Review: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol


Brad Bird
Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec
133 min.
Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist, Vladimir Mashkov, Samuli Edelmann, Ivan Shvedoff, Anil Kapoor, Léa Seydoux, Josh Holloway
MPAA Rating
PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence

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Most franchises fade with successive productions. Attempting to invigorate a flagging fanbase often leads to bloat, excess and familiarity breeding contempt. The Mission: Impossible film franchise had suffered similar troubles with the third film in the franchise disappointing most fans. So what you might have expected from this fourth film, Ghost Protocol is more of the same, yet director Brad Bird has managed to reinvigorate the spy franchise giving it a new lease on continued success.

The story finds our superspy hero Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) attempting to uncover the rogue agents that have targeted him and his team for elimination by planting evidence linking them to a high profile attack on the Kremlin. Paul Patton takes on the role of Jane Carter, a trusted associate and femme fatale; Simon Pegg plays Benji Dunn, our haphazard electronics wizard who’s never seen combat action before; and Jeremy Renner steps in as William Brandt, a pencil pusher caught in the crossfire who has secrets of his own.

Cruise plays Hunt like we’ve always seen him, a capable actor who isn’t stretching his acting muscles but delivering a competent performance. Patton and Pegg play to type well, but Renner does something rather spectacular. He creates a multi-layered character whose motives and capabilities are carefully hidden and slowly unveiled to the audience and his associates. Renner is no stranger to unique, daring performances having taken on the part of Dahmer in one of his earliest screen successes. He’s been popping up so frequently, it might be easy to categories him as a one-note performer and there is plenty of evidence to suggest this, but even when he’s playing to type, he’s an affable and friendly presence that the audience implicitly trusts even if we’re not supposed to.

Bird’s prior forays into filmmaking were as the talented virtuoso behind the celebrated animated works The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille, the latter two for animation powerhouse Pixar. His strengths lie in the ability to deliver stories that are complex and thought-provoking while drawing out human emotion where it might seem ill-fitting. With Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Bird makes his live action film debut with a style and control. Although he doesn’t have as much emotional weight to handle, the few moments that carry any impact are handled well. His strength in this film is more in his ability to stage exciting action set pieces and events while never pandering to the audience.

In the best example the film has of such artistry, Hunt and company must arrange a delivery of fake nuclear launch codes to an interested third party. To get all of the access he needs, Ethan must scale the outside of the Burj Dubai, the grandiose office building located in the heart of Dubai, a luxury city in the haert of the Middle East. As he’s climbing the edifice with experimental suction gloves, a raging dust story slowly bears down on the tower. Will he make it inside before being whipped by the gritty wall of sand and dirt? This entire scene plays out masterfully, hooking the audience quickly and not letting go for longer than many such action pieces can without seeming tedious. This is entirely due to Bird’s seemingly effortless control of framing, pace and tone.

The film itself is a departure from the prior entry in the series, which really tried to be more than it could possibly be: a hulking mess of a film that felt clunky from open to close. Ghost Protocol tightens everything back up and manages to surpass John Woo’s Mission: Impossible 2 as my favorite in the franchise. The Mission: Impossible franchise now sits comfortably between the glossy James Bond franchise and the gritty Jason Bourne series. Although Bond has been forging ahead with its tilt towards realism, the Cruise franchise remains an ideal placement between the 1980’s bastion and the new modern era of the Bourne series.

There are many spy thrillers these days and many are trying to redefine the genre for a new generation of moviegoers who expect unrelenting action features in lieu of garish spectacles. Mission: Impossible sticks close to its tradition without pandering to the new audience, giving them plenty of action and excitement. This is a series that isn’t quite lifeless yet and if they can pull Bird back in for the inevitable sequel, we might just be looking a continued level of quality that this franchise needs in order to stay relevant.
Review Written
August 27, 2012


Add a Comment
  1. Liam Watts on Facebook

    I agree, which is why I used the most versitile, likable, talented “action hero” in action films, Damon, as comparison. 🙂 Again, to belabour the point: Damon: Brilliant actor! Cruise: Brilliant action actor!

  2. I’d take Matt Damon over anyone in the Expendables film any day…especially Jason Statham…hate him.

  3. Liam Watts on Facebook

    LOL no, not sarcasm! No no, I love Matt Damon in general!! He’s a favorite actor of mine. But most action films, and I include the Bourne films, the action hero is, eh, kinda robotic and uninteresting. And I used Damon and Bourne as counterpoint because he’s the least action hero-y of all (compared to Statham, and…well, everyone in the “Expendable” films), and even he isn’t good, in the Bourne films, at showing internal conflict as well as Cruise does. IMO.

  4. Part of that reads a bit sarcastically…at least the comparison between Cruise and Damon. Most people consider the two the opposite way as you mentioned in terms of acting.

  5. Liam Watts on Facebook

    I very much dislike Cruise as a person, but there’s no doubt he’s a damn fine actor! He truly makes you believe his character and everything he does. In “Ghost Protocol,” it really shows *SPOILER!!* when he’s about to drive the car down to the bottom of the car garage, and the intense fear and trepidation on his face was completely sincere. A. great acting, B. great action film to show the hero express such fear and vulnerability instead of robotic Action Face. Like love Matt Damon, but even he didn’t show such range as Bourne.
    And as for the direction: Bird was able to create a thrilling, truly edge-of-seat action film that made you really concerned about the outcomes of each encounter–and all without the use of the dreaded and hateful shakey-cam! Brilliant.

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