Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (DVD/Blu-Ray) – Dir. Brad Bird. Starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg.
The fourth entry in an obnoxious spy series turns out to be something close to the perfect action film.
This unlikely turnaround is made possible by a very unlikely director: Brad Bird, the man behind animated masterpieces The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille, in his first attempt at live action.
This time, IMF spy guy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has to go rogue (as heroes usually do by this point in a series’ run) to complete his mission, which involves preventing the end of the world (again, as it usually does by the fourth movie). The villain (Michael Nyqvist) doesn’t have particularly strong motivations for ending it all — basically he thinks it would be a fun experiment, like dropping mentos into a coke bottle — but that hardly matters. He succeeds at being an object for Tom Cruise to punch in the face, and to punch Tom Cruise in the face in return.
Stepping into the spotlight in the meantime is a new character played by Jeremy Renner, who is obviously being groomed to take over from Tom Cruise as the lead of the series. The hobbit-like actor never quite sells himself as a credible replacement for Cruise, mostly because he isn’t given much of an opportunity. His character cracks some jokes and dives into danger a few times, but in general he’s just kind of there.
But the M:I films have never been about strong characters, or snappy dialogue, or plots that make any particular amount of sense. They’re about moving toy spies around in a danger-packed playground of the imagination.
And Ghost Protocol does that brilliantly. The movie is punctuated from beginning to end with awe-inspiring action/stealth set pieces that rival the best of any other genre contender. They are beautifully choreographed, consistently clever, and easy to follow. They unfold with storybook logic.
And yet for all its explosive glory, the fourth film tones down some of the excesses of the series’ past iterations under JJ Abrams and John Woo for a more straightforward story and a more visceral, up-close, somewhat-less-absurd style of action. The film constantly challenges the clichés of the genre. Most of Ghost Protocol is about things going wrong; Tom Cruise spends less time executing perfect mid-air motorcycle stunts and more time smashing his head into window frames and breaking his limbs. Fantastic.
There is still a strong focus on gadgets, but Brad Bird shows an almost maniacal delight in watching technology fail. It’s clear that considerable thought went into determining how these futuristic devices would actually work, and, more entertainingly, how they would stop working.
Purists will also appreciate the film’s return to some of the hallmarks of the original TV show, from self-destructing messages to silly rubber masks.
Anyone with the slightest interest in exploding palaces, jumping off skyscrapers, or seeing Tom Cruise injure himself should not miss this one.
Rated PG-13 for g-g-g-ghosts.
4.5 out of 5