Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" -- The Best "Mission" Yet

Normally I get series fatigue by the time a fourth film installment rolls around. But the "Mission Impossible" franchise is different than most in that the movies have been parceled out over fourteen years rather than being rushed through production in yearly installments and, in this case, the series has only gotten better with age.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol opens, as it always does, in the middle of the action as an IMF agent is murdered in the course of what should have been a routine operation. The film then cuts to a prison in Moscow in the middle of another IMF operation that has a team of agents attempting to extract Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) from his imprisonment in a taut sequence that shows Hunt still does things his own way. Once out, Hunt is informed that he is needed to retrieve nuclear launch codes that were stolen by the assassin who killed the other IMF agent-- who is now in the process of selling the codes to a Russian radical seeking to ignite war between Russia and the U.S.

The first part of the mission involves identifying the Russian terrorist, known only as Cobalt, which means they must infiltrate the Kremlin. But the plan goes awry as Cobalt sabotages the IMF's mission and frames the team for an attack on the Kremlin. Hunt and his team are then disavowed but allowed to continue a covert, and unassisted, operation under the "Ghost Protocol" contingency. The race is then on for Hunt and his team to find Cobalt and stop a nuclear attack while fending off an intrepid Russian investigator who has his sights on Hunt.

The plot is simple but under the direction of Brad Bird this "Mission Impossible" is anything but pedestrian. There are so many things about this movie that I liked that it's almost hard to know where to begin. The pacing is superb. The film runs over two hours, but it is strung together so tightly that there is never a feeling of wasted time or unnecessary segues that have you checking your watch. The action sequences are so suspenseful that I literally jumped out of my seat more than once and Tom Cruise proves, once again, that he has no fear as he tackles the world's tallest building in Dubai for this film's most hair-raising stunts.

"Ghost Protocol" has some of the same gadgetry of the earlier films, but it's a lot more stripped down here-- and that's a good thing because the story doesn't get weighed down by an overly clever script. The full-face masks that played such a huge part in the past are hinted at, but not a major part the story. There are still cool cars (James Bond would be impressed) and other advanced gizmos, but the cast is really the star of the show this time.

It's easy to dismiss Tom Cruise as his personal quirks have overshadowed his professional career, but he is at his action-hero best here. Bird channels Cruise's intensity and balances it well with a more thoughtful, less cocky attitude and few moments of hesitancy that do a lot to humanize the character. Jeremy Renner, who comes on board as IMF analyst William Brant, is a terrific addition who brings some extra muscle and a surprising talent for levity as well. Paula Patton, who stars as Jane Carter, isn't just gorgeous but has a kind of calm intelligence that makes you glad they hired a real woman for the role. And Simon Pegg, who returns as tech expert Benji Dunn, takes on the role of comedic foil with aplomb. This is an older cast with most of the lead actors being over 40 and they convey a believable world-weariness and bring a nice level of maturity to the film. Additionally the romantic elements that were present in the last two films have also been completely stripped away which adds to the streamlined feel.

"Ghost Protocol" isn't the kind of movie that offers introspection and character development, nor is it particularly dark or nihilistic as so many of the action-dramas are these days. What it is is pure escapist fare that is very skillfully rendered. I give Brad Bird high marks for his first foray into live action directing-- and I hope he has plans to helm quite a few more films.  "Ghost Protocol" is a great movie that has definitely brought the "Mission Impossible" franchise back to life- I absolutely hope to see Cruise and the rest of this group back for another installment.

13 comments:

Linds said...

If I have to choose between Tintin and MI4, I'll probably choose the former. However, I've been pleasantly surprised over the reviews for this one. Maybe I'll be able to convince my husband to go see both so I don't have to choose. He's not nearly as interested in movies as I am (it's something of a Christmas tradition to go see a bunch for my family).

SQT said...

I was debating between Sherlock Holmes and this-- my husband and settled on this and we both loved it. But it is tough. I'd still love to see Sherlock but I'll probably wait for it to go to video.

Linds said...

Sherlock Holmes was decent, I'd give it a 3.5 out of 5. I liked it better than Richie's first one. Good, not great, but fun to watch. For me, this version of Holmes isn't what I really picture him as. BBC's Sherlock, in that regard, is rather glorious. To me, Benedict Cumberbatch hits him dead on.

SQT said...

I LOVE the BBC version. They were gracious enough to send me a couple discs about a year or so ago for review and I fell in love with it. But I'm such a fan of Robert Downey Jr. that I'm willing to overlook the flaws in the portrayal. He has great chemistry with Jude Law too.

Steve Miller, Writer of Stuff said...

On the latest Ritchie Holmes... I think that series continues to capture the action side of Holmes which was present in Doyle, but I would have liked a little more detective story meat in this film. I did like it better than the first one, though. So, if you didn't hate that one, this would be worth checking out. (I have it 6/10 on my "Watching the Detectives" blog.)

As for "Ghost Protocol," I hated the second Cruise M:I film so I completely ignored the third one. I've heard enough good about the latest one that I may well see it tomorrow; your comments pushed me over the edge. :)

(I'm taking a total pass on Tintin, because every clip I've seen of it makes me want to re-read the comics on my bookshelf just to erase those images from my head....)

SQT said...

Steve-- I hope you like it. Sometimes I worry that my enthusiasm won't be matched by everyone else.

SQT said...

Oh and let me say that this is completely unlike MI2. That's my least favorite as well. John Woo and his flying doves (or whatever) do not belong in a Mission Impossible film. Neither do strange, slo-mo stunts. This one is an entirely different animal.

monty said...

Just saw it and I have to say it blew me away. Been awhile since I seen a film where the entire audience gasps like they did when Ethan was climbing the building in Dubai. Can't wait to see it again. Awesome review!

SQT said...

@Monty-- Thanks! I'd see it again right now if I could.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Every review has said this movie rocks! Catching it this weekend.

SQT said...

@Alex-- It really is that good.

ediFanoB said...

For me it does not matter whether MI4 is a great movie or not.
I do not support Scientology.
Therefore I boycott every Tom Cruise movie.

Tom Cruise Scientology Video

SQT said...

@Edi- I'm way more offended when actors tell me I'm stupid or "uniformed" when I don't endorse a certain politician. Cruise can believe in anything he wants and he hasn't publicly stated any opinions related to it, that I've seen, in years.

I think he's paid enough penance. We crucify guys like this more than we do Roman Polanski-- who is lionized in the Hollywood community even though he drugged and molested a 13 year old girl (I want to smack people who say he's "suffered enough"). I lived and worked in Hollywood and Cruise is a minor offender compared to a lot of people in that town.