Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

One of the things that made the first five Mission Impossible films so great were the diversity in directors. De Palma, Woo, Abrams, Bird and McQuarrie (who continues his run with the film series from the fifth movie on) all brought their own style and vision to their films and Brad Bird did a stellar job with his entry, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. The film is wildly entertaining and is full of inventive visual storytelling – which I expected nothing less from Bird who comes from an animation background and directed two fantastic Pixar films (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) and one of my favorite animated films: The Iron Giant.

What was lost in the transition between Bird and McQuarrie is a sense of fun. Ghost Protocol is a fun and funny film to watch. There is a sly sense of humor that is laced throughout the film – while Simon Pegg is the funny man in the films, Jeremy Renner shows a great deal of comic brilliance. The next two films are slated to be written and directed by McQuarrie, which I think is fine, but I think it’s a missed opportunity for the Mission Impossible franchise.

Ghost Protocol starts off with Ethan Hunt in a Russian prison for some unsanctioned murders that get explained later in the film and then explained even more at the end of the film. The film follows Hunt, Benji and newcomers to the team, Agent Carter (Paula Patton) and analyst Brandt (Renner) as they track down a madman (Michael Nyqvist) hell bent on detonating a nuclear device. There is a revenge tale early in the film that involves Carter and an assassin Sabine Moreau (Léa Seydoux).

Each Mission Impossible film has a standout action sequence, the one in this film is the Burj Khalifa sequence that is jaw-dropping – both in the visuals of Tom Cruise hanging off the tallest building in the world and in the way that Bird and team were able to build the tension in the sequence – yet also inject humor into it at the same time. The action sequences in this film are a bit front-loaded, the best ones happening up until shortly after the Burj Khalifa. The sequence in Mumbai is a bit muddled, but still impressively creative with the carpark – which speaks highly to just how entertaining the sequences are in the film.

What I like about this film is that it’s both instantly accessible, but has enough small things scattered throughout the film to make rewatching fun also. I also like that the film is the first one that started admitting that a lot of what the IMF accomplishes is accomplished through “dumb luck” (as Brandt observes).

Tom Cruise is Ethan Hunt, there’s no way to separate him from the character anymore. Run Tom, Run. Simon Pegg gets a bit more to do this time around since he is field certified and it is great seeing him grow into his role as Benji. Paula Patton is given some stuff to do at the start of the film, but her character gets almost sidelined after the short revenge tale is wrapped up – I wish she got more to do and am sad that Agent Carter did not return to the series after this one outing. Jeremy Renner and his character William Brandt was back in the film after Ghost Protocol, but not after that because of scheduling conflicts. I think Renner and his character would make a great replacement to take over in IMF if Cruise and Hunt decided to retire. Nyqvist plays a rather generic villian in the film and his talents are squandered.

The score for the film by the ever reliable Michael Giacchino is a bit bland and forgettable.

I really enjoy this film, its timelessness shows and it has held up well over the years – it is coming on its ninth birthday. It is fun to watch and there are many laugh out loud moments in the film that provide a great sense of levity to the action. It never takes itself too seriously – unlike the McQuarrie films – so it very rewatchable.

Spoilers
While the Burj Khalifa sequence is the hero sequence of the film, there are some standout creative ones throughout the film. The opening short sequence with Agent Hanaway’s backwards leap off the building was unexpected. The fog-of-war limited visibility foot and then car chase in Dubai was fantastic. Brandt’s dive into the fan shaft was thrilling and hilarious. Hunt’s escape from the hospital was silly fun. The prison escape was a slow burn that built up quite nicely and paid off at the end. The Kremlin sequence with the water dropping and the screen was brilliantly done not just for the visuals, but also with the oppressive and tension-filled silence. The carpark fight was great if not a bit over-the-top.

Watched at home streamed on Vudu.


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