivered by Ethan Hunt (Cruise) blows the Kremlin to bits, Hunt and his team of spies from the Impossible Mission force are disavowed. And so he and his colleagues (played by Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, and the hilarious Simon Pegg) trek the world climbing skyscrapers, shooting people, and flipping cars, all to right the situation and clear their names. But this time, it really has to be secret, or else they’ll be “branded as terrorists.” Yawn (except for Simon Pegg, of course). Haywire just seems fresher. A movie with a real butt-kicking girl kicking butt? We’ll take it. Advantage: Haywire
Secret Agent (Wo)man As international spy Ethan Hunt, Tom Cruise has climbed canyons and buildings – in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, he climbs, oh, you know, the world’s tallest one, uses uncannily real-looking costumes, and suffers through enough explosions that we have no doubt he is a killer secret agent. But don’t we already know, by the simple fact that a flipping car in the trailer misses him by inches, that he’s going to make it out of this installment alive, too? Espionage action movies like these, especially ones in franchises, generally succeed thanks to a fresh and balanced cocktail of hot leads, exciting tricks, and nice gadgets. Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt is not so fresh; Gina Carano, who had a 12-1-1 career as a women’s middleweight Muy Thai fighter, is. In some shots, when she’s all decked out in black with her hair down, we can almost pretend we’re watching the cool, non-fantasy version of Aeon Flux. Either way Carano may not be the first female spy action lead, but she is the first female professional fighter we’ve wanted to watch on the big screen. Advantage: Haywire
Spy-Movie Cred In terms of hitting the spy-movie targets, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol does its job. In the trailer alone, we see cool gadgets, gorgeous women (in addition to Patton and Seydoux), death-defying stunts, nice cars and, of course, costumes. Haywire takes the same formula and whittles it down to more realistic proportions. The high-speed car is a blue Mitsubishi—just as fast as the rides in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, but certainly not as swanky. Its stunts aren’t high-flying, though still impressive. There are plenty of good-looking men, but only one hot woman, and as far as costumes go, all we get is camo face paint. Yes, Haywire looks cool, but in this long gap between James Bond movies, we’re starting to crave a high-priced lookalike to keep us going. Advantage: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Supporting Cast Judging from the trailers, both movies are jam-packed with good actors. Besides Cruise, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol boasts Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker), Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton), Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead), Paula Patton (Just Wright), Josh Holloway (Lost), and Léa Seydoux (Midnight in Paris). Haywire, meanwhile, has Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender (Shame), Bill Paxton (Big Love), Channing Tatum (Step Up), Antonio Banderas, and Michael Douglas. That’s a whole lot of talent to choose from; rather than declaring one the victor, we’re going to sit back and enjoy both rides. Advantage: Tie
Verdict In the end, we just can’t ignore the lingering feeling that we’ve seen Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol before—roughly three times before, in fact. It may look cooler than Haywire, and more expensive, but that doesn’t mean it deserves our money. Sure, Haywire seems like a female The Bourne Identity minus the amnesia plot line, but knowing that Carano can actually do most of the epic things she does adds a level of reality we’re all for. Winner: Haywire