Before the release of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol in 2011, I knew no one in any online film community, or offline who even had the faintest interest in the Mission: Impossible franchise like I did. So you could imagine my surprise when the forth entry was released, and for the first time I came across people who also enjoy the series like I did. Ghost Protocol marked a turning point in the Mission: Impossible series that imbued viewer confidence in Brad Bird being just as capable in the realm of live action filmmaking as he in animation. Currently being the highest grossing entry in the franchise. This entry also rejuvenated fans interest in the franchise, and garnered a slew of new fans through word of mouth. Why wouldn’t people talk about this movie, it’s a blast to watch.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol has Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), and the entire IMF implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin. Now it’s up to Ethan Hunt, and his rouge team to clear their organization name. Playing within the expectation of the series establish formula it makes further refinement to it. For starter, the fact that Ethan Hunt is once again disavowed from the IMF isn’t eye rolling. Providing that plot point in a refreshing way. Second improvement would be the storytelling placing greater emphasis on the team. Being the first in the series to acknowledge, and treat all of Hunt’s team members as equals to him. Weaving a story that’s able to tackle the conflict of the team learning to work together in a simplistic, effective manner.
Third improvement would be intelligently working around Ethan Hunt doing field work despite being married in the previous movie. Being able to address this plot point without juxtaposition in Ghost Protocol intention of being a fun blockbuster driven by big set pieces, and entertaining character interactions. Fourth improvement would be this installment is comfortable with incorporating more hi-tech gadgets for the team to use. You have the return of the face mask which graciously is only used twice, but also electronic gloves that can attach to any surface, a device that can suck up concrete with ease, a contact lense that can do face recognition, and a few others devices.
A nice change up in the writing is the pacing is consistent throughout. Being brisk without giving up the finer details in its story. The biggest improvement to the series is easily the team dynamics, and the banter between them. Keeping events engaging more than ever before when there isn’t an action scene on screen. Characters play off each other really well with each one getting a chance to shine. Each member of Ethan Hunt team is also given their own arcs reaching a satisfying conclusion, and nicely developed to stay invested with the situations they get themselves into. In addition to that, they also show traits of having their own personality standing out from one another. Benji (Simon Pegg) role gets greatly expanded upon. Adding more to his character, and not relegating him to solely being the comedic relief as the other characters also have funny lines. All the while being capable of being taken dramatically seriously without breaking the tone of being an enjoyable blockbuster.
One new thing that Ghost Protocol introduce is finally giving Ethan Hunt some proper continuity that he needed. No longer does he feel like a rewritten character. A welcome change to witness Ethan Hunt receive some proper growth. Showing for the first time the toll in being the IMF has on his personal life. Without over blowing it, displays the sacrifices he has to make in his personal life for the greater good. Another nice welcome is continuing to balance Ethan’s brawn with his brain. Finding a proper way to show him be vulnerable, but a very capable agent. Favoring a new way to have tension through the near failures of some of his operation over being on the verge of death. For once, Ethan Hunt gratitude, and commaraderie towards the team feels genuine.
The weakest part of the movie is easily Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) the film’s villain. He is treated like a mcguffin, and magically appears wherever, and whenever the movie needs him be. Lacking the intimidation factor, even if he gives Ethan Hunt a challenge mentally, and physically. His biggest issue is that most of his characterization is chalked up to just being psycho. If the film didn’t attempt to give some complexity through his motivation than the whole mentally unstable personality would have worked. Hendricks motivation implies there’s much more to the character the film only briefly touches on. Feeling like a non-entity of a villain. Further brought up to your attention when someone else Hunt’s team is after had more of an personal impact on them than Hendricks did.
Tom Cruise in this installment is mostly playful, but not to the point of absurdity. Showing off more of his comedic timing, and charm than in previous outing. Not only that, but also gets some dramatic scenes, and knocks them out of the park. When you give Cruise material that provides range he’ll deliver. On top of another good performance he’s still does the superhuman like stunt work; like the stunt he performed in Dubai hanging over 1000 feet from the ground on the side of a hotel. It looks absolutely stunning, and seeing Cruise perform the stunt makes you further believe in him as Ethan Hunt. He always proven he’s dedicated to playing Ethan Hunt in every minute of any Mission: Impossible movie. Also, this entry has the most epic looking running Tom Cruise has done in his career.
