Review: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Directed By: Brad Bird
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg.
I remember as a kid watching repeats of the original Mission Impossible television series from the 60’s, with Peter Graves as Jim Phelps. When the decision to remake the series was made in the 90’s (after a revived series starring Graves some years before in 1988), it was decided to instead make a movie as a star vehicle for Tom Cruise, under the direction of the experienced Brian De Palma. Released in 1996, the first Mission Impossible was a success, taking over $180m at the us box office (over $450m worldwide) and spawned sequels helmed by equaly experienced directors John Woo (in 2000, taking over $560m worldwide) and JJ Abrams (in 2006, taking just under $400m worldwide). Now we have a fourth movie with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, directed by animation director Brad Bird in his live action directorial debut.
Starting with a botched operation in Budapest where an IMF agent (played by TV’s Lost Josh Holloway) is killed by assassin Sabine Moreau for a package he was carrying, we then move to a break out of Ethan Hunt (returning Tom Cruise) from a Moscow prison by the remaining members of the dead agent’s team, including now field agent Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg, returning from MI3) and fellow agent Jane Carter (Paula Patton). Receiving their mission from a dead drop nearby, they are ordered to breach the Kremlin to gain access to some archives and discover the identity of a potential nuclear terrorist threat, known only as ‘cobalt’. The mission meets with disaster when someone broadcasts openly on the team’s radios, alerting Kremlin security, shortly before detonating explosives that level the building.
The team escapes and goes their separate ways as per protocol, hours later Hunt checks in and, expecting to meet an extraction team is instead surprised to meet the secretary of the IMF (Tom Wilkinson) and his aide Wiliam Brandt (Jeremy Renner), and advised that the Russian government has declared the attack on the Kremlin as an act of war, forcing the President of the United States to enacted ‘Ghost Protocol’, whereby the IMF is disbanded and all agents have been disavowed. Hunt suspects that Cobalt destroyed the Kremlin to cover the fact that he had stolen a nuclear launch control briefcase. The secretary asks Hunt to go on an unsanctioned mission, and before Ethan can agree they are attacked and the secretary is killed. Hunt and Brandt escape, meeting up with Dunn and Carter, to head to Dubai where Cobalt is expected to meet Moreau to buy the package from her – Russian nuclear launch codes.
One issue I always had with the previous movies, as good as they are, is that they always felt like action movies centred around Tom Cruise’s character Ethan Hunt, almost like a Bond movie with a supporting team, but if anything is true about MI:GP, it’s that for a change, this feels much more in tone like the original television series, and though there are obvious moments where it does centre on Hunt for a particular sequence, it feels a lot more like a team movie this time around. The fact that the ‘team’ in the movie are thrown together by circumstance and not as a planned team on a mission also plays particularly well into the team dynamic. Brad Bird has taken to directing live action extremely well as opposed to animation, and certainly has his own style which he uses to make the movie visually entertaining when it could have just been filmed as a typical action movie.
While it does have it’s fair share of action, there is also an attempt to add some character moments, adding some more depth to Cruise’s Hunt from the previous movies, while also developing the new characters (a problem i had in particular with the last movie, where Hunt seemed to be the only real character to get any depth). Jeremy Renner is good as analyst Brandt, who finds himself thrown into a situation he doesn’t want to be in, and may have a few secrets of his own, possibly in an effort to solidify his character as the lead in future movies. Simon Pegg returning as Benji Dunn, a character that he played for a couple of short scenes in the third movie, is largely used for comic relief, though played as a newly promoted field agent and not the bumbling fool, so comes accross as a genuinely fun character. Paula Patton’s Carter is perhaps the weakest of the characters, but an attempt is made to develop her more than average with a vendetta storyline.
The villain of the movie, who wants nothing more than to start a nuclear war, could also have been better developed, as it leaves him very one-dimensional, not to mention his henchman, who seems to just be along for the ride and is largely unforgettable. But lets not forget, this is firstly a spy action/thriller, and that is where the movie excells, with some thoroughly pulse raising action sequences, most notably the sequences involving Hunt making an ascent up the outside of the tallest building in the world, and a subsequent chase through a sandstorm, both of which are filmed exceptionally well, and easy to follow. The movie also has more than it’s fair share of gadgets used throughout. This could have become an issue and taken away from the overall movie, like some of the latter Bond movies before the reboot of Casino Royale, but thankfully for the most part they are not product placement, but tools of the spy trade, used to serve the mission and the story.
I was completely surprised how much I enjoyed this, given that it’s the fourth movie in the series, but it’s perhaps the best one yet, because it finally has that team dynamic going for it where the others didn’t. Hopefully if they decide to go ahead with another one, Brad Bird will return to direct, I would gladly sit through another made by the same people and will most likely see this again during it’s theatrical release, possibly in it’s IMAX form.
Posted on January 5, 2012, in Reviews and tagged action, brad bird, ethan hunt, ghost protocol, jeremy renner, mission impossible, paula patton, sequel, simon pegg, spy, thriller, tom cruise. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.