Tom Cruise hasn’t had a great run recently. Mission: Impossible II in 2006 was his last bona fide hit, so it’s not surprising that he was keen to return to the franchise in the hope of keeping his star shining. What’s perhaps more surprising is that it works, as this well be the best Mission yet.
Ethan Hunt is called up for a new job – breaking into the heavily fortified Kremlin in order to retrieve some information. However after having failed to get what he went in there for, the building is destroyed in a devastating explosion. The agent quickly realises that he’s been set-up so that someone else could steal sensitive info from the Russians, destroy the building and then having everything blamed on Hunt and his team. The frame job has worked though, as the IMF is being shut down and Hunt and his crew disavowed.
Ethan realises his only hope is to find the man responsible for the Kremlin attack. He calls on team member Jane (Paula Patton), Benji (Simon Pegg) and the somewhat mysterious and reluctant Brandt (Renner), to help him find out what’s going on. Their quest takes them across the world, most notably to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, slowly uncovering a plan that will result in a devastating nuclear attack on US soil unless Ethan and his rogue team can stop it!
Although having The Incredibles and Ratatouille director Brad Bird making his live-action debut on such a high profile project was a bit of a risk, he pulls it off magnificently. Bird seems to have studied the action cinema of the late 80s and early 90s, when filmmakers had a knack of creating movies that move along at a relentless pace, so that even though there’s a faint sense that it’s all rather over the top and silly, it pulls you in with its constant kinetic energy and keeps hold of you until the satisfying if slightly cheesy conclusion. Although they’re very different films, the early sections of Ghost Protocol brought to mind the efficiency and drive of Terminator 2.
With some ace setpieces, there’s certainly no lack of action. The swooping, vertiginous camera shots as the Cruiser climbs the outside of the Burj Khalifa are wonderfully done, and you can certain see why so much of the marketing concentrated on this section of the film. To be honest the now 49-year-old Cruise is starting to look slightly oddly shaped and he still looks daft running, but it’s a role he could do in his sleep and which he knows how to hit out of the park.
While there was much talk before the film’s release about Jeremy Renner coming in as a character who’s essentially the co-lead in the movie, that’s not quite how it turned out. Renner’s Brandt is still second fiddle to Ethan Hunt, although there are plenty of hints that if Cruise decides to step away from the franchise, Renner could take over, even to the point of getting the character to mimic some of Hunt’s signature moments from earlier movies. It’s rather like in The Avengers though, where Renner isn’t the lead but creates a character you’d like to see more of.
Simon Pegg is once more the comic relief and does that with aplomb, while Paula Patton is okay in a slightly underwritten role that mainly calls on her to be sexy and suggest she’s baddass while not having to do much to prove it.
Although there was talk of this being Cruise’s swansong as Ethan Hunt, with Ghost Protocol becoming his highest grossing movie ever, it’s little surprise there’s already talk of him coming back for another go round, although we’ll have to wait and see if Renner comes along for the ride too.
The DVD release includes a couple of featurettes, one of which concentrates on the very cleverly constructed Dubai sandstorm sequence, while the other is about the film’s props. They’re both surprisingly interesting, with the latter in particular intriguing for showing how many of the stunts on the Burj Khalifa Cruise performed himself and which weren’t green screened.
Overall Verdict: Mission: Impossible is such a generic franchise that by the normal rules of Hollywood it should be on its last legs by now. But with great talent behind the camera, along with a good cast and Cruise’s goofy charm, Ghost Protocol is great fun and filled with great action sequences.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac