Defying the Hollywood odds, the Mission: Impossible movies are actually getting better with each entry. As a fan of the previous movies, I was fully invested in Ghost Protocol by the time the opening credits and M:I theme song blasted on the screen and through the speakers.
Good news, fellow fans: The only thing missing from this latest edition of M:I is the presence of an evil Phillip Seymour Hoffman (so good in M:I 3) as the baddie. Ghost Protocol’s villain is Russian madman Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvuist), and he’s looking to get his hands on some nuclear weapons. That’s an overly cliché Macguffin to hang a plot on these days, but we care about the story because Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his group of Impossible Mission Force (IMF) operatives make us care about it. Well, that and there’s lots of impressive explosions.
Joining Cruise’s IMF force for this go around are Agent Jane Carter (Paula Patton), who recently witnessed a fellow agent die in the field; Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), the comic relief; and analyst William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), a character that turns out to be a very welcome addition to the series. Although Brandt’s background is somewhat unknown at the onset, it’s quickly becomes clear that he has too many field skills to be just an IMF office jockey. Brandt has the most depth here, which allows Renner (so good in The Hurt Locker to continue flexing his substantial acting muscles.
Upon stealing nuclear weapon launch codes (what is this, 1985?), the evil genius Hendricks sets a bomb off inside the Kremlin. The IMF gang are on a mission inside the Kremlin at the same time, and end up blamed for the attack. In response, the U.S. President enacts “ghost protocol,” which shuts down the IMF and sends the agents into hiding. Rather than run, Hunt and his team go rogue in an attempt to find Hendricks, save humanity and clear their names — in that order.
Ghost Protocol gets a whole lot more complicated, of course, with the complexity leading to some epic action sequences. Not only are these scenes fun to watch, but director Brad Bird (The Incredibles) repeatedly adds unique twists to what could have been the same old chases and kabooms. Among them, we find Hunt scaling the walls of the Dubai’s Burj Khalifa (the tallest skyscraper in the world), a fair amount of hand-to-hand combat, and a memorable chase scene through a sandstorm. (Yes, a sandstorm.) This is the fourth M:I movie, with each helmed by a different director. I don’t know if this was a thought-out strategy or not, but bringing in a new face with each installment is a winner, as each film sees the old M:I frame revitalized with fresh ideas.
I’ve always liked Tom Cruise as an actor. (His personal life is his own, as it should be.) The M:I franchise — and this installment in particular — allow him to do what he does best, which is to play the high adrenaline action hero with zero flaws and little to say. (That said, Jerry Maguire is still my favorite Cruise movie.)
One of the final scenes in Ghost Protocol serves as a roundabout way of summing up the whole series. We see the protagonists (along with a well-placed cameo by a past IMF agent) winding down together in a calm setting and sharing a few brews. The IMF force doesn’t always drink beer, but when they do, it’s Dos Equis. What could be more fitting for the most interesting men (and women) in the world?
So see it in IMAX, see it on a standard screen — it really makes little difference. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is an elite action movie that stands tall above the rest, with Cruise and Co. serving as a nice alternative to this season’s crop of emotionally draining Oscar hopefuls.