“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” opens wide this Wednesday, but opened on IMAX screens across the country Friday night. Starring Tom Cruise as IMF agent Ethan Hunt, it’s the story of an espionage team who are set up as the culprits in a terrorist attack they didn’t commit, and subsequently disavowed by their agency and their government. Yet due to their proximity to the events at hand, they wind up privy to knowledge that could stop the real culprits, and prevent nuclear war.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is a hyper-charged action film with a surprising amount of humor.
“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” is the first live action movie for director Brad Bird (“Iron Giant”, “The Incredibles”, “Ratatouille”). He does a remarkable job here of coming up with a number of jaw dropping, gasp inducing action sequences, bringing them to the screen via spectacular visual effects, and then stringing them together in a well paced manner, giving the audience just enough time to catch their breath between them. The movie is 90% action, yet I wouldn’t call it overkill… it’s a kinetic film, always on the run, and even when it slows, it’s merely a little climb before the roller coaster hits another drop.
Several of the sequences are memorable. They all felt original. But the scene where Cruise scales the Burj Khalifa wearing the “blue is glue, red is dead” gloves will be the one that leaves people talking. It’s quite a feat of movie making, and I can’t wait to see a “Making of” special feature. On screen it’s a fantastic segment, using incredible visual effects to create an insane level of tension. The theatre was gasping and audibly squirming (with little nervous whimpers) as it played.
From the trailers, I had expected as much. I mean, they teased the action and the effects shots properly (although the Kremlin blowing up is a far cooler shot than the trailer hints). What I didn’t expect was how funny it would be. Certainly no one expects Simon Pegg to be on board to add dramatic heft, but the entire team gets quips and humor beats. You can tell Bird cut his chops in animated fare, where you have to be able to throw several different types of pitches (Humor, heart, action…), because here he frequently goes to the funny, and it never seems out of place. I was surprised – pleasantly surprised – at just how much humor was worked in.
There are a few things that keep me from scoring it higher, though. The big one to me, is the lack of a great villain. Listen, not ALL of the action sequences in this flick are awesome, but enough of them are that, from an action standpoint, this movie earns a place in the “Greatest Action Films of All Time” discussion. Yet I would dismiss it immediately because… the villain is barely even given any dialogue, his motivations suck, I mean… we barely ever get to know who this guy they’re up against IS. All the great action movies have great villains. Sometimes multiple great villains (take Goldfinger with Auric Godlfinger and Oddjob, or Raiders with Belloq and Toht). Even its immediate predecessor - MI:3 - had a strong, integral villain. Here, they’re accomplishing a mission, not stopping a man.
Perhaps the main thing, though, would be some of the times when it… well, I certainly wouldn’t call any of the action sequences cartoonish, but a couple of them definitely strain the limits of credulity. Also, I understand that half of the point of the technology in these things is to be super advanced and to wow the audience with super secret semi-futuristic devices which we would believe that only high-tech government agencies could possess. But there are times when some of them test your suspension of disbelief. At one point the team actually opens a portal to an alternate universe in order to escape pursuers.
Ok, no they don’t, but if they do in MI:5, it’ll be a logical progression, lets just say that.
They’re minor complaints, though. “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” is an excellent time at the theatre. This is a ride worth the price of your ticket, without a question. It starts up smoothly, shifts gears a couple of times, and before you know it you’re racing through the runtime, being awed by the action sequences and laughing intermittently. If it becomes a smash hit this holiday season and Paramount announces they’re immediately launching production on MI:5? My reaction will be, “Sweet.”