Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol begins with a jailbreak and ends with a chase through the streets of Mumbai. In between we get a chase through a sandstorm, an attempt to climb he largest building the world, the looming threat of nuclear war, gadgets and gizmos, a prison escape, and a hell of a lot of fun. The latest entry into the Mission: Impossible franchise is not only great summer popcorn movie fare (in December, no less!), it has the feel of the original television show as well.
Our story begins when Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is broken out of Russian prison by the IMF and given a new team (Paula Patton, Simon Pegg). Together, if they chose to accept it, they are assigned to break into the Kremlin to find information about a Russian terrorist known only as Cobalt (Michael Nyqvist) who plans to start a nuclear war between the United States and Russia.
When a bomb is set off inside the Kremlin, with the IMF team still on the scene, it is held responsible. The U.S. Government enforces Ghost Protocol by effectively shutting down the entire IMF, disavowing the entire agency, and personally holding Hunt and his team responsible for the bombing and branding them as terrorists.
On their own, with a little help from the Secretary of the IMF (Tom Wilkinson) and his analyst (Jeremy Renner), the team travels from Russia to Dubai to India in an attempt to drive Cobalt into the open and stop him before he can start a nuclear war. If they are successful they might be able to save the world and salvage their careers. If they fail the consequences for not only the IMF but the entire world would be disastrous.
Director Brad Bird delivers a well-paced action thriller made to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. The IMAX version of the film (released today, other theaters will get the movie on December 21st) is impressive, especially the Dubai sequences where the larger screen showcases some impressive sequences. Not only does the film deliver in terms of a basic action film, it also gives us a true Mission: Impossible story. It may be his first time directing living actors instead of animated computer generated creatures, but he pulls it off with aplomb.
Yes, I’m weary of the stale plot of agents disavowed by their government only to prove their innocence at the last minute (see the first and third entry into this franchise as well as several of the lesser Bond films including Quantum of Solace). However, the structure of the plot gives each of the team members specific duties and roles making sure we get more than just Ethan Hunt and his background dancers this time around.
The film isn’t without a few flaws, but most are nitpicks that shouldn’t hurt your enjoyment of the story. Is the connection between Cruise and Renner’s characters a little too coincidental? Sure. Is the film’s villain far less interesting than Philip Seymour Hoffman or Dougray Scott? Most definitely. Did I miss Ving Rhames? Yeah, I really did. Does the break-in to Mumbai server room (involving magnets, a rover, and a giant fan) stretch all limits of credibility? You betcha. In the end, however, these nagging issues fade mostly to the background of what is a thoroughly enjoyable film.
A secondary story, involving why Hunt was in the Russian gulag, the secrets of Brandt’s (Renner) past and his connection to Ethan, and the fate of Ethan’s wife (Michelle Monaghan) are slowly woven into the film. Although the story isn’t necessary (and may at times over-complicate the far more action-driven main plot), it is a nice attempt to tie Ghost Protocol back to the previous films.
Brad Bird succeeds where Brian De Palma failed and both John Woo and J.J. Abrams had some measure of success. I’m a little sad it took four films in to get so close to a real Mission: Impossible film because, following this model, I want to see far more of both this franchise and this team. Hopefully the IMF isn’t going away and Paramount can squeeze out another sequel or two over the next couple of years. At least that’s my challenge. Let’s hope they accept it.