Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)

Brad Bird
2011 • 133 Minutes • 1.44:1 • United States

Principal Cast: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist
Screenplay: Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec
Producers: J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Tom Cruise
Cinematography: Robert Elswit

- Now remember: “Blue is glue!”
- And red?
- Dead. 

The fourth installment of the successful Mission: Impossible series has been released and it may be the best one yet. In this adventure, Ethan Hunt’s team is on the trail of Russian terrorist Hendricks, who is in possession of nuclear launch codes and plans to use them to kick start World War III. Making matters worse, the team fails at stopping Hendricks from taking the codes in the first place and blowing up the Kremlin… which IMF is then blamed for. The entire IMF organization is disavowed in an “all-else-fails” stratagem known as “Ghost Protocol.” Hunt assembles a skeleton crew to take down Hendricks once and for all.

Brad Bird’s filmography is impressive: Ratatouille, The Incredibles and The Iron Giant. But for the first time he tackles a major live-action blockbuster… is he up to the challenge? Yes. And then some. Bird’s visual eye is clearly just as well suited in the live-action world as it is in the Pixar animated universe. The movie speeds along at an riveting pace, never letting you rest while it throws action and thrills at you at every opportunity. The plot is just the right amount of complexity without sacrificing thrills, though the character development leaves something to be desired for a first-time viewer of the series.

The visuals are incredible, however. Several major scenes were shot in IMAX, and this reviewer highly recommends plunking down the extra cash to see the film on an IMAX screen. Most impressive of which is the much talked-about Khalifa Tower sequence set in Dubai. Ethan Hunt, through a series of events that can only happen in a film like this, must climb 10 stories on the outside of this structure, more than 100 stories high using a pair of sci-fi climbing gloves that stick to any surface. It’s absolutely breath-taking, and while some visual effects certainly aided this sequence, it is nonetheless impressive that Tom Cruise still rigged himself in a harness and did some of this stunt himself.

Cruise obviously returns as Ethan Hunt, IMF agent extraordinaire. Cruise doesn’t bring any surprises to the role, but he’s certainly very capable of playing the action hero and he does his job well. Also back is Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn, tech expert-turned-field agent. Pegg always delivers in any role he plays. As expected he plays comic relief, but not to the point of a bumbling buffoon. The character knows what he’s doing and is a valuable asset to the spy team. New to the cast are Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton. Patton plays typical “ass kicking spy girl,” and isn’t given much to work with. A revenge plotline for her character is introduced but resolved too early in the film. Renner is a fast-rising star, having played major Oscar-nominated roles in both The Hurt Locker and The Town as well as playing master archer Hawkeye in next summer’s Avengers movie. His character is highly intriguing throughout most of the film, unfortunately his story arc payoff is not quite satisfying enough. Michael Nyqvist of the original Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy plays the villain, but isn’t given a great deal of screen time which is a shame considering the actor’s considerable talents. The film lacks the great villain its predecessor, Mission: Impossible III, had in Philip Seymour Hoffman’s excellent portrayal of Owen Davian. That said, there are a couple of very fun “blink and you’ll miss them” cameos sprinkled throughout the film.

Script issues aside, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is one of the top action movies of the year, and definitely the best in the series. A fantastic action thrill ride that’s a stark contrast to the family-friendly films and the award contenders usually released this time of year.