Simon Pegg reprises his role as Benji to larger role much to the benefit of the film. Being instantly likable through his through his impeccable timing on his jokes. However, Pegg also shows a good amount of restraint preventing him from going into goofball territory. On the plus side, his portrayal of Benji makes it easy to accept him as a IMF agent. Paula Cotton is another nice addition to the film. She picks up the dramatic weight alongside Jeremy Renner. Looking convincing in her action sequences, and showing the right amount of toughness, and vulnerability. Jeremy Renner first entry into the installment also makes him a mainstay. He’s so natural alongside Simon Pegg, and Tom Cruise is easy to see why he was kept on. All the cast members have chemistry with each other holding the film up together when separated from Cruise in a scene. Something that previous entries struggle with.
Lea Seydoux plays an assassin with little lines, but her good looks, and cold presence is easy to take notice of. Then finally there’s Michael Nyqvist who plays the villian. He does fine in the role, but isn’t intimidating in the least. Nyqvist also doesn’t come across as much of a psycho, but when granted the chance to speak he fares better. Unfortunately Nyqvist, and Cruise don’t talk much to each other removing that sense of pure hatred that Philip Seymour Hoffman brought with him. To Michael Nyqvist credit does make an effort to make the villain look, and act like any other normal person. Lastly, Ving Rhames makes a cameo in the film. It’s a shame he wasn’t in the movie very long, but it’s nice that the film didn’t forget about him either. While I’m at it, Michelle Monaghan also makes a brief appearance. More bonus points for fans for the series.
Brad Bird changes up the gunplay from MI3 in favor of hand to hand combat. Preferring to take the route of being inventive over complexity. Resulting in a slew of stellar pieces. Easily the one that everyone who sees this film talks about is when Cruise hangs on the side of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai over 1000 feet from the ground. During this sequence Brad Bird expertly knows how to set up the sandstorm to use in a later action sequence. As Tom Cruise climbs the Burj Khalifa, Bird always ensure to use the reflection on the Burj Khalifa to remind audience how high up Cruise is. Through the simple methods of zooming out, overhead shots, and wide shots Brad Bird gets the most out of this sequence in a visually stunning way that could also be nail biting through some masterful editing.
Also taking place in Dubai, another noteworthy set piece is a car chase where Cruise chases Nyqvist. Despite obvious usage of CGI for the sandstorm a majority of the sequence is done practically. Being far from your standard chase sequence it starts off on foot before eventually ending up at the point where a car goes up in the air after a crash, and nearly hits Cruise. The events in between uses the sandstorm to the environment, and vehicles hard to spot. Using this blurriness to keep viewers uncertain if anything else is going to harm Cruise. There’s another clever sequence in the vaults of the Kremlin Archives in which a virtual reality illusion is used to fool a guard.
Easily my favorite action sequence comes during the climax where Tom Cruise fights against Michael Nyqvist in a space age looking park with elevators. Both men fight to obtain a briefcase with both Cruise, and Nyqvist fighting on equal footing with their surrounding constantly moving around, and complicating things for both. During the fight sequence, both man land on a platform with Nyqvist holding the briefcase while a car is behind Cruise slowly moving on the platform. In this moment, Nyqvist gets the advantage, Cruise gets his left leg seriously hurt when he’s pull of a counter maneuver putting Nyqvist on the floor, Cruise left leg gets stuck with the briefcase in arms reach, Nyqvist kicks the briefcase below the car, Cruise jumps over the car, and lands on the other side of the platform with the car moving a lower level preventing Cruise from grabbing the briefcase. This is just a small example how inventive the fight goes of it way from being a simple fist fight.
Aside from the action scenes, Brad Bird also creates an opening sequence similar to the first entry showing snippets of the movie you’re about to see. It’s something insignificant in the overall film, but it’s nice seeing it return. Michael Giacchino returns to to compose score for Ghost Protocol. Being an improvement over his work on Mission: Impossible 3. The soundtrack has more of presence adding to the excitement, and setting the appropriate dramatic mood when needed. Finally, it’s so nice to hear the return of “Light the Fuse” (the name of the Mission: Impossible theme song) from Lalo Schifrin, and not have it be altered in any way. It was missed, but thankfully it gloriously returned.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol makes even further refinement to the series formula, and taking it to greater heights both literally, and figuratively. Offering sheer entertainment in the form of spectacular set pieces brought to together by great writing. It delivers everything you want in a blockbuster without being dumb, or loud, but instead being smartly crafted, and expertly put together. Like all the previous installments, there’s a lot going against it, but the series willingness to take risk always pays off, and here it’s no different.