Tom Cruise is one of the biggest movie stars in the history of cinema. Yet, his reputation and box office clout have been tarnished by his bizarre behavior. The Tom Cruise publicity machine has been working overtime to restore his standing in the eyes of the public. Will a return to the mega-successful Mission: Impossible franchise rehabilitate Cruise’s status? In my opinion, the man can jump on all the couches he wants as long as he keeps making films like Ghost Protocol.
The fourth Mission: Impossible opens with an exciting prison escape as Ethan Hunt (Cruise) breaks out of a Moscow gulag with help from IMF (Impossible Mission Force) agents Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg). During his incarceration, another IMF member (Josh Holloway) has been murdered while attempting to retrieve launch codes for the Russians’ nuclear missiles. As it turns out, the codes have fallen into the hands of sultry French assassin, Sabine Moreau (Léa Seydoux), who is in the employ of Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist), a Swedish-born scientist code-named Cobalt. Hendricks genuinely believes all-out nuclear war will benefit mankind in the long run, allowing only the strong to survive.
The IMF team infiltrates the Kremlin in order to retrieve information on Cobalt. Unfortunately, the enemy is several steps ahead as Hendricks alerts the security to IMF’s presence, steals a launch device, blows up the Kremlin, and implicates Hunt’s team as the culprits. Branded as terrorists, the entire IMF department has been disavowed by the U.S. government. On the run from Russian authorities, Ethan and his team must clear their names and prevent a nuclear holocaust. Joining them as their newest member is Brandt (Jeremy Renner), an intelligence analyst whose combat skills belie those of a mere paper pusher.
Mission: Impossible III took the franchise down a darker path in line with Casino Royale and the Bourne franchise. Ghost Protocol gleefully embraces the over-the-top elements of the spy genre. JJ Abrams, who directed the previous installment, has stayed on as producer and brought on board writers Josh Applebaum and André Nemec from his Alias days to pen the script. Their screenplay seems to have emerged from the 80’s since it is packed to the gills with Cold War trappings. There are Russian antagonists, shady villains with generic foreign accents, and the looming threat of all-out nuclear war between the superpowers. The gadgets are all here too. The IMF utilizes high-tech gear such as a contact lens that can transmit visual data, a magnetic levitation suit, not to mention iPads and iPhones. The iconic masks are present as well. What would a Mission: Impossible movie be without a cool mask reveal? A running gag throughout the film is how the team’s equipment always seems to malfunction at the most inopportune of times. Even the famous self-destructing message (hidden inside a payphone) needs a good bang to the side to get it started.
Each installment of the Mission: Impossible series has had a different director behind the camera employing his own trademark style. For Ghost Protocol, Tom Cruise went with an unlikely choice in Brad Bird, whose experience has solely been in animation. Bird has helmed The Iron Giant, Ratatouille, and The Incredibles. His skills have translated to live-action with rousing success. Bird has managed to create an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride in a way that not even action maestro John Woo, who directed Mission: Impossible II, could have. Ghost Protocol consists of one unique action sequence after another as Bird takes the audience on a globetrotting adventure from Budapest to Mumbai. You have a foot chase through a blinding sandstorm and a climactic fistfight in the middle of an automated parking garage. Without a doubt, the centerpiece of Ghost Protocol is a spectacular set piece involving Tom Cruise precariously scaling the outside of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It’s an amazing stunt that Cruise insisted on doing himself. The sequence was also one of several that were shot in IMAX. Ghost Protocol features approximately thirty minutes of footage shot in the larger format and Bird makes the most of every frame, including the ones featuring the beautiful Paula Patton in a slinky evening gown.
Despite being 49, Cruise is as youthful as ever and slips right back into the role of Ethan Hunt with his usual exuberance. But, Cruise is smart enough to know when to step aside and allow his co-stars to share the spotlight. Indeed, Ghost Protocol is more about teamwork than its predecessors. Simon Pegg is easily one of the film’s highlights with his trademark brand of comic relief. Jeremy Renner, who might be groomed to take over the franchise, is a welcome addition. While his castmates play it big, Renner underplays the role of Brandt and gives him a dry sense of humor. Also look for cameos from Tom Wilkinson as the head of IMF and Ving Rhames returning as Luther Stickell.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is the epitome of a well-made, big budget blockbuster. The law of diminishing returns is not in effect here as the fourth picture is far and away the best in the series. The extra surcharge is worth it for the IMAX version as Ghost Protocol is gorgeously shot and one of the most fun movie experiences of the year.