Early this week, Brad Bird confirmed, via an interview with Crave, what many had long assumed: despite "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" being the most successful entry in the franchise to date, the Pixar veteran will not be returning for another crack at the Tom Cruise-led spy series, saying that, "I think that one of the things that’s fun about the series is that they always pull in a different director and try to get a different kind of take on the premise."
With Paramount keen to get the balling rolling on the next entry after the $700 million success of 'Ghost Protocol' — and hoping to avoid the five year gap between the last couple of movies — it likely won't be long before the search for a helmer begins in earnest. Of course, Paramount may not have much say in the hiring of the director: Cruise has always led this series, and he's one of the few stars who gets carte blanche when it comes to hiring the man behind the camera.
So who's a realistic choice? This isn't a Marvel sequel, where a relatively unknown, cheap TV director tops the list, but it's also the fifth installment of a franchise, so we're not going to see Christopher Nolan or James Cameron in the running, exactly. On the last film, Cruise met with Edgar Wright and Ruben Fleischer before Bird landed the gig, while David Fincher and Joe Carnahan were attached to the third film before J.J. Abrams made his feature debut with the project, so we'd expect a similar calibre of names to come up here. It remains to be seen if Abrams and his Bad Robot shingle will remain involved as producers, but assuming he does, here are five filmmakers who we think could feasibly take on "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol; Electric Boogaloo = Tokyo Drift." Or whatever it ends up being called.
Why He Could Do It: 31-year-old Indonesian-based Welsh expat Evans was virtually unknown even six months ago, but has since become the hottest thing in the action cinema world in years. Evans made his debut in 2009 with "Merantau," which picked up fans at home and abroad, and then he reteamed with star Iko Uwais for "The Raid," which premiered at TIFF last year to rave reactions. Utilizing an Indonesian form of martial arts called Silat, it displays spectacular choreography and camera work, and has been acclaimed as one of the best action movies since at least "Die Hard." So why wouldn't Cruise want to work with Evans? Given that the actor's famed for doing as many of his own stunts as possible, the approach by Evans seems right up his alley and bringing in the filmmaker would give the next 'Mission Impossible' the 'spectacular' factor it's built on. Evans is young, hungry and unlikely to break the bank, and could continue to keep the franchise healthy creatively and financially.
Why He Might Not: Last time Cruise hired an director of Asian action movies to make one of these films, we got John Woo's "Mission: Impossible II," by some distance the worst in the series. Evans undoubtedly has action chops, but the series has never featured martial arts as a cornerstone of the franchise — will he be able to cope with car chases and dangling from buildings on a much bigger scale in the same way, this early in his career? Also, he hasn't worked within the studio machine or battled star egos at this point either. But more importantly, he's planning on shooting "The Raid" follow-up "Berendal" towards the end of this year. Depending on Paramount's timetable, that could rule him out altogether.
Why He Could Do It: Over the last decade, Favreau's become one of the most reliable names in the blockbuster world. After "Elf," and the underseen "Zathura," he helped turn the Marvel movies into the juggernauts they are today with "Iron Man" and its less-liked, but equally successful follow-up. These films have displayed the kind of action skills, ability for wit and giant scope that Cruise and co. are surely after here. As directors go, he's closer to a Bird or an Abrams than a John Woo (indeed, he's tight with the Bad Robot crew), and after the disappointment of "Cowboys & Aliens," could use a guaranteed hit to put him back on top. The tone of the franchise, and of a spy movie in general, seems like something he'd have a lot of fun with, too.
Why He Might Not: A year ago, we'd have thought that Favreau would be too big for something like this, after the two "Iron Man" movies. And it's possible he may still think that: taking over someone else's franchise isn't necessarily a huge boon for someone who's already created one massive one. One wonders if he's the kind of person that Cruise would get truly excited about as the star has generally gone with relatively young, new faces for the people he's courted for the "Mission: Impossible" movies: Abrams, Joe Carnahan, Edgar Wright, Ruben Fleischer etc, whereas Favreau is now an old hand. Plus the director's been developing "Magic Kingdom" at Disney for over a year and while word has been quiet on that for a while, it could get the greenlight at any moment.
Why He Could Do It: Previously best-known for low-key comedy work, French writer/director Jardin, like Evans, turned heads late last year when his low-budget international action movie premiered at TIFF and then made its way to Fantastic Fest. "Sleepless Night," is a gripping, confined actioner about a corrupt cop who must fight his way through a nightclub in order to rescue his kidnapped son. The film picked up rave reviews on the festival circuit, was a box-office hit at home, and has already been snapped up for a remake, and we're sure that Jardin will end up on plenty of wishlists like this for action movies. "Sleepless Night" is deftly shot and paced, but also makes sure to put character and stakes first, and its the same principle that Cruise has lent towards for the last couple of films in the 'Mission' franchise.
Why He Might Not: Like Evans, Jardin's film is a stripped-down, minimalist actioner in a contained location, far from the cityscapes and gadgetery of the tentpole "Mission: Impossible" movies, and those involved might be a little nervous about letting him loose with that kind of budget. Moreover, would there be enough wow factor in the hire, as well? Even Abrams was virtually a household name when he got the gig thanks to his extensive television work, but the moviegoing public are less than familiar with Jardin. He'd be a hip choice, but not necessarily one that could bring in audiences in the way that Woo or Bird could (then again, Bird wasn't exactly front-and-center in the marketing of 'Ghost Protocol,' so the point may be moot).
