Film review: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
2011
Paramount Pictures, Skydance Pictures, TC Productions, Bad Robot, FilmWorks, Stillking Films

STARRING Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michel Nyqvist, Vladimir Mashkov, Josh Holloway, Anil Kapoor, Lea Seydoux
WRITTEN BY Josh Appelbaum, Andre Neméc, based on the television series created by Bruce Geller
PRODUCED BY Tom Cruise, J. J. Abrams, Bryan Burk
DIRECTED BY Brad Bird

SHOT BY Robert Elswit
EDITED BY Paul Hirsch
MUSIC BY Michael Giacchino
DISTRIBUTED BY Paramount Pictures

Screened 2011-12-13

Now who could’ve foreseen that this film would be more than a wildly expensive pile of feces? Brad Bird directed, for some reason, but thank heaven. You may recall Bird from animated films The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, and damned if he wasn’t able to inject his notorious and popular specialties into this action franchise: humanity and fun, which I don’t know if this franchise has ever had – fun, that is, which isn’t simply the equivalent of admiring one’s own body in a mirror. A breakneck pace of smug cliché and blasé superhuman combat has been supplemented with characters we’d not only like to look at, but would like to spend time with; characters who show fondness for one another and who express understandable bafflement and shock when faced with the “impossible” missions they take on – instead of writing off all danger with ironic asides such as “Well, this will be fun.” Although I will say that Mr. Hunt does take an obscene amount of physical damage and only seems to feel the burden of these wounds in the final moments before the finale – who would’ve suspected?

We start off with warm action film memories: the Russians and nuclear weapons. Special Agent Tom Cruise (played by anyman Ethan Hunt) finds himself at the center of a plot designed to frame his IMF agency (please don’t forget this G.I.-Joe-like moniker stands for “Impossible Missions Force”) for an attack on the Krelim, which looks just awesome. Using whatever IMF team he can slap together from the nearest agents (don’t worry, they’re all the best), the disavowed rōnin sets out to stop the new digital Professor Moriarty, a brilliant Endgame-obsessed Russian bent on starting nuclear war for the cleansing of the human race. This is all fine – though for a man so dogmatic, I would’ve liked to see more cult-like lunacy and less allegiance to Brooks Brothers. Cruise/Hunt’s crew consists of Simon Pegg, replacing the big, not-that-funny hacker with a wiry, witty British one, which seems like a no-brainer; yet another example of exotic perfection, Paula Patton, who does fine work that excels the limitations of her figure; and the very welcome Jeremy Renner, an IMF analyst out of water. Renner does really excellent work, is maybe the film’s most watchable element, and clearly belongs at the tier to which he’s ascended. The team’s quest for Carmen Sandiego this time sweeps them away to Moscow, Dubai and Mumbai – Moscow because Russians can be scary, Dubai because it is home to the world’s tallest building and a venue for a cool plot device, and Mumbai because… because I guess it was next in the action-film-locale rotation and because audiences need reminders of a) the allure of Indian woman and fashion, b) the presence of film in India, c) the presence of extraordinary wealth in India. Or maybe just that India exists. The team bounces about between expensive setpieces and utilizes its characteristic super duper ooper hi-tech espionage gear – which includes a surprising amount of iPhones and iPads (1996’s M:I film did highlight Apple computers, if the sensitive viewer recalls).

Those who cannot hear “Tom Cruise” without beginning his/her next sentence with “omg” may want to steer clear, but those of us with a more nuanced understanding of celebrity will have no problem lining up for a enjoyable popcorn film that never suffers from that insufferable sense of self-satisfaction which plagues all action films, many American films, and each of Jason Reitman’s maladapted cosmo brood. Oh, and that “scaling the building” stuff you’ve seen in the media? Yes, it’s that cool. See it on the big screen while you have the chance, because this won’t be half as much fun on your television. Yes. Lea Seydoux is the most alluring assassin who’s ever lived, and the Dubai shit is just great. After the film’s momentum-generating first half, however, things do slide. Still worthwhile, but alas, if only.

written by David Ashley

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