What They Say:
Blamed for a terrorist attack on the Kremlin, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and the entire IMF agency are disavowed by the U.S. government, while the president initiates the Ghost Protocol. Forced to go “off the grid” — left without resources or backup — Hunt must somehow clear the agency’s name and prevent another attack. Complicating matters even more, Ethan must undertake the impossible mission with a group of fellow IMF fugitives whose actual motives are suspect.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Fifteen years after the TV series made the leap to the big screen, the fourth installment has hit and it’s definitely an interesting approach to the whole franchise. One that fits but at the same time feels a little old school in a classic sort of way. Directed by Brad Bird, marking his debut as a big picture live action director after wowing me for years with his work on Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatoulle, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol brings back the concept in good form after outings from Brian DePalma, John Woo and J.J. Abrams. I’ve had an off relationship with the franchise over the course of its run where it never felt like it truly clicked right, though I enjoyed the John Woo entry the most simply because of its style. Having long enjoyed Tom Cruise, the franchise fits his usual style of being the lone man out on a mission, albeit with some solid support.
This entry follows up the previous one a bit in the whole relationship department when it comes to his wife, which is an interesting subplot, but mostly it deals with the mission at hand which is a big picture kind of approach. The central idea of the film has Ethan Hunt returning for a mission at the Kremlin after being rescued out of a Russian prison where he’d been essentially hiding out for awhile under another name. The lead-in story is made up of a couple of decent short-form pieces, such as the prison break and then the infiltration into the Kremlin itself, and it works well to introduce the basics of the team that forms around Ethan to deal with it. What it all leads into though is the larger story that puts the team on the outside as the Kremlin suffers under a terrorism attack while they’re in there, they get blamed and the IMF is shutdown. It’s a solid setup, but it’s what the story does from there that feels off.
In a way, the larger theme of it is one that feels like it was more appropriate for the 80’s rather than 2011, but it also works. While it doesn’t get a lot of attention, nuclear codes and terrorism is a big part of politics in the world today but it gets lost in the more flashy elements of world news. Focusing on a man whose beliefs turn to the idea that a natural winnowing of the species,believing that the race would be stronger after leveling the playing field. I rather liked the idea of the educated but off and kind of crazy villain who comes from a games theory background for the military taken to an extreme. That you don’t see more people in that area really starting to think about how to make it a reality, to see the truth in it, is kind of amusing in its own right, but it’s like the idea that you don’t really see more people dress up like Batman either and take to the streets to dole out justice.
The feature does what we’ve seen before and puts the team hot on the villain’s trail quickly and they have quite a few complications along the way to deal with in some big set pieces. Mission: Impossible doesn’t really stray from its design as we’ve seen from past installments, though I think it blends the styles of the past three into this one rather well while never truly having its own unique feel, and it hits a lot of good notes. The feature has some good, small bits to it that were really fun to watch, such as the Kremlin incursion as well as the prison breakout at the start. But it’s the big fun that really wows here, especially when it shifts to Dubai. The massive hotel tower sequence has its tension, both in the exterior action sequences and the more drama filled moments, but also the whole sandstorm sequence that follows. The number of people in the audience that gasped and got tense during the scaling of the hotel building was almost comical, but it just showed how well it went over for people.
While Tom Cruise is pretty much a given in the role, the support team worked pretty well and didn’t feel as stereotyped as the support team did in previous movies. Simon Pegg is a lot of fun as the field agent who never thought he’d be one as he brings in some good humor without being the comedian of the team. It’s nervous humor, gallows humor in some ways, and it clicks well. He plays off against Paula Patton well as the female operative group that has a personal grudge mixed into events that unfold which gives her a bit of a different edge than the others who are all primarily mission focused. The one that left me feeling a bit off within the cast though was Jeremy Renner. I’ve liked Renner for awhile but I can’t quite get a handle on him in some of his roles and this one is a bit complicated since it ties to Ethan’s past, which takes awhile to come out and is never fully explored in a way that feels meaningful. His inclusion has you knowing that he’s not what he seems from the start and that keeps you feeling odd about him, wondering when the truth will kick in and then being a bit underwhelmed by the truth when it does come out.
The fourth installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise hits rather well and I think it does a whole lot right. Brad Bird has a solid hand in directing the feature where it moves across the set pieces and ties it together well. It does make some leaps at times that while they don’t feel off don’t come across as tight as it could be, but it works the franchise as it has in the previous installments and that works well. With the feature keeping to its international flavor, putting the team out of the IMF fold for all of it and working with a more toned down and less high-tech piece for a lot of it, Ghost Protocol keeps things in a little more rough and tumble where it doesn’t have the polished and ultra professional feel that past missions have. I liked the movie, it moved well and I had fun with the big pieces, but it also feels a little old school with its overall storyline and not as clearly defined as it could be, especially for people coming into the series at this stage (you know, younger audiences) that may not have seen the previous ones. It’s a solid entry, one that will do well, but it’s not one I see myself checking out again.
Readers Rating: [ratings]