Principal Cast : Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist, Vladimir Mashkov, Samuli Edelmann, Anil Kapoor, Lea Seydoux, Iilia Volok, Miraj Grbic, Tom Wilkinson.
Synopsis: When the IMF is disavowed after a mission goes wrong and inadvertently blows up half the Kremlin, Ethan Hunt and his team must track down and stop a Russian madman intent on detonating a nuclear device to start a war between the Western powers.
Four instalments in, and the Mission Impossible franchise just seems to be getting started! Ghost Protocol, the Brad Bird-helmed action film featuring the return of Tom Cruise to the role of Ethan Hunt, is actually a lot more restrained than I was expecting (by comparison to the overblown MI2 and the cool-but-frenzied MI3) and yet shoots for the top of the leader-board as the best of the series yet. Eschewing gratuity in flavor of a streamlined plot and slick, pretension-free action sequences, Bird delivers a film deftly capitalising on the Cruiser’s effortless essaying of his signature role while maintaining the feel of an ensemble piece: Ethan Hunt doesn’t save the day on his own – rather, he must use his team to get the job done – a tone and theme vastly different than the previous three movies managed. Ghost Protocol is a spy film, an action film, and a snazzy piece of high adventure, wrapped in the cocoon of Hollywood money and the wonderful cast involved.
After being broken out of a Russian prison by fellow IMF Agents, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) learns that a rogue Russian operative known as Cobalt is trying to obtain the launch codes to a nuclear weapon with the intent of starting World War III. While trying to obtain information on Cobalt by breaking into the Kremlin, Hunt and his team – Beji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Agent Jane Carter (Paula Patton) are compromised by Cobalt himself, whereupon as Hunt tries to escape, half the Kremlin is blown up. With IMF disavowing all their agents, effectively cutting Hunt and his team off from any help, the Agency’s Secretary (Tom Wilkinson) gives Hunt an off-grid mission to track Cobalt and stop him at any cost, albeit without any help. With the Secretary’s chief analyst, William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) along for the ride, Hunt and his team set off to intercept Cobalt’s right-hand-man from obtaining the launch codes from a deadly assassin in Dubai. It seems Swedish strategist Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) wants to bring about an Earthly utopia via nuclear holocaust, bringing him into the fight with the IMF. This leads them to Mumbai where Hedricks controls a satellite capable of authenticating a nuclear launch to an off-shore submarine, and now has the launch codes to use it.
If the modern revamp of James Bond tells us anything, it’s that story over style will win out every time. Whereas John Woo gave fans a fatuously made wank-fest in MI2, JJ Abrams delivered a solid outing with MI3 thanks to a terrific script and a top-tier cast; Brad Bird follows where Abrams trod with an even more restrained adventure for Ethan Hunt, delivering a tautly scripted, well acted and intelligent thriller that delivers everything you’ve come to expect from the Mission Impossible films. There’s great action sequences, terrific “impossible missions” for Hunt and Co to weave through, and some well written character moments that bring to the fore the emotional hook for the film – in this one, it’s a backstory revolving around the death of one of Hunt’s loved ones, and how that set in motion the events of this film. If anything, it’s the sense of realism the film delivers – you could almost believe this kind of thing happens, and if you take away the fancy gadgets and slick cars, it probably has happened somewhere in the world! – it’s the kind of “believable fantasy” the revamp of James Bond in Casino Royale a few years ago achieved.
The scripting on this baby is a ripper – Andre Nemec and Josh Applebaum pull duties on this film – with a decided lack of flash: this script just goes for the jugular of what the mission and the characters are about, and I was highly appreciative for that. Ethan Hunt is placed into a unique situation for the MI films this time: he has to work with a team, depend on them more than he ever has had to in a previous outing, and I found him a somewhat “humbled” individual as a result. Hunt’s always been the Alpha in any Mission Impossible film, taking on the Bad Guys single-handed no matter how good his team is. In Ghost Protocol, he has to rely on others for the mission to succeed, and that’s a great twist in his journey as a character. One feels he’s not entirely used to it, but it’s essential given the lack of backup they all have from an in-disgrace IMF. Benji, played by fan favourite Simon Pegg, is the film’s comedy relief, although I have to say I don’t think he was really that funny – he was more amusing in MI3, to be honest – but take nothing away from him, he really kicks ass when needed. Paula Patton is this film’s resident sex appeal, as a bereaved IMF agent seeking revenge against the assassin who killed her lover; Patton’s a solid actress, but can’t hold a candle to previous MI-girls Thandie Newton, Emmanuelle Beart, and Maggie Q. Jeremy Renner provides excellent male backup for Hunt as chief analyst Brandt, who hides a secret involving Hunt that’s as potently explosive as his left hook. It was interesting to see Renner in such a role, since I never really saw him as an out-and-out “action star” type: having said that, after this and appearing in The Avengers as Hawkeye, I doubt I’ll see him as anything other than the same. Keen eyed observers will gladly spot Michael Nyqvist as Kurt Hendricks, the films’ central antagonist. Nyqvist is best known to Western audiences for his portrayal of Blomkvist in the original Swedish Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series of films, a role more recently essayed by current Bond, Daniel Craig. Nyqvist is a quality actor, and he seems to be having a ball as the Bad Guy this time around (even if he’s not in the film enough) – his final battle with Hunt (because the bad Guy has to have a final battle with Hunt, of course) is brutal and cool.
