Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

PhotobucketRobust spy thriller is the 4th entry in the Mission Impossible series and the undisputed pinnacle of the franchise thus far. The Impossible Missions Force, the independent espionage agency employed by the United States, runs into trouble when the Russian government has placed the blame of a Kremlin bombing on Ethan and his team. An entity codenamed ‘Cobalt’ is attempting to obtain a list of nuclear launch codes so he can unleash nuclear war against the United States. It’s up to Ethan Hunt and his crack team to stop him and clear the good name of the IMF agency in the process.

What really sets MI – Ghost Protocol apart from your garden variety potboiler are the outstanding action sequences.  Actual location shooting at three locales: Moscow, Dubai and Mumbai, highlight set pieces with astonishing stunts. Each individual display would have provided sufficient excitement independently, but put together and there’s scarcely time to breathe. When the team initially attempts to infiltrate the Kremlin, the operation is giddy with disguises, gadgets and humor. There’s a hallway screen that’s an ingenious technology that Benji and Ethan use to remain undetected in the fortified complex. Later, accessing a security room at the Burj Dubai from the outside of the skyscraper is a heart pounding spectacle. Ethan wears a pair of electronic friction gloves that enable him to climb the glass exterior of the Burj. You’ll gasp at the difficulty of the mission.

It’s such a heady delight, it out bonds James Bond. MI – Ghost Protocol is packed to the rafters with the sort of gizmos that were sadly lacking in the famed British Secret Service agent’s last outing, Quantum of Solace. Sticky gloves, bionic contact lenses and a BMW i8 with a touch screen interface are just a few of the tools of their trade. Indeed the comparison to a James Bond film is particularly apropos as the cosmopolitan surroundings and gadgets are particularly germane to those types of films. Strangely, there is no love interest, nor romantic sparks of any kind. That is a component that might have pushed this story into more emotional territory, but as it stands, the development is such a white knuckle ride, you don’t really miss it all that much.

The script has got a lighthearted sense of humor that never takes the preposterousness too seriously. Tom Cruise is joined by an accomplished crew of fellow operatives. Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg. All three have a nice chemistry together. Pegg brings his playful personality to the proceedings as Benji, newly promoted from technician to IMF field agent. Not an obvious choice to elevate as a member of Hunt’s inner team, but the unexpected promotion is welcome. Just when an early jailbreak scene threatens to becomes just another generic action cliché, Benji floods the prison PA system with Dean Martin’s “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” to liven things up. The tone, while never campy, is still refreshingly tongue in cheek.

MI – Ghost Protocol wont win any awards for depth. It’s pure popcorn entertainment through and through. But it’s intelligently written, has a game cast with personality, and maintains a high level of fireworks before faltering in the 3rd act. Hard to believe Tom Cruise is pushing 50 as this film has challenging stunts for someone even half his age. One might quibble over a 133 minute action film. This isn’t an epic and these pictures are better when they give us the thrills succinctly. This one starts out with a bang and drags a bit by the time they get to Mumbai before climaxing, rather predictably, with a fist fight. But before that happens there are a several jaw dropping set pieces and each one alone is worth the price of admission.

That MI – Ghost Protocol is far and away the best one yet, has got to be one of the biggest surprises of 2011. Some credit should go to Director Brad Bird for breathing new life into this series. Best known for writing and directing modern animated classics The Incredibles and Ratatouille, his facility for storytelling is clearly an asset here. There has been care to create personalities that seem human so when they’re hanging by an arm off the side of the tallest building in the world, we genuinely feel scared. When Jeremy Renner’s character is required to leap down a vertical cooling tunnel wearing a magnetic suit that will allow him to float, you can see the uncertainty on his face before he jumps. Those subtle touches are endearing because they make these individuals easier to identify with. These aren’t indestructible automatons, these are real human beings and we care about them.

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13 Responses to “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”

  1. Benji (Simon Pegg) was in MI3 also. Just pointing that out. Good review, I agree with [most of] your thoughts.

  2. Watched it yesterday and loved it. I agree 100% with you, as I too felt the movie lost some steam during the last hour or so. But M:I:4 was so enjoyable, thanks in great part to amazing action set-pieces and very cool gadgets.

  3. Hey Mark! Great review as always! We also agree on this one!
    As we said on our podcast – it was thoroughly enjoyable! Interesting that you bring up the Bond comparisons – you are treading on thin ice there amigo! Bond is a very precious British institution we don’t take threats to lightly! LOL! Funnily enough, I used to LOVE the ludicrous gadgets from the older Bond films (Sean Connery era) however, these days, gadgets that overstretch the realms of reality tend to make me enjoy the film that little bit less…funny that. Hence my absolute HATRED for Die Another Day (the invisible car…oh dear)

    HAPPY NEW YEAR!

    • James Bond is still a much hallowed institution whose importance in the cinematic firmament is beyond secure. Sean Connery has no equal in movies like From Russia with Love or Goldfinger. And Casino Royale proved the franchise still has legs.

      Thanks for commenting buddy. Happy New Year to you as well!!

  4. Comedy, action and great creative effects. Definitely the best yet. Jeremy Renner is becoming a favorite of mine.

    • I first recall seeing Jeremy Renner in Dahmer back in the early 2000s. It was a biopic about the serial killer. It wasn’t a great film, but he was kind of memorable in it.

  5. Great review! Hate to say I told you so. haha just kidding.

  6. Have to agree, saw this today and loved it, definately think it’s the best of the series, will be doing a write up review on our site the next day or so.

  7. Fantastic review, Mark! I just saw this yesterday. I got there five minutes after the trailers started rolling in, and the theater was so crowded that I was forced to sit down in the very front row. For once, I could forget about having to keep my head up so high to see the screen–everything was so loud, and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a movie theater in a while! Haha, I guess my experience in the movie theater doesn’t even matter. Here’s my review:
    http://wp.me/p1Urcx-Bq

    • I remember years ago I was forced to see the Christian Bale – Matthew McConaughey film Reign of Fire in the very front row. I didn’t enjoy the experience but maybe that had to do with the film itself than where I sat. Anyway, I’m glad to hear you loved the film as much as I did. It renewed my interest in the franchise.

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