Film Review: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

MI4 headerBrad Bird makes his live action debut with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and the results are 2/3 of a great action movie that makes up for its minor third act missteps in the finale.

Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg are the returning team members from the third film as we quickly discover Ethan Hunt is in a Russian prison.  Benji, along with new agent Jane, complete the inevitable break out of Hunt and the team is then tasked with breaking into the Kremlin.  When Hunt and company are burned by an opposing faction in the middle of the job, the end result leads to a nuclear weapon device getting out into the open and the entire IMF being disavowed.  With a nuclear weapon out in the open the secretary of defense covertly assigns Ethan and his team the task to try and stop the perpetrators; though without any support or chance of being rescued by the agency.

Brad Bird has been a hero of animation for over the last decade and some were skeptical about his foray into the live action field.   He will put most people’s worries to rest once they see MI: GP as it is a sure handed and thrilling action movie.

Bird gets great work out of his actors, stages some thrilling set pieces, and the picture is quite nice to look at.  Bird even dives head first into the world of IMAX and shoots some stunning footage that looks incredible on the giant screen.  Bird’s action set pieces are plentiful and inventive and the only complaint I really have with his film is a misstep in the third act.

The third act has the team heading off to Mumbai and they end up at a party where Bird definitely has a couple of good ideas, but everything really falls flat.  The scene drags, the action piece with the magnet fails at being suspenseful or an affective homage to the first film, and it doesn’t have anything to do for both Ethan and Benji in the scene.  Luckily, Bird picks things up and pieces it back together for the finale, but I am not going to lie, the “emotional” ending of the movie didn’t really work for me.

Third act issues aside, there is quite a lot to like or love in MI: GP.  The Dubai sequence you keep seeing in the trailer must be seen to believe.  Cruise did a lot, to all, of the stunt work in these scenes and it is made even more impressive given the fact they shot it all with the giant IMAX camera hanging out the side of this building.  The scene is breathtaking and is one of the highlights of this year in cinema while being a testament to the power real IMAX footage can have on a film.  All of the action beats in the film are shot in IMAX and I really hope more filmmakers will embrace shooting in IMAX based on the success of this and the forthcoming The Dark Knight Rises.

Tom Cruise is right at home in Ethan Hunt’s shoes and he seems to be having as much fun as ever in Ghost Protocol.  There were talks that the series was going to maybe move the series on to a new lead with this film, but I think Cruise realized there is a lot more material to be mined for him in this series.  No matter what your opinion of JJ Abrams’ MI: 3 is (I’m a big fan), you have to agree that folding in Simon Pegg into the series was an act of brilliance.  Pegg is the best thing about this movie and provides a number of great one liners to lighten the proceedings.  Paula Patton plays the new team member, Jane, and she does a fine job in what she is given.  Her inner conflict isn’t explored quite enough and she makes the most the weak plot she was given in the Mumbai mansion, but I would like to see her again if we get another film.  Jeremy Renner is another new team member and the way they fold him in would be affective if they didn’t spoil his true nature in every TV spot/trailer.  Renner is a very likable actor and it’s nice to see him show off a bit of a softer side, even as he kicks some ass along the way.  I do wish they had executed his background story a bit better and not been so expository every time they brought his story up.  Michael Nyqvist is a mediocre villain and we don’t ever get to know him.  He doesn’t come close to matching Phillip Seymour Hoffman as best series villain, but he makes enough of an impression that we want Ethan Hunt to smash his head in by the end.  Léa Seydoux also deserves mention for being so affective with nothing more than a look or two to make you shake in your boots at her mere presence.  Oh, and I wish we had more Josh Holloway; Sawyer!

In the end, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is a pretty great live action debut for Brad Bird and a solid extension of the series.  One could argue it is the best in the series and action fans will have nothing to complain about when this movie is all said and done.  The IMAX ticket is well worth your money as the Dubai sequence alone is worth the extra coin and I promise your jaw will hit the floor over the stuff Cruise pulls off.  Cruise and Mission: Impossible fans should run out to see MI: GP in IMAX this weekend, I just hope you don’t get queasy 130 stories off the ground.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is a B+

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