Director: Brad Bird
Cast: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist, Lea Seydoux, Vladmir Mashkov, Josh Holloway
Plot: Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is extracted from a Russian prison to take out a man known only as Cobalt (Nyqvist), who is intent on stealing nuclear launch codes from the Kremlin.
Mission Impossible hasn’t really settled as a franchise. The first one was first-class movie-making, dripping with tension and suspense, but it never really seemed like it was trying to build anything other than a stand-alone movie. However, as movies that earn $457.6 million in the box office are prone to do, sequels were all but guaranteed. Mission Impossible ended up becoming that franchise that, like Alien, ended up getting passed from director to director with every movie. I don’t necessarily hate this method of movie-making, as it helps franchises always keep that creative spark, but it also runs the risk of being unpredictable. The audience is never sure what they are going to get. However, after a pretty solid third movie, Ghost Protocol’s director, Brad Bird, keeps that tone and makes his own movie around that. As a result, Mission Impossible feels like it is starting to belong.
There is even a sense that the franchise is trying to lay the groundwork for a Mission Impossible without Tom Cruise or Ethan Hunt. Don’t get me wrong, Cruise is still the man of the hour here, drumming up that irresistible roguish charisma that he does so well. Whether he is breaking the rules during an extraction mission in Moscow, cheekily evading the Russian detective charged with tracking him down or handling some explosive action sequences, Tom Cruise perfects it all, the very essence of Hollywood leading hero. He has Ethan Hunt nailed down as a character, but never feels like he is phoning in a performance, like actors are prone to do when handling the same character for the fourth time. However, this time around, we could argue that he isn’t shouldering the entire weight of the movie. Enter Jeremy Renner, an analyst with a dark past, who has the same likeable manner and fighting chops to make a suitable co-star. On top of that, we have Paula Patton, adding an interesting back story to the ‘hot woman’ rotating spot in the IMF team. Finishing up the ensemble is Simon Pegg, taking a more prominent role in the story, yet keeping the comic relief that made him such a key character in the last film. The best thing about Ghost Protocol is these characters bouncing off of each other. Everyone contributes to the team and while Cruise is still the hero of the day, I can foresee the day when Renner smoothly transitions to the lead, when age finally starts slowing Cruise down. Not that seems to be happening anytime soon…
So the dynamic and tone is set in stone, all the movie needs is some set-pieces to impress the audience. It is a tall order, when we look back at the John Woo OTT fight scenes, the bridge battle in the third or the iconic finale of the original film. Amazingly, Ghost Protocol could be guilty of topping every one of those. The Kremlin heist and finale in a multi-layered car park in Mumbai are more than enough to please action-lovers, but they have nothing on the outstanding set-pieces in Dubai. There are three highlights in Dubai and the true brilliance of them is how they flow into each other, suggesting that there could be an alternate movie, where the entire movie was set around this one mission. Anyone who watches the jaw-dropping climb up the Burj Khalifa on DVD, is missing out on the utter thrill of sitting down at an IMAX cinema and witnessing it. You feel the dizzying heights, thanks to keen direction, and it almost becomes a tough watch, because you are right there with Ethan Hunt, as he makes the impossible mission of ascending the tallest building in the world. That is followed by a tense double sting operation with Lea Seydoux’s terrifically cold-eyed assassin, Sabine, which almost achieves De Palma levels of suspense. Tying up Dubai is a great car chase through a sandstorm with a little twist at the end to boot. It is up there with the greatest of Mission Impossible moments.
Sadly, so much time is put into applying the correct tone and action that the story gets put on the backburner. The plot is so generic that at times it isn’t even there. Michael Nyqvist tries his best, but he doesn’t quite have the presence of Voight or Hoffman. He isn’t helped by the fact his bad guy has little to no back story. He is launching a nuclear device, but the audience is never clear on his motives. His bad guy is little more than a plot device and as a result, the finishing mission in Mumbai is fun to watch, but skin-deep. Lea Seydoux also suffers with Sabine. When we first meet Sabine, our expectations are raised through the roof, when she guns down a moderately big actor (in the television world at least), in his first two minutes of screen time. She screams the character to look out for later on in the film. However, when it becomes the time to take her on, her character falls to pieces, a terrified look plastered over Seydoux’s face, as Patton totally dominates her. It is such an anti-climatic finish. Little moments like this hurt what was looking like the strongest entry in the franchise since the original.
Final Verdict: The story is scatter-brained, but if you can appreciate the set-pieces at face value, Ghost Protocol is a thrilling entry to the franchise.