But it’s Cruise who carries this film, even with such talented thespian backup. He’s nowhere near as histrionic as he has been in previous films, instead relying on his subtle internal rage and power as a character to make people do what he wants. He is a little like Gerard Butler’s character in Law Abiding Citizen: he can see how an event will play out and use that skill to get his mission across the line. Cruise, whether you like him as a person or not, is as capable an actor as any ageing superstar (hard to believe that he was 49 when this film came out!) and he slides into headlining this film with ease. He understands what makes Hunt tick as a character, and nothing he does in Ghost Protocol invalidates anything which came before. My mate Scott over at Front Room Cinema once described him as “the Poison Dwarf”, and while I laughed at that, I can’t help but wonder if his career would have been even bigger had he not been a complete nutter. Pity the same can’t be said for Mel Gibson. I guess being crazy and being stupid are two different things.
There’s a number of set-pieces in this film which are key to the movies entertainment value: a break-in of the Kremlin and it’s subsequent near-destruction, Ethan having to clamber up and down the outside of the worlds tallest building in Dubai, and a brutal fight to the death in a giant vertical carpark. If there’s one thing Mission Impossible does well, it’s those death-defying mission objectives that are… well, impossible. It’s a well known fact that Cruise himself performed the majority of the major stunts, including actually clambering around the outside of the Burj Khalifa, held in place only by a few small wires. No matter what you think of the Cruiser, you have to give him props for having balls the size of a combine harvester. Brad Bird’s direction of these set-pieces isn’t flashy or ostentatious at all, instead he just gives us an effortlessly solid sequence which moves the story along at a rapid clip without pause, breathlessly exciting in more emotional ways than John Woo’s motorbike ballet from MI2. While the Burj abseiling sequence is probably the most daring of all the stunt sequences, the one which had me wincing in assumed agony was the fight-to-the-death in the enormous vertical carpark right at the very end; a bruising, bone shattering affair that actually takes Hunt right to the death-knock to save the day. The perfunctory way Bird places us in the thick of the action, delivering solid punch after solid punch, narratively speaking, is reminiscent of the revamped James Bond for delivering a reality to the film without compromising the fantastical elements we’re all expecting. The “sticky gloves” Hunt uses to clamber up the Burj Khalifa are a case in point: you could almost believe they’d be real, but hope like hell they aren’t for the sake of peoples lives.
As far as Mission Impossible films go, or action films in general, Ghost Protocol delivers a solid time at the movies. It’s not the flashiest action flick around, nor is it even the best of the MI series (I prefer the third for outright tension and thrills – plus, Phil Hoffman nails the Bad Guy role in that one!) but it’s a deftly directed, well scripted, exceptionally well acted, twist-a-minute thriller with a brevity of extravagance modern audiences have come to expect. Taut, tightly written, with plenty of thrills in its two hour runtime, Ghost Protocol is a very, very good film. Even with the Poison Dwarf.
What Others Are Saying About Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol:
Tom Beilby at Front Room Cinema noticed something peculiar about Tom Cruise’s run: “Action stars seem to have an incredibly long shelf life these days, just take a look at the cast of The Expendables; it’s hard to believe that actors in their late fifties and mid sixties are still churning out action films, and with this in mind I doubt that Tom Cruise will be willing to relinquish his crown as an action star just yet, but he definitely needs to work on his run.”
There’s no mistaking how Aiden at Cut The Crap felt about it: “The best one yet, the best thrill ride of the year, total insanity.”
Sam at Duke & The Movies thought it was excellent: “[But]..make no mistake; this is an adventure worth embarking on. Brad Bird’s over-the-top stylish camerawork is incorporated perfectly with the feverish action.”
Matt at NeverMind Pop Film has this recommendation: “Go see this brilliant debut from Brad Bird, I dare you not to enjoy it.”
Jessics at The Velvet Cafe gave it high props: “It was a ballet in disguise. And such a beautiful one! Action ballet never gets better than this.”
Nostra at My Film Views smiled through it all: “Now this is a movie where I was watching it with a constant grin on my face.”
Rory over at Above The Line finally chimes in with his thoughts: “Ghost Protocol finally accomplishes the task of pleasing fans and attracting first timers as well, both a solid entry in the franchise and a solid foundation for the next installment that will surely come – or should.”
Ruth over at Flixchatter loved it: “[but] …what makes the film works is the execution. Pixar director Brad Bird (The Incredibles) in his first foray into live action film confidently packed this movie with bombastic action sequences that thrills from start to finish!”
The guys over at 3Guys1Movie enjoyed it: “Where the film lost me was whenever it tried to take itself too seriously by adding unnecessary dramatic elements.”
Max over at Impassioned Cinema loved it too: “I can’t think of a more entertaining, purely action movie that would compete with this in the last two years. It is a highly enjoyable, smart action film that will leave audiences completely satisfied.”
And finally, the last word belongs to my brother from another mother, Al K Hall over at The Bar None: “Sometimes action movies only have two or three action scenes and the rest of the movie is guys crying and sharing their feelings, or sometimes there’s a lot of lazy action when the director can’t squeeze out any original ideas so he pinches everyone else’s and you get one cliche car chase followed by a hackneyed karate fight scene, but not here, man. Here the action comes non-stop and hard and you even get Tom Cruise doing his own stunts which gives this puppy a certain credibility.”
Think we’re wrong in our assessment of Ghost Protocol? Wanna make your opinion heard? Let rip in the comments section below!!