Directed By: Brad Bird
Written By: André Nemec and Josh Appelbaum
Produced By: Tom Cruise, JJ Abrams, Bryan Burk
Starring: Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton
Edited By: Paul Hirsch
Music By: Michael Giacchino
Distributed By: Paramount Pictures
Budget: $145 million
Runtime: 132 minutes
The best in the series? Arguably so, depending on what qualifications you are using. It’s certainly the most extreme, action-packed heavy-loaded installment in the series to date, which makes it incredibly fun and entertaining to watch. If you like the Mission Impossible series then you know what to expect from them, and Ghost Protocol delivers on everything to the highest level possible. If you’ve never seen an MI film, I’d say this is as good a place to start unless you are going to start with the original. The cool thing about franchises like this, though, is that order doesn’t matter. Each film is standalone which makes them individually fun while at the same time encouraging your desire for sequels.
Warning – this review contains low-level spoilers for the film.
MIGP is the fourth film in the franchise after being rebooted, so to say, by JJ Abrams with with 2006’s Mission Impossible III. I really enjoyed that film and have been anticipating this one even with various questions up in the air. Abrams wouldn’t be directing, instead they hired Brad Bird from The Incredibles. In other words, this film would be Bird’s first live-action feature film, so there was some proving to do. He doesn’t disappoint. So much so that I would consider the directing of this film to be one of its strongest assets. We’ll get to that later. The series stars Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, top agent for the Impossible Mission Force, a pseudo-government agency that does crazy things to stop nuclear wars and stuff. Basically, it’s the very definition of a high-octane action film premise.
Ghost Protocol starts with Simon Pegg (from the third film) and newcomer Paula Patton (the film’s romantic revenge subplot) breaking Cruise out of a Russian prison. Fast forward and the plot basically takes us as follows: breaking into the Kremlin, which goes wrong and results in Hunt and his team being disavowed. Off the grid, they have to stop a nuclear arms maniac from using Russian missiles to start a war, so they travel to Dubai to try to trick him, which almost works but not quite, and that takes them to Mumbai where more action packed sequences happen. Moscow to the Kremlin to Dubai to Mumbai, with each setting hosting a variety of intense action.
Some people call this formulaic, and it is, but it’s suppose to be. The movie isn’t about the plot it’s about the awesome action, and MIGP delivers on that. I will go ahead and say that the plot is not overly cheesy. Yeah, the dialogue can be a bit cliche at times, that should be no surprise, but the various stories themselves are solid enough to suit the film. There’s the A Plot of stopping a maniac from inciting nuclear war, the B Plot of having to do so off the grid while disavowed by the US government, and two C Plots of Patton’s revenge on a female villain for killing her lover along with the mystery of William Brandt (Renner) and how he connects to Hunt.
We’ll start with the ensemble because the MI films take much of their enjoyment from the great cast. Ving Rhames has a cameo at the end but otherwise is missing, which is a little sad, so that leaves new spots for Jane Carter (Patton) and Brandt. Carter is the usual female getting over her lover’s death and building self-confidence as a new agent. It works. Brandt, meanwhile, works out really well. I read rumors he was going to be some sort of relative to Hunt, and I’m glad the writers go a different way with it. His character connects to Hunt on an emotional level but also a level that doesn’t sound too cliche and “we’re introducing an upcoming action star to possibly continue the franchise.” I really liked Renner both in action scenes and quick comedic bits.
Of course, where it concerns comedy, SImon Pegg is there all the way. His character serves as the comedic relief, and it works. He’s great, serving a much larger role in screen time than the third film (which was Pegg’s first). Despite Hot Fuzz, Pegg isn’t an action star, but he is a great comedian and it works really well to play off of the adrenaline pumping stunts being performed. Speaking of said stunts, Cruise is as daring as ever. This dude…he’s not young or really built, but he’s daring. Beyond the Dubai tower sequence, which is awesome, there’s also an extended car chase during a sandstorm, the prison breakout, along with a final battle that takes place in a Mumbai car port and involves jumping level to level between cars. It’s a ton of jumping that no doubt left more bruises then one could count. That’s always been one of the selling points of the franchise, though. There’s plenty of CG in MIGP, but all of the stunts look real, particularly in IMAX, because they are real.
A quick note on the score. Michael Giacchino is a fantastic composer and well deserving of his Oscar for Up, but I’ve got to toss it out there that everything he does sounds like Lost music. Maybe it’s a certain type of style topic that I just have to get use to, but I think I hear his “someone is dying” theme in every movie he scores. It’s not a bad thing, and MIGP is in no ways built around the score so its hardly distracting. It’s just something I notice every time I see his name pop up. Speaking of, MIGP did a strange thing with the main titles where, it’s an extended main title sequence, but it actually runs through literally the entire plot during the ninety or whatever sequences. It’s visually stylized, so you just see frozen images, but I still thought it was interesting how the titles were basically telling us the entire movie from the start. Just goes to show how these films are not about what happens but how awesome it is while happening (hint: it’s very awesome).
This brings us to Brad Bird. He impressed. It’s hard to judge direction because it pretty much encompasses everything, as oppose to judging the visual effects or the music or the acting, but watching MIGP you just get a sense of it being well managed. The action sequences are shot really well, keeping the pace fast but also giving you a great vantage point on everything. This is part the cinematographer but largely Brad Bird. The overall rhythm of the film is pitch perfect, notably in the film’s climax when there’s the inevitable race the clock to prevent nuclear war. Bird pushes you to the edge of your seat until literally the very last millisecond, and it pays off. There are clear differences between directing animation and live-action, but Bird has shown me, at least, that he knows how to do both. I look forward to what he does next.
I like the Mission Impossible series, so this film was extremely enjoyable. I highly encourage fans to see it in IMAX. The writing is good enough, the acting does its job, the direction is superb, and the stunts are incredible. It’s one of those rare films I found myself really being pulled into the excitement of it all, sitting on the edge of my seat or flinching when Cruise took a major body blow (of which there are many). I consider that sort of achievement to be a compliment to the production crew. All in all, MIGP is a great film that’s fun for the holidays, not to mention re-watching on Blu-Ray. This franchise is growing older, much like its main star, but it doesn’t show any signs of running dry.