Wednesday, December 21, 2011
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.