Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)

Director:  Brad Bird
Cast:  Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist
Plot:  The IMF is shut down when it's implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin, causing Ethan Hunt and his new team to go rogue to clear their organization's name.

Genre:  Action / Adventure / Thriller
Awards:  -
Runtime:  133min
Rating:  PG13 for sequences of intense action and violence.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is as much a comeback film for fading A-list action star Tom Cruise as it is a kick-ass debut live-action feature for director Brad Bird, who is out to prove that he is not only a wizard with animation, but also with live-action filmmaking.  

While he is not exactly in magical form here as he was when he wrote and directed The Iron Giant (1999), The Incredibles (2004), and Ratatouille (2007), Bird sure knows how to make a fine movie, especially if it is an action film.

Ghost Protocol provides Ethan Hunt (Cruise) with his most challenging mission yet.  To put it simply, Hunt literally needs to save the world from a madman who wants to see the human race evolve and grow stronger after the catastrophe of a nuclear attack.  The latter has the codes that would launch that fatal missile.  And Hunt needs to stop him.  

He is severely short of backup though because in the film’s first act, the Kremlin is blown apart, and his secret intelligence organization, the IMF, is forced to shut down, and Hunt to go rogue to clear his organization’s name.

Ghost Protocol is defined by its action sequences, of which there are plenty, and they are remarkably well-executed, though a few instances seem too unrealistic for its own good. Bird’s visual flair is obvious as the camera drives the narrative in ways never seen before in Hollywood films of late. 

The standout part is the Dubai skyscraper sequence.  Shot with IMAX cameras, we see Hunt attempt to scale Burj Khalifa from the outside from the 130th floor using only suction gloves.  That is the moment we collectively hold our breath and feel impossibly thrilled, with the build-up to the vertigo-inducing act key to wrecking our nerves.

The supporting cast of Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton provide good action support for Cruise, with Pegg providing the requisite comic relief.  However, the film’s weakest point is the lack of a convincingly sinister villain.  

The villain here is played by Michael Nyqvist, who starred opposite Noomi Rapace in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) and its sequels.  While his character is clearly out of his mind, and the stakes higher in this film, he is not as frightening as Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s scene-stealing villainous turn in Mission: Impossible III (2006).

Ghost Protocol is still a relatively strong year-end blockbuster that along with Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011), provide casual moviegoers and serious action fans with something to cheer about.  The jury is still out whether this new Mission: Impossible movie is the best of its franchise, but there is no doubt of Cruise’s ability to command the screen, and of Bird’s assured hand in direction.

Verdict:  Another decent entry to the action franchise, helmed by an acclaimed animation filmmaker making his first live-action feature.


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