In a time in which the spy genre is dominated by James Bond (returning next year) and more importantly Jason Bourne, Ethan Hunt of Mission: Impossible always felt inferior. Not to say that the franchise is bad, although the John Woo-directed sequel was a mess, M:I is really a box-office machine featuring Tom Cruise showing off his physique. Five years have passed since J.J. Abrams’ terrific threequel, so can this “fourquel” succeed on more than just Cruise swinging around a building?
Following the bombing of the Kremlin, the US President has initiated “Ghost Protocol”, a black operation contingency that disavows the entire IMF. In order to clear their organisation’s name, Ethan Hunt and his new team go rogue and must capture the nuclear strategist (Michael Nyqvist) who’s planning a nuclear war between the United States and Russia.
With J.J. Abrams acting as producer, the choice of director this time around is one with a background in animation. From his best work (The Iron Giant) to his Pixar films (The Incredibles, Ratatouille), Brad Bird may seem an odd choice and yet what he has shown here is an incredible step into live-action. If there is any hint that reflects his animation talent, it would perhaps be the opening title sequence which repeats the usual gag of a fuse being lit whilst Lalo Schifrin’s classic theme tune is playing.
Since this is Mission: Impossible, it has to tick-box a number of traits, such as Tom Cruise doing his own stunts, a woman in a glamorous dress (in this case, Paula Patton) getting out of a fine car, a villain in a suit, even Ving Rhames pops in at one point. Unlike the On Her Majesty’s Secret Service plot of its predecessor, screenwriters Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec do not quite capture that emotional engagement as before, and the “Ghost Protocol” plot has been done many times in previous spy flicks.
For his live-action debut, Brad Bird presents the most spectacular installment in the series so far, because for a start, the majority of the film was shot in IMAX. From a car chase taking place in a sand storm to the best cat fight in years, the finest action sequence involves Cruise climbing up the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and then swinging himself round to get to his destination. Whatever else is wrong with the film, this scene alone is a good enough reason to see it. More importantly, whilst the superstar can surely do anything, you do feel the physical pain he’s going through, as you do with the rest of the action set-pieces which are very punchy.
Due to its by-the-numbers approach, all of the cast play it entirely straight, and you’re definitely not going to expect a Magnolia-esque performance from Tom Cruise who is wearing his M:i-2 mullet. As for the new team members, Paula Patton stands in as the sexy female agent, Simon Pegg provides a lot of the comedy and Jeremy Renner outshines Mr Cruise as the analyst with a dark secret. While the villains are more like evil foreigners from a Bond movie, there is a nice cameo by Josh Holloway from TV’s Lost.
Although this doesn’t have the intelligence of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (spy movie of the year), Ghost Protocol does indeed have its spectacular moments which are meant to be seen on eye-popping IMAX. As a fine live-action debut for Mr Bird, it’ll be interesting to see what WALL-E director Andrew Stanton does with John Carter.
Depending on which IMAX screen you go to see Ghost Protocol, you might see the six-minute prologue of The Dark Knight Rises (released on 20 July 2012) which is amazing.
DIRECTOR: BRAD BIRD
SCREENWRITERS: JOSH APPELBAUM, ANDRE NEMEC
STARRING: TOM CRUISE, JEREMY RENNER, SIMON PEGG, PAULA PATTON, MICHAEL NYQVIST, TOM WILKINSON
COUNTRY: UNITED STATES
RUNTIME: 133 MINS APPROX.