The Mission: Impossible franchise is a rare beast – unlike most franchises which fade in quality and popularity with the release of each subsequent installment, these movies (with the exception of M: I-2) just keep getting better, faster, stronger and hell, just more fun. And the captivating Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol which opens on IMAX screens this weekend, might be the most exhilarating film of the bunch. It may not have the best villain (Mission: Impossible 3 has that covered) nor the most interesting plot (that would be the first film) but for sheer high-octane thrills, entertainment value and adrenaline pumping action, this movie takes the cake.
Like its predecessor, the J.J. Abrams-directed Mission: Impossible III, Ghost Protocol – which marks the live-action debut of multi-Oscar-winning filmmaker Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) –plays to the team-driven dynamic that made the original TV series a timeless classic. Of course, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is still the star of the picture but his team this time around: enigmatic research analyst William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), field operative Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and tech expert Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), are all given interesting character arcs that gel remarkably well with the film’s plot.
Speaking of plot, it isn’t anything to write home about but neither is it something that’ll make your brain bleed (you know like the Transformers movies). Opening with an absurd prison escape in Russia which preludes a nifty credits sequence that pays homage to the first film/TV series, Ghost Protocol finds Ethan and team going rogue after an aborted mission sees them being blamed for an unmitigated attack on the Kremlin. Suspecting the bombings to be the work of a Russian Nuclear scientist/certified nutjob named Kurt Hendricks (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo star Michael Nyqvist), the team head out to apprehend Hendricks before he completes a high stakes transaction with a dangerous assassin (Léa Seydoux) in Dubai.
As it turns out, this development is merely a plot device to setup the most breathtaking sequence of the film (and arguably the entire series): Cruise scaling the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building – from outside the 115th floor – with only a pair of faulty adhesive gloves to keep him from falling to his death! If you think that sounds terrifying, wait until you see it! Each Mission: Impossible film has had one major set piece showcasing Cruise breaking into some ultra high-security vault. The first film had the famous silent CIA break-in; the second had Cruise diving into a high-tech lab; and the third featured him swinging from multiple skyscrapers. As great as they were, the first one in particular, this one considerably raises the stakes (literally) to the tallest building in the world! The way director Brad Bird meshes tension and electrifying thrills during this vertigo-inducing IMAX-shot sequence is testament that this guy is headed for a long and bountiful career in live-action. He even induces laughs from the audience during this scene via some hilarious visual gags.
But that’s not all because as soon as this sequence ends, he throws us into another elaborately choreographed set piece – this time, it’s a chase scene in the middle of a sandstorm! And then another, and another. Talk about setting standards. I knew what Bird was capable of with his work on The Incredibles, The Iron Giant and Ratatouille but making such a successful transition to live action is a feat in itself. I can’t wait to see what he has in store next!
It’s no secret that Cruise, who has lovingly groomed this series from the start, does his own stunts. But even with that in mind, what he does here will impress even the most daring of stuntmen. Call him crazy or whatever you will but the man’s got brass balls. Mission: Impossible may not be an actors’ showcase but this is another terrific star-turn for Cruise – who once again makes a convincing argument why he’s one of the last real superstars in the world. Since this is a team effort, it’s appropriate to highlight the work of the supporting cast. Renner, who is destined for superstardom is very good in a complex role while Patton plays up the emotional end of the story very well. Pegg on the other hand deftly gives the film a lift with his superb comedic chops – something that the series sorely needed.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is an exhilarating action film that represents the zenith of Hollywood pop filmmaking. All credit goes out to director Brad Bird who in his first live-action outing displays an alarming flair for balancing visceral thrills and suspense. With wall-to-wall great action, a tight-knit plot, fantastic chemistry between the talent cast, and some great comedic bits, this is one mission well worth taking, clichés be damned.