Movie Review: Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol
Prinz Lee wrote this review 5 years ago
With this fourth entry into Tom Cruise's personal franchise (now 'A Tom Cruise Production'), Mission: Impossible returns to its roots with what is essentially a cold war plot device - potential nuclear Armageddon. To make things tougher than before, our hero, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) has to operate with a team that's forced upon him instead of one that he hand-picks for the task at hand (a conceit of the TV series, not necessarily used in the movies). The fact (even in the trailers) that the entire IMF is disavowed and of zero help is really nothing to bother with given that Ethan’s been there before in the first (sort of) and third movie. So what makes this round so great?
Answer: Brad Bird
The director of some truly fantastic animated films (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille) brings his sensibilities for character development to live action and proves that he is equally capable at it as he was with animation.
Cruise's intent for the Mission films was that each entry would stand alone and have a different aesthetic based on the director involved. Successful or not, each Mission: Impossible film has the distinctive look given by its director. In that respect, Ghost Protocol probably has the most conventional look of the series thus far, and the entire better for it. It's gorgeously shot and framed with a focus on the characters that make up the team while on a mission that actually does require a team. It's something that Bird has done quite well before on The Incredibles, establishing the characters, and how they function as a unit as well as giving each member of that unit something significant to do.
While Ethan is still the focus point around which the others function, each member of this rag tag team has something extra. Jane Carter (Paula Patton) has a professional stake in the mission, while the returning Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg - awesome) is a newly minted field agent who's out to prove himself a worthy field operative while gushing about being in the field. Then there's the mysterious Brandt (the excellent Jeremy Renner) who appears to be in over his head and has a deep personal secret that could impact on how he performs in the field. Each of them come across as fully realized characters and this particular unit functions somewhat as a dysfunctional family, with Ethan being the father figure (a further progression from before after the whole girlfriend thing in the last movie) trying to hold everything together. Each of the stars performs admirably with Pegg bringing in some comic relief, but not in an obtrusive or obvious manner. Renner is somewhat understated, but it's factored into his character and the secret he carries. As a whole, it's an excellent performance that shows some promise should Cruise intend to pass the franchise over to Renner's character as it has been rumored.
While there's an improvement in the character front, things are not slacking on the action front and again, Bird shows he has the chops with several spectacular set-pieces, the highlight in the trailers being set around the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. That's just the middle portion of a globe spanning mission that starts in Moscow and ends elsewhere. To Bird's credit, he does something with the action scenes that very few directors these days are able to do, he grounds them to their location so that you know exactly who's doing what in which area of the particular location. The set-pieces are also well designed and edited giving several breath-taking and breathless moments (i.e. don't forget to breathe or you might forget you're holding your breath). The pacing is amazing and it keeps the relentless nature of the plot going without scrambling your brains or leaving you wondering just what is going on as they zip about from place to place.
The excellent first movie was a shell-game, which made for some really twisty plotting (loathed by most, loved by others). The second fell as a mediocre con-game while the third movie improved a little, but still kept loads of double-crossing and involved a mysterious and never-explained McGuffin (rabbit's foot?). Ghost Protocol is a far more straight-forward affair of Bond proportions, and almost reaches the heights of the initial entry. It is entertaining, enjoyable and incredibly close to being mind-blowing in some aspects.
Brad Bird definitely accomplished something impossible here and made Mission: Impossible continue to be a viable franchise with a fourth entry... Leaving it open for an inevitable fifth!