Movie Review: Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (2011)

Talk about an unexpected early Christmas present.  I have always liked the Mission: Impossible series but never considered myself a huge fan, but I must admit I enjoyed the fourth film (does that mean it’s a ‘saga’ now?), Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (let’s called it MI4), immensely.  In fact, I think it is the best film of the entire series, and by a not inconsiderable margin.  How rare is it that the fourth film of a franchise is the best of the lot?

MI4 is crazy.  No, not jumping on Oprah’s couch crazy, but crazy good.  Given that no one wants to produce Tom Cruise films any more, Mr Scientology decided to produce it himself (he has the money, so why not?), along with JJ Abrams (director of the third film) and Bryan Burk.  The director?  Brad Bird, a strange choice considering he directed only animations, such as The Incredibles, Ratatouille and the Do the Bart Man music video, but it turned out to be the right choice because he made the impossible somewhat believable  (at least while you’re in the moment anyway).  The partial use of IMAX cameras also allowed some spectacular shots in a film packed with riveting action and intrigue from start to finish.

There’s nothing particularly clever about the plot — secret missions, double crosses, an evil genius determined to destroy the world, and only Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his desperate, isolated, back-against-the-wall team can save us.  We’ve seen it all before, but as they say, it’s all in the execution.

And that’s where MI4 delivers big time.  High tension, white-knuckle action, explosive chase sequences, insane stunts, cool machines and gadgets, scaling buildings and the film’s trademark: flat-dropping down deep vents.  Yes, even within the context of the MI franchise we’ve seen a lot of these things already, but there’s always a twist that makes it fresh, and frankly, it’s simply done better than before.  You may have already seen a few of the more iconic scenes in the trailers, but if you haven’t, even better.

The cast that plays the newly assembled team is awesome.  Tom Cruise is older, wrinklier and eye-baggier, but still fit and charming enough to pull off the role of super agent Ethan Hunt.  Alan Thicke’s (the dad from Growing Pains, remember him?) daughter-in-law, Paula Patton (she married his son, musician Robin Thicke) is a sexy yet kick-ass agent, and Simon Pegg returns as the bumbling computer hacker to provide the laughs.  I was very impressed with the latest recruit, a mysterious analyst played by Jeremy Renner.  I knew he could do reckless loner (The Hurt Locker) and intense badass (The Town), but I didn’t expect him to play the role of super agent this well. No wonder Renner was selected to take over the Bourne franchise after Matt Damon’s departure.

Michael Nyqvist (the original Mikael Blomkvist from The Millennium Trilogy) is somewhat underused as the crazy baddie (though noticeably better than his performance in Abduction, also as a crazy baddie), but on the whole the cast is super.

As far as action blockbusters go, MI4 is one of the best of the year.

4.5 stars out of 5

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