Movie review: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
There's only one person in the world who really, really enjoys the Mission Impossible franchise and that's Tom Cruise. They may well have fared particularly well at the box office, but as everyone knows, this is down to Cruise paying millions of bums and mentally confused to go and see them.
Clearly it's just a way for Cruise to play out the one role that not even he can ever have: Bond. Nathan Hunt is a sanitised version of our own 007, but without the charm or personality. He does get to shoot guns and do all his own stunts though, which is all Cruise wants. Where the average person in seek of thrills might bungee jump or roll down a hill in an inflatable ball, Cruise signs up for yet another MI film. And although Cruise will be 50 next birthday, he still manages to impress in the doing- his-own-stunts department.
You have to be pretty darn good to become an IMF (Impossible Missions Force) agent. So when an agent is killed during what should have been a relatively routine mission, alarm bells ring. To look into what went wrong, they'll need their very best: Nathan Hunt (Cruise).
There's a slight problem there however, as Hunt is not only deep under cover, but also behind bars as a prisoner in a Moscow prison. With the right team together though, nothing's impossible. So agent Jane Hunter (Paula Patton), alongside Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) – who has recently passed his exams to become a field agent in his own right – break Hunt and a Russian contact of his, out of prison.
Given the code name of 'Cobalt' to investigate, the three of them go about breaking into the Kremlin to see if they can unearth more information on this mysterious agent. When that doesn't go quite to plan, they manage to escape, but too much damage has already been done as a result of a pretty big bang.
With Russia now waving a large finger of blame at the US of A, its president has no choice but to place the IMF under a Ghost Protocol: meaning that as far as the rest of the world is concerned, the IMF are disavowed. So if they get caught from here on in, they're very much on their own.
With a new addition to the now supposedly non-existent team, analyst William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Hunt and his canny crew decide to delve further into the case, in attempt to learn who Cobalt is and what he's really up to. What they discover is some bad guys have a nuclear bomb and it's most definitely a race against time to stop them making it go boom.
This fourth film in the franchise definitely feels like it belongs to the Mission Impossible family: it's fast-paced and action-orientated to the hilt, as well as stars Tom Cruise, which always helps. But it has something in addition, something that its predecessors sadly lacked: it's actually enjoyable to watch.
Considering that Brian de Palma, John Woo and JJ Abrams have all directed previous efforts, it's kind of ironic that it's taken a director who's never directed a live-action film before to get it right. That's not to take anything away from Brad Bird; he's three previous directing efforts saw him helm The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille. But obviously it doesn't necessarily mean that a good director of animation can cut it on a live-action film. Bird however, certainly does.
Perhaps a key to its success is that it keeps the story relatively simple. A nuclear bomb is likely to be detonated and the IMF team has to stop it from happening. It's not exactly original, but it certainly works within the Mission Impossible world. This allows the director to have some fun with the huge amount of tech stuff that the characters get to play with, without getting bogged down in explaining a lot of dull science bits and how they fit in with the plot. The fact of the matter is they don't need to fit in at all, and are there for just a bit of fun.
Tom Cruise is his usual Nathan Hunt self: he is the ultimate action man – with realistic hair, eagle eyes and gripping hands – but he still has the charisma of cardboard cut-out. Thankfully Simon Pegg is given a little more rein to inject some of his humour into proceedings. Without it, the film would have been yet another piece of cinematic Ryvita.
Bird proves himself in other areas too. One of the most impressive is shying away from gimmicky 3D and preferring to go with IMAX technology. It may only be around 30 minutes of film included using it, but Bird utilises it to fantastic effect.
And then there are the set pieces. Bird has tapped into the heart of the Mission Impossible ethos and delivered the best heart-pumping scenes of the series to date. They are big, bold and impressive in every way.
Where it could have struggled was in the music department. The one thing a couple of the previous outings got right was having the classic theme tune reworked by the likes of U2 and Limp Bizkit. But Bird does it again and pulls a master stroke; he simply keeps it simple and goes old school with a brassy instrumental, keeping with the original.
The only possible downside is the appearance of Lost's Josh Holloway. It's not the fact that he's clean-shaven or has a shirt on throughout, it's that his inaugural IMF mission is all too fleeting; before you can even say 'freckles' he's gone.
Bird has truly done the impossible; he's turned around a plodding beast of a franchise and injected it with a dose of cinematic steroids, making Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, bigger, faster and more energetic than all of the other films in the series put together.
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