Choose to accept – Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol review

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol – Starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg. Directed by Brad Bird. Rated M. By Simon Miraudo.

The Mission: Impossible franchise is one of the most uneven in cinematic history, with the quality wildly fluctuating from one instalment to the next. The Brian De Palma-directed opener was promising, if deeply flawed, and it was followed by John Woo‘s disastrous M:I2. It took J.J. Abrams to inject some fun and personality into the franchise, but even his Mission: Impossible 3 is merely solid. Animation hero Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) has been recruited to helm the fourth entry, Ghost Protocol, and he delivers the first really good flick of the saga. Not great. Still, it’s really good.

When we first reunite with superspy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), he’s holed up in a Moscow prison. His colleagues Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Jane Carter (Paula Patton) come to the rescue, breaking him out in spectacular – and, as per IMF regulations, highly complicated – fashion. Their first mission as a team, having chosen to accept it, is to break into the Kremlin and recover some highly classified documents. Unluckily for them – though not coincidentally – the Kremlin is bombed by terrorists at the very same time, and the Russian fingers of blame are pointed squarely at the trio. The American government has no choice but to initiate ‘Ghost Protocol’ (hey, that’s the title!), meaning the entire Impossible Missions Force is officially disowned by the United States, yet Ethan, Benji and Jane remain secretly tasked with finding the responsible parties. Along the way they pick up a mysterious IMF analyst named Brandt (Jeremy Renner), and uncover a plot that could bring about a worldwide nuclear winter.

So, all pretty standard as far as Mission: Impossible movies go. However, Bird and screenwriters Andre Nemec and Josh Applebaum add some subtle twists to the previously established conventions, and make a world of difference in the process. Most notably: the team dynamic here is richer than it’s ever been. Benji, Jane and Brandt feel like valuable associates instead of Ethan Hunt’s personal accessories, and they make a foursome that I’d like to spend time with in future sequels. It helps that Pegg, Patton and Renner are such wonderful screen presences (and, although I’m in the minority these days, I still find Cruise a particularly charming and compelling performer). There is also a sense of humour and self-awareness that was sorely absent from the earlier pictures; though it occasionally feels like run-off from Bird’s ingenious superhero satire The Incredibles, it’s hard to deny that a little bit of Pixar goes a long way.

Bird proves himself rather adept at directing action sequences in his first live-action foray. There’s a spectacular foot-chase through a sandstorm that is more coherent than any non-sand-blown sequence in Transformers 1-3. The final showdown at a futuristic parking garage is surprisingly brutal (Cruise’s face is shattered on numerous occasions throughout the flick, which should please detractors, as well as fans of Vanilla Sky), and it also has shades of another Pixar film, Monster’s Inc. (you’ll get it when you see it). The pièce de résistance, however, is the moment in which Cruise, and the camera, climbs the 160-storey-high Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Hunt’s reasons for having to break through the window and stalk the outside of the world’s tallest building are fairly contrived – the script often has to work hard to squeeze in action set-pieces – but the execution is electrifying. It’s the best moment of the picture, and perhaps the entire series. Hopefully, any further M:I instalments use Ghost Protocol as a template, and not the one with all the doves.


Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol arrives in Australian cinemas December 15, 2011. 

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