Several weeks ago my handler gave me a mission which I chose to accept. I could review Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol if I was able to see it in IMAX with the eight minute Batman prologue before it. The ultimate goal was to do a Losing My Virginity review for the previous three Mission: Impossible films leading up to my review of this film but due to a global conspiracy, an EMP blast that disabled most of South Africa, and a solar flare-powered laser that needed disabling, all covered up under the guise of ‘advanced IMAX screenings,’ you’re getting my review of Ghost Protocol before the first three films.
Having watched the first three films in rapid-fire succession over the course of the three days before this film, Ethan Hunt’s adventures in world-saving were fresh in my mind when I sat down in the cramped IMAX theater chair. I was pumped. I love Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg like a fat kid loves cake, the stakes were higher than ever before, and Tom Cruise’s hair was somewhere between his Mission: Impossible II and III hairstyles. Let’s light this fuse and get the show on the road, shall we?
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Director: Brad Bird
Release date: December 16, 2011 (IMAX), December 21, 2011 (wide)
First up, we have the plot. The film starts with Josh Holloway of Lost fame escaping from an undisclosed location with a bag full of the film’s central plot device. He is then unexpectedly felled by sexy French assassin Sabine Moreau (the beautiful Léa Seydoux of Midnight in Paris fame), who walks off with the bag. We then cut to Simon Pegg’s Benji, having been promoted to field agent between the last film and this one, and Paula Patton’s Jane busting franchise star Ethan Hunt out of a Russian prison. After the breakout, Jane fills Ethan in on the fact that the bag Sabine made off with is full of nuclear launch codes which she’s planning to sell to the film’s bad guy, ‘Cobalt.’ Hunt and his new team break into the Kremlin to find out who Cobalt is so they can stop him, but things go horribly, horribly wrong and the Kremlin explodes and the blame is laid on the IMF. As a result, every single agent is disavowed, leaving Hunt and his team, joined by William Brandt, an IMF desk analyst who totally doesn’t have a secret to tell. The four have naught but a train car full of supplies and their combined experience with which to stop Cobalt from blowing up the entire damn world. Cue the Mission: Impossible theme here.
This movie was a lot of fun. Brad Bird of Incredibles fame has given us a Mission: Impossible film that has everything you could want out of an installment in the franchise with one glaring exception, but I’ll get to that. The team was great, the set-pieces were amazing, and seeing it on an IMAX screen, especially the scene on the Burj Khalifa tower, the tallest building in the world, really took my breath away.
Tom Cruise is back, of course, as veteran IMF agent Ethan Hunt. He is a little haunted in this installment, (to say more would give that away) but he doesn’t let that stop him from beating the hell out of guards and inmates alike during a prison break, breaking into the Kremlin, climbing the world’s tallest building, or chasing a bad guy through a sandstorm. He’s as cool as a Cruise character can be and for the first time in a decade, he has a team that compliments his swagger.
Simon Pegg steals the show, naturally. He fills in for Ving Rhames’ Luther as grand high tech poobah on account of every agent IMF has being disavowed and Pegg does it with the zeal we’ve come to expect of him. Jeremy Renner is fantastic as the beset-upon analyst who is stuck in a bad situation and brings us in a little closer as a sort of desk jockey everyman who makes the kind of comments I spent all of last week making myself to my best pal, Sidekick Pat. He cracks wise and kicks ass and of course, has a secret to tell, and he does it all with that trademark Jeremy Renner gleam in his eye. Paula Patton (Precious) is the weak link, but that’s not to say she wasn’t good in her own right. Her driving force throughout the movie is to get revenge for Holloway’s character and after a point, she felt a little bit flat to me. Despite that, she was still a bad ass, good-looking chick shooting bad guys and taking names.
The set pieces, from the Moscow prison to the Kremlin to the Burj Khalifa to the final showdown between Hunt and Cobalt (too awesome and silly to spoil) were amazing. I don’t want to give too much away because each of these scenes, especially with the Burj Khalifa, were so cool I could hardly believe they were all in the same film. Seeing the movie in IMAX only enhanced these set pieces (again, especially the Burj Khalifa exterior scenes) and I’m really glad I made the trip to see it in IMAX.
I mentioned earlier there was one big flaw in this film and that flaw is the bad guy himself. Cobalt isn’t really that cool of a bad guy. I mean, Jon Voight had the whole betrayal angle going for him, Dougray Scott defied gravity and logic courtesy of the Woo factor (lots more on that next week), and Phillip Seymour Hoffman set the bar impossibly high for those to follow. At one point, there’s a reveal involving Cobalt about halfway through the film that felt like it should’ve made more of an impact on me, it ended up falling kind of flat. Cobalt’s motivation is actually pretty awesome but I found his performance to be the least memorable in the franchise. Considering my feelings on Mission: Impossible II, that’s saying something.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol was a lot of fun. It had the characters breaking in to not one but several hard-to-crack places, some really, really cool technology (Cruise and Pegg’s neat little gadget they use to infiltrate the Kremlin probably ranks as coolest spy tech in any spy movie I’ve seen to date), some subtle meta humor, impossibly high stakes, and an actual plot device instead of a maguffin. There are some more side characters that enhance and drive the story, but it’s really the Cruise-Pegg-Renner show this time around and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t fault anybody for the quality of the film’s antagonist because after Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s roll in the third film, all other antagonists were ruined for me. This movie is great for both franchise fans and relative newcomers (who may just go to see the Dark Knight Rises prologue) and I really do think it should be seen in IMAX (that’s coming from the guy who groans when he has to pay more than $7.50 for a movie ticket). If you’re looking for a good movie to tide you over through the holidays, Ghost Protocol is a most excellent selection.
Matthew Razak – Ghost Protocol is unadulterated action awesome. Without even going into the discussion about how great it is that they truly performed some really death defying stunts instead of relying on digital trickery it’s easy to say that this film is quality action. It’s smart, just over-the-top enough to work and never so dumb that you start rolling your eyes. By ditching the spy thriller slant (and the ridiculous masks) and focusing instead on simply delivering an impressive action film the filmmakers deliver on both spectacle and fun. Just plain edge-of-your seat fun. 79 – Good
Alec Kubas-Meyer – Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol is by far the best summer blockbuster we didn’t get this year. Although the extensive CGI work is often terrible, it is more than made up for by the film’s refusal to do anything that isn’t incredibly awesome. There is no moment of the film that even verges on boring, and I was able to sit back and simply enjoy it (something I haven’t been able to do in quite a while). Despite knowing that the good guys would win in the end, there were still moments of legitimate worry when things seemed truly hopeless, and I wanted to cheer on the team when everything worked out. My only question: how the hell are they going to follow this up? The ending certainly leaves room for the sequel… but I have no idea how they could go more over-the-top than this. Regardless, Ghost Protocol is awesome, and if you just want some time to laugh and turn off your brain while people on a big screen (see it in IMAX) do crazy stuff, this is definitely your best (albeit only) option. 79 – Good