Why He Could Do It: Perhaps the most successful person to have broken out of the Bad Robot stable (beside J.J. Abrams, of course), Reeves co-created "Felicity," and went on to direct "Cloverfield" before surprising many with the excellent "Let Me In." That film seems to have landed him at the top of many wishlists: he was up for "The Wolverine," has several other projects in the works, and landed the prime gig of directing a big-screen version of "The Twilight Zone" for Warner Bros and Appian Way, a project that Christopher Nolan, Alfonso Cuaron and Rupert Wyatt were all sought for. The visual skill he brought to a set-piece like the crash in "Let Me In" would be invaluable for the "Mission: Impossible" franchise: he's someone who can deliver suspense and scale with ease. And given his pre-existing relationship with Abrams, he'd fit in right at home, assuming the next installment stays within the Bad Robot stable.
Why He Might Not: Besides "The Twilight Zone," Reeves has a strong handful of movies percolating in the background (the vampire pic "The Passage"; Frankenstein tale "This Dark Endeavor"; the sci-fi "8 O'Clock In The Morning"; his long-developing dream project "The Invisible Woman" among others) and it remains to be seen which of them will go next or when. Furthermore, he put himself out of the running to make "The Wolverine," which may suggest a reluctance to take on pre-existing franchises. He's lent towards sci-fi and horror so far, too: would he really be happy on a relatively straightforward spy actioner?
Saint & Mather
Why They Could Do It: Who? Well, Stephen St. Leger & James Mather are the Irish filmmakers (also known as Saint & Mather) who gained a ton of experience in commercials and their low-budget sci-fi short "Prey Alone," before Luc Besson snapped them up to write and direct the actioner "Lockout," which opened this past weekend. The film, starring Guy Pearce as a rogue blackmailed into rescuing the president's daughter from a prison space station, was surprisingly well-received, with many calling it a guilty pleasure, impressed with what the directors achieved on a relatively meagre budget. Like Louis Leterrier and Pierre Morel before them, it seems that working in the Besson factory is going to move them swiftly up the ladder, and we'd be very surprised if they don't start cropping up on wishlists like these. They pulled off action (including lots of 'Mission: Impossible'-esque dangling) with aplomb and irreverence, as well as showcasing a real star turn with Pearce's performance, and providing some memorable villains (something that 'Ghost Protocol' sorely lacked).
Why They Might Not: They're certain to be on wishlists, for sure, but they feel more like "Clash Of The Titans 3" material than 'Mission: Impossible.' "Lockout" was fun, but it was pulpy, John Carpenter aping-fun, and they seem like an awkward fit in a way that, say, Joe Cornish wouldn't be. The film was pretty derivative, and it remains to be seen if the duo have any good ideas that aren't borrowed heavily from other movies. And as much as Cruise is a keen scout of new talent, we're not sure it was the kind of film that gets him excited. They could be contenders a few years down the line, but they still need to prove their worth at the moment.
Honorable Mentions: As we've said, Cruise is calling the shots here, and he'll probably meet with all kinds of hot young talent. As we debated this list over the Playlist watercooler names like Cornish, Rian Johnson and Nicolas Winding Refn came up. But the reality is, they're all filmmakers principally interested in their own original ideas. Johnson's the most viable of the three (he had meetings with Cruise about starring in "The Brothers Bloom," and looks to have wet his action whistle with "Looper"), but will probably have his own toys to play with, while Cornish told us he turned down the latest "Die Hard" because he felt it was too big a step up from his debut, and Refn is meant to be doing "Logan's Run" in the near future, if it gets that far.
More realistic choices might include people like Daniel Espinosa (although he could be tied up with Yakuza thriller "The Outsider"), "Lost" director Jack Bender, who recently bailed on the Jack Ryan franchise, Francis Lawrence (now on the list for "Catching Fire"), Justin Lin or Joseph Kosinski, who's currently working with Cruise on "Oblivion." Similarly, Christopher McQuarrie just directed "One Shot" with Cruise (they also teamed on "Valkyrie"), and did an ultimately uncredited rewrite on 'Ghost Protocol' — if "One Shot"'s a hit, he might end up top of the list. Sam Raimi is still working on "Oz The Great and Powerful," but he could be an option if he doesn't mind diving right back into franchise territory again, while Tony Scott, Louis Leterrier, Timur Bekmambetov, Jon Chu and Bryan Singer all regularly have their names come up for projects like this, these days, to which list you can now add Josh Trank who is increasingly in demand after "Chronicle."
More off-the-wall choices might include "Kung Fu Panda 2" director Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Cary Fukunaga, Oren Moverman, Ben Wheatley, Park Chan-Wook or John Hillcoat, but very few seem realistic (even if darker names like David Fincher and Joe Carnahan were both attached to "Mission: Impossible III" at various points, the fact they didn't work out might make Cruise more gun-shy.) But what about "21 Jump Street" helmers Phil Lord & Chris Miller, who could find time between their work on "Lego," or Morten Tyldum, who pulled off a strong Hollywood audition with "Headhunters." What about you? Who would you like to see fill out the director's chair for the fifth "Mission: Impossible"?