Theatrical Review: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Impossible Missions Force agent Ethan Hunt and a small team of agents have been implicated in a devastating explosion at the Kremlin while on a mission.  Now, totally disavowed, Hunt and his team are off to stop a master terrorist called Cobalt (who’s actually behind the Kremlin explosion) from plunging the world into destruction following the theft of Russian nuclear missile codes.

That is all that I’m going to tell you about the premise to Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. There is way more to it than just that, but you really should see it for yourself.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is the fourth film in the series from star Tom Cruise and it marks the live-action directorial debut of Brad Bird.  Bird is better known for his work in animation.  He’s been part of The Simpsons team, his own first movie The Iron Giant is a masterpiece, and his two films for Pixar, The Incredibles and Ratatouille, are two of the very best movies the studio has released.  As terrific as his resume is, you’d think he’d be outside his comfort zone with this huge live-action blockbuster… that’s not the case at all.

I’m a huge fan of Mission: Impossible. I absolutely love the old TV series and for the most part I think the film series has been nicely done, though for me the best of the films has still been the first one directed by Brian DePalma.  Thanks to Brad Bird, we’ve now got another film in the series which is right up there with the first one as far as I’m concerned.

Bird and writers Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec not only give us a rollicking adventure piece, but they also manage to give every agent their due.  Tom Cruise is certainly the lead here, but this is also very much an ensemble piece and this just doesn’t tell us an Ethan Hunt story.  In the midst of some terrific action set pieces, Bird and company also bring back those moments that made Mission: Impossible really special; the tense and quiet moments of actually putting the pieces in their place to pull off these impossible missions.  In addition to that, Bird and company give this entire production a far lighter feel than say what the current James Bond series has.  it’s an almost retro touch that brings back a solid sense of fun to the whole thing.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
looks terrific and is especially charged up during it’s set pieces (in particular the scenes around Dubai’s Burj Khalifa hotel).    It’s tightly paced and all punctuated by a terrific score from Michael Giacchino, who’s no stranger to the franchise (he scored the third film) and certainly no stranger to working with Brad Bird (he scored both The Incredibles and Ratatouille).  Giacchino’s score not only pays it’s respects with it’s use of Lalo Schifrin’s original theme and show music, but in some places, there’s also what seems to me like some nods to John Barry’s work in some classic Bond films.  From a technical and production standpoint, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is as first-rate as it gets.

I thought that the main cast was terrific.  Tom Cruise has always had a great intensity in the part of Ethan Hunt, not just in his delivery but also in his physical presence.  Right from the start, you’ll see that he was totally up to reprising his role and when he says the best line in the movie (at least to me), “Light the fuse,” you just know that he’s here and ready to give the audience a great time.  Simon Pegg returns from Mission: Impossible III as Benji Dunn, who’s now a field agent and acts as Hunt’s tech specialist.  Pegg, as expected, acts as comedy relief for the film, but he’s never annoying as it and he also gets his moments to really shine as a serious member of this team.  Paula Patton plays Jane Carter, an agent who has her own personal score to settle through all of this.  She’s got great presence and just looks stunning.  Jeremy Renner plays William Brandt, the fourth member of this team.  Brandt is introduced as an “analyst” but there’s way more to him than that.  Renner can certainly stand toe-to-toe with Cruise on the intensity side and he’s just a terrific addition to this franchise.

Michael Nyqvist plays Hendricks, the terrorist known as Cobalt.  While he’s not necessarily i the same class of villain as Philip Seymour Hoffman was in Mission: Impossible III he still does a very capable job.  His final fight with Ethan Hunt is terrific and he just has the look of a classic Mission: Impossible bad guy.  For me, the biggest surprise in the cast was right at the start of the film with Lost’s Josh Holloway playing an IMF agent named Hanaway.  His appearances are really brief, but they set the stage and Holloway has real presence.  I always thought he was terrific on Lost and was certainly deserving of even bigger and better roles.  His appearance here proves that and I just hope he gets some bigger opportunities in the future.

Earlier this year, I saw Fast Five and up until now, it was my favorite action film of the year.  Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol hasn’t knocked it off of the top but it does share the space.  Both have a lot in common; they’re late films in established franchises, they have major over-the-top set pieces, engaging casts that make you want to follow their adventure, and they’ve both re-energized their franchises.  Tom Cruise may be the lead actor in this (and he is terrific) but the real star of the film is director Brad Bird and his terrific visual style and sense of pace and most importantly, sense of fun.  Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is a winner and of course, highly, highly recommended.

“Light the fuse.”

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

24. December 2011 by Darren Goodhart
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