December 16, 2011

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

ARC break...ARC BREAK!!

Grade: B +
Director: Brad Bird
Starring: Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, and Jeremy Renner
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hr. 13 min.

The mission at the heart of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol couldn’t be more clich├ęd: a race to stop a Russian megalomaniac from triggering nuclear war. However, I suspect that simplicity is by design, for it allows the audience to sit back, have fun and enjoy this action-packed ride.

The members of this edition of the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) lineup are cast from an archetypal mold. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) returns as the embattled leader; Will Brandt (Jeremy Renner) is the newcomer who may be hiding secrets; Jane Carter (Paula Patton) is the feisty but sultry female seeking revenge for a murdered partner; and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), the one other holdover from the last film’s team, is the tech-head whose loquacious comic relief, initially bothersome, quickly becomes a needed respite from the sensory cacophony.

This fourth installment in the M:I franchise is directed by animation ace Brad Bird, whose work making The Incredibles showed his firm grasp of action-thriller tropes. Moreover, from Michael Giacchino’s heavy use of Lalo Schifrin’s iconic theme song – which all but disappeared during the previous two sequels – to the intricate, cloak-and-dagger undercover operations, Bird reclaims the familiar formula that made the original television series so popular.

That said, what makes Ghost Protocol the best entry yet in the film series is the dazzling, breathtaking and, yes, clever action that hits you mere seconds into the movie and never lets up (the opening sequence plus roughly 30 minutes of runtime were shot using IMAX cameras). Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team don’t just break into a building – they infiltrate the Kremlin. Ethan doesn’t just climb a skyscraper – he scales the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai, the tallest building in the world. There’s not just a car chase – there’s a high-speed pursuit through the middle of a sandstorm. And, all of it is accompanied by enough sleek cars and goofy gadgets to make James Bond jealous.

None of this is meant to imply that Ghost Protocol is an action movie classic. The plot is too slight and the characters too one-note, plus there’s the noticeable absence of a charismatic villain, that most essentially of actioner elements. At the same time, Bird breaks from familiarity just enough to keep the audience guessing. Things don’t always go smoothly for this IMF team – equipment breaks down and precision planning sometimes goes awry, prompting some white-knuckle improvisation. Ghost Protocol is a straightforward celebration of action, not the twisty thriller some may expect. As the Dean Martin standard asks, over a Russian prison break early in the film, “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head?”

Neil Morris

*Originally published at -

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