Review – Mission:Impossible – Ghost Protocol

After a short pre-release on IMAX screens, “Mission:Impossible: Ghost Protocol,” the fourth installment of the Tom Cruise spy franchise, came to theaters on Wednesday boasting the near perfect Rotten Tomato score of 95%.

Other than Cruise, Simon Pegg’s recurring character Benji and a small cameo by Ving Rhames, the film introduces a variety of new characters. Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Josh Holloway and a villainous Michael Nyqvist add flavor to the entertaining franchise that never delivers two similar films.

This time out, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team are forced into guerilla spy-fare when they are blamed for the destruction of the Kremlin during a mission to acquire Russian nuclear launch codes. As a result, the IMF is disavowed and they are stripped of all support and clearence by the U.S. government.

Despite these major setbacks, a terrorist (Michael Nyqvist) bent on starting a global nuclear event must be stopped and Ethan’s team is the only force with a lead to follow.

As mentioned above, the “Mission:Impossible” franchise aims for a different vision with each film produced. This is mainly due to each film having its own director. Brian De Palma, John Woo and JJ Abrams have handled the past three installments and each brought their own vision of the TV show-inspired series.

Brad Bird (“The Incredibles”) makes his live-action directorial debut and, considering the vastness and technical intricacies of the film, knocks it out of the park. While he shouldn’t be expecting Oscar recognition any time soon, Bird has crafted a very smart, engaging film.

The plot for “Ghost Protocol” is more reactionary and situational than the average spy film. Missions from previous films have often seen the heroes racing against the clock to stop a disaster, but the added pressure of limited supplies and other special circumstances really put Hunt’s team against the wall. These on-screen setbacks are great for building suspense and improve the film over many spy thrillers.

It shouldn’t be any surprise that the film is full of impressive locations and big time stunts. The franchise is known for scenes showing Cruise jumping between rock ledges (M:I2), rapelling into impenetrable rooms (M:I and M:I3) and leaping from an exploding helicopter onto a bullet train (M:I).

This time, the thrills are delivered through Cruise running from a sandstorm and a bomb detonation, scaling a skyscraper in Dubai and other activities a civilian wouldn’t dream of doing.

On the franchise’s action scale (M:I2 being the most action heavy and the original having the least action), “Ghost Protocol” is closest to the 1996 original. The film is nowhere near boring, but audiences don’t have to put up with too many over-the-top antics.

While the film is mainly concerned with Cruise and Co., one aspect of the film that felt lacking was the villain. Nyqvist, who is probably most well-known for playing journalist Mikael Blomkvist in the Swedish “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” trilogy, is rarely seen on screen and never really gets a chance to shine. At least, not like Dougray Scott and Philip Seymour Hoffman were able to in the past two “Mission:Impossible” outings.

That being said, the film is about the heroes racing against the clock. Much like a wise saying, it is the journey that matters, not the destination (or main bad guy).

“Mission:Impossible – Ghost Protocol” is a fast-paced spy thriller lacking the usual throwaway characters and unnecessary stupidity that drag the action genre down (save for a President Bush joke near the end that misses).

Grade: A-

Good afternoon and happy viewing.

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