Just when you thought the world was safe, the bad guys are at it again, this time using an old trick: pitting two nuclear foes against one another. It's a tried and true method to bring the world close to nuclear disaster, only to fail at the last second thanks to a relentless hero. In Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol, Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt to stop a nuclear terrorist. The plot may not be new, but director Brad Bird has delivered an exceptionally fun and high-adrenaline action movie that should not be missed.
In Ghost Protocol, Hunt leads a new team consisting of actors Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg and Paula Patton, who journey from Russia to Dubai to India to track down a psychotic genius named Hendricks (played by Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's Michael Nyqvist) intent on establishing world peace by starting a war to end all wars.
Makes sense to me.
Following the underappreciated Mission: Impossible III, which had the unfortunate timing of being released not long after Tom Cruise's infamous couch-jumping incident, the biggest question mark surrounding Ghost Protocol was how Brad Bird would handle his first live-action movie. Known for The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, he's proven he has an eye for action and storytelling. With animated movies. Would that talent extend to a big budgeted live-action movie?
Thankfully, the answer is an unequivocal "yes".
Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol is a high-octane thrill ride, full of massive action sequences and thrilling stunts. The action is also unrelenting, with Hunt and his crew barely stopping to catch their breath once the story begins. On a six-story IMAX screen, the action is even bigger.
Bird does a terrific job of making the action suspenseful and exciting. He draws the audience into the action, making them feel each blow inflicted upon Hunt, the sense of imminent death at every turn. This ability is on full display during a sequence 130-stories up on the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Even if you're not scared of heights, it will give you vertigo, and on IMAX especially, Bird reminds the audience second by second that at any second Hunt could plunge to his death - and take a long time to hit the ground. You know Hunt isn't going to die, but it's a harrowing sequence nonetheless.
As exciting as the action is, Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol is surprisingly lighthearted at times, even to a fault. The movie is funny and fun, with plenty of quips from Cruise and even more so from cheerful Simon Pegg, who has an upgraded role from the previous film. While it works more often than not, the added humor takes away from the tension at times; when the audience should be on the edge of its seat, Hunt makes cracks about his own precarious situation. Hunt, by way of Cruise, has always been an intense character, but some of that intensity is gone in this latest chapter.
The movie's one real flaw is its script, which is more than adequate most of the time but loose in others. Its humor makes the movie more entertaining, but is distracting occasionally, even edging into unwanted goofiness. The writers also falter when they attempt to inject emotion into the story; Jeremy Renner's character seems tacked onto the story, his back story unnecessary. The movie's dénouement also is out of place, it's relaxed, slow wrap-up of events pointless.
The movie pushes the boundaries on technology, introducing lots of cool, semi-believable gizmos for Hunt and his team to use (it's never explained how, after being disavowed and cut off from government resources they're able to get their hands on all the gizmos). While the adhesive gloves are a great touch, the magnetic body suit, for example, seems like a crutch, a plot gimmick used to show off a cool toy rather than enhance the scene.
Still, despite its faults, Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol is a highly entertaining thrill ride that raises the stakes for the franchise. The movie looks and feels like a Bond film, an exciting and fun adventure that spans the globe while never taking itself too seriously. Brad Birds live-action debut is well worth the price of admission, even at a higher-priced IMAX theater.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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