Friday, December 23, 2011

New Release Review: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (Brad Bird, 2011)

Tom Cruise is back for another go round as Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, directed by Brad Bird. Following its worldwide release last week, the reception has been almost unanimously positive, with many fans claiming it to be the best of the franchise so far. It's certainly an entertaining film. With Hunt and IMF believed responsible for an attack on the Moscow Kremlin, which was actually a cover for Swedish-born Russian nuclear strategist Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) to escape with a nuclear launch control device, IMF is shut down. In an attempt to stop a pending Nuclear War and clear IMF's name, Hunt is joined by Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), as they pursue Hendrick's to Dubai and Mumbai to intervene in his purchase of the launch codes (previously swiped from an IMF Agent by Lea Seydoux's French assassin), and his access to a Soviet military satellite.

The back-to-back-to-back action set pieces, which are what the Mission: Impossible films are all about - and what Bird manages to link together quite effectively - are truly spectacular and well worth seeing on the biggest screen possible. I watched the film in VMAX (which was great) but some of the scenes were shot using IMAX cameras and I can only imagine how fantastic that bigger experience would be.

Ghost Protocol definitely hits its peak (in more ways than one) in Dubai. Watching Cruise (who completed most of his own stunts) first scale Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, with nothing more than a pair of malfunctioning grip gloves, and then later run down the side and circumnavigate it, is thrilling and does induce feelings of simultaneous vertigo and awe. An exciting chase sequence, which starts out on foot, involves Cruise on the roof of a speeding car at one point, and ends with a high speed pursuit, is given an edge by Michael Giacchino’s score (come to think of it, the whole film is) and the fact that it all takes place in a thick dust storm.

The make up of the team is unique, with the cast mostly turning in stock-standard performances. Ethan Hunt, as a character, is a total badass and though Cruise’s acting is barely commendable, this is clearly his element. He looks serious, distributes orders, dons and removes disguises and runs a hell of a lot. But, he does it well. The rest of the group brought their own prowess to the mission. Simon Pegg is practically playing himself but he has this uncanny ability to make any scene he is in more entertaining than you would expect. Though he has evident gadget intelligence that makes him irreplaceable, he is clumsy, and has a rookie naivety about him, which works to produce effective humour.

Paula Patton does little more than look concerned, and has multiple undercover operations, but she sure offers up some eye candy. Jeremy Renner’s performance is the most phoned-in, but he doesn’t look out of place wielding a gun in designer suits and it looks like there could be a passing of the torch in future installments in the franchise. As much as I liked Michael Nyqvist in the Millenium Trilogy, his roles his year include this ‘generic Eastern European bad guy’ and whatever he played in Abduction. Not particularly flattering. He is rarely seen here, but I found it hard to accept his impressive physical prowess in his inevitable climactic one-on-one with Hunt. On that note, with the exception of the Cruise’s insane vertical leap with a car, I found this climax a little disappointing in comparison to Dubai.

Where this film is unique from other 2011 action films is the fact that the stunts actually feel real, the film is genuinely a lot of fun, and one of the few popcorn blockbusters that have felt satisfying. It’s true, but few action directors seem to believe it - the only way to make it seem like Cruise is dangling from the world’s tallest building is to actually take him there. All of the action set pieces are well staged, and Brad Bird’s experience with Pixar (directing several complex action scenes in The Incredibles and Ratatouille) has evidently served him well.

The way that Bird shifts between parallel plotlines (first in Dubai during the fake exchange, and later at the party in Mumbai, where Cruise and Patton try to procure access codes from a smarmy Indian Playboy) builds genuine tension. Cruise and Pegg’s attempt to steal files from deep inside the Kremlin also makes use of one of the coolest gadgets in the film. The only qualm I have with the film (and though it is forgivable, it is important to note) is the script. 

There really is no plot, with the film consisting of a series of set pieces connected together. There is lots of Globe-hopping and Cruise offers up a series of expository monologues. The situation is explained and assessed, a plan is set in motion - and the gang hops to it. The group suffers unforseen obstacles, plans get changed on the fly, gadgets and props (it really is one giant Apple promo) and new designer duds are conveniently made available to the team when required. A subplot involving a Russian detective who pursues Hunt every step of the way is throwaway, existing only to pepper the mission with increased risk. 

It’s hard not to feel a sense of exhilaration and anticipation when the famous theme commences. The film continues to surprise, even if the whole plot is relayed in the images accompanying the opening credits. I had a lot of fun in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, the best installment in the franchise since Brian De Palmas’ offering fifteen years ago, and though it arrived late in the game, it is one of the year’s most satisfying action films. Be sure to check it out.

My Rating: ★★★★ (B)


  1. In agreement here. It's a damn good time.

  2. "Paula Patton does little more than look concerned..." Ha! Great line, Andy! I caught myself thinking that exact same thing at some point late in the movie. She had that "concerned" facial expression 3/4 of the time.

    And I'm totally in agreement about the third act letdown, too. But overall, like you say, it's a lot of fun.

  3. @ Sam - I am happy to see that we agree ;-)

    @ Nick - Yeah, every time she was on screen she had a furrowed brow and seemed to be worried about something...or asking "where's Ethan?" Still, she played her role on the team well, but it was an observation I thought worthy mentioning. I enjoyed your review on AM also.

  4. I have seen this movie and I like all stunts which are in this movie.

  5. MI 4: Ghost Protocol gifts you a munificent entertainment by lurking your senses in for a sophisticated gizmo treat, peppered with flamboyant action brimming over Soviet-US suspicion of nuclear threat!!! Not raking in the moolah any smug stuff, MI 4 piques applause but more when Tom Cruise plays over ''Burj Khalifa''. Certainly with no plan, no backup Tom cruise and team eke out accomplishment alluringly !!!! Kudos ,thumbs up, Encore !!!!

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