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World of KJ" said:Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)
It has been 15 years now that the first big screen adaptation of Mission: Impossible hit the theatres. The Brian De Palma film was greeted with mostly mixed reviews which applauded the film’s style and its star, Tom Cruise, but lamented the overly convoluted plot. Nevertheless, the film became a huge success and four years later John Woo brought another Mission: Impossible film to life which dismissed the thriller and conspiracy aspects of the first film and replaced them with an action spectacle just as one would expect of Woo. Once again, the reviewers were less than kind to the film, this time taking issue with the truly generic plot and gaping holes in logic. Yet the film became a huge success once again and still stands as the series’ highest grosser. It took another six years for Mission: Impossible to return to theatres as JJ Abrams crossed over from TV (where he has created hit shows like Alias and Lost) to movies and made Mission: Impossible 3 his first feature film. The fast-paced actioner which returned to the TV show’s roots by emphasizing the team efforts of the IMF instead of being a Cruise one-man-show garnered the series’ best reviews. Unfortunately it also became a financial disappointment in its domestic run, making significantly less than both of its predecessors. The film’s underperformance which was partly attributed to Cruise’s real life antics even led to a breakup between Paramount and Tom Cruise’s Cruise/Wagner production company after a 14 year business relationship. Many thought this to be the end of the successful franchise
Now, five years later, we’re just a week away from the release of the newest entry in the spy action series. Successful cash cows don’t die in Hollywood and one disappointment is certainly not enough to prevent the studios from trying again. Good critical reception and solid overseas numbers for the last film certainly facilitated the new one coming to fruition. Cruise wasn’t ready to give up on his “baby”. Besides, after recent box-office disappointments like Knight and Day or Lions for Lambs he really needed another sure-fire hit. He hasn’t had a $100+ million grosser since the release of Mission: Impossible III. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is certain to change that. Aside from being a sure way to grab a lot of cash, it is also a damn good movie too!
Unlike with the previous Mission: Impossible films, this one doesn’t come along with an entirely new cast and crew. JJ Abrams didn’t return as the director, but he stayed on board as a producer and his influence is still felt in the film. Prime examples of that are the strong female character of Jane Carter as played by Paula Patton and the villainous Moreau, portrayed by Léa Seydoux – the franchise’s first major female antagonist. Moreover, while M:I-regular Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) is reduced to a tiny cameo in this film, Simon Pegg’s Benji returns from Mission: Impossible III in a role that essentially fills Rhames’. His screen time has been vastly expanded from the third film too. On top of that, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is the first Mission: Impossible film not to completely ignore the previous film’s plot, but actually brings in some continuity in the proceedings, such as explaining the absence of Ethan Hunt’s wife, Julia, in the fourth movie.
After a cold opening showing an IMF mission gone wrong in Budapest, new film kicks off with a spectacular breakout from a Russian prison as orchestrated by the IMF agents Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg). The person they are breaking out – Ethan Hunt. Shortly after the successful escape, the team receives a new mission – to retrieve an important file on a potential nuclear terrorist. The catch – those files are located in the heart of the Kremlin. But the mission isn’t called “impossible” for nothing, is it? Even though Hunt manages to infiltrate the Kremlin, the whole operation turns out to be a set-up leading to a giant explosion demolishing the Kremlin and the blame being put on the operating IMF team. That leads the US president to initiating Ghost Protocol – disavowing the entire IMF and branding the team in Moscow as terrorists. Just after the Secretary of the IMF (Tom Wilkinson) and his chief analyst Brandt (Jeremy Renner) deliver this message to Hunt (who managed to escape the Russian custody), the three are attacked by Russian forces. Realizing that there’s more behind the whole thing and that a Swedish madman scientist/ex-special forces member Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist in his second villainous role this year after the one in Abduction) is about to get his hands on the launch codes for Russian nuclear missiles Hunt, Carter, Dunn and Brandt become the world’s last stand between the terrorist and a nuclear war. Their hunt after Hendricks leads them first to Dubai and then, for the film’s spectacular finale, to Mumbai.
The greatest trick the fourth Mission: Impossible film somehow manages is to feel fresh. Don’t expect to see a lot of originality here or anything resembling any realism or inherent logic. The film embraces its over-the-top silliness and plays with it well. Despite that, however, it still feels like a fresh start and a way to possibly establish a consistent Mission: Impossible franchise in which, unlike in most Bond films, the previous adventures aren’t completely ignored and the cast and crew aren’t always completely replaced. Mission: Impossible III has already managed to stress the team efforts on a mission, even though it still put Ethan Hunt very much in the spotlight. Ghost Protocol takes this even a little further by giving all tram members significant portions of each operation to accomplish and gives them all their own action scenes too. For the first time, all the IMF accomplishments truly feel like a team effort. Cruise is still the clear leading man here and he is, as usual, perfect in the role of Hunt. He handles the action scenes terrifically well (you can see that he did most of his stunts himself) and is still effortlessly cool (again sporting a longer haircut as he did in M:I-2).
The rest of the cast is definitely worth mentioning too. Paula Patton essentially took over Maggie Q’s role from the third film, but added more emotional layers and substance to it. She is great in action sequences as well as in the film’s (few) quieter moments. Simon Pegg works very well as Benji and helps to make this the franchise’s funniest entry by a mile. But it’s Jeremy Renner as Brandt who really makes an impression here. Brought to the movie as a potential replacement for Cruise in the future instalments he handles the role splendidly. A great presence in the action scenes (though you can see his lack of experience as compared to Cruise’s Hunt), Renner also displays more layers than you’d expect of a character like this. Moreover, his interactions with Pegg are quite funny too. But more important than these actors’ individual efforts is the fact that the four just work exceptionally well as a team.
As for the rest of the cast, Nyqvist does his job just fine, even though he’s character is pretty much a generic madman. That’s also a diversion from the usual formula. In the past movies the villains were usually after something specific, be it money or some secret weapon. This time around, the IMF is simply dealing with an insane fanatic who thinks that a nuclear war is just the thing that our planet earth needs to start anew. As mentioned above, Léa Seydoux stone-cold angel-faced assassin also makes an impression, while the appearances by Josh Holloway and Anil Kapoor are nothing more than glorified cameos, though the latter’s character is quite amusing.
With Brad Bird the most unusual director to date has been chosen for a Mission: Impossible movie. Brad who has directed critical hits Ratatouille, The Incredibles and The Iron Giant hasn’t made a single live action movie before. Turns out he was just the perfect choice as he can direct action better than most experienced action directors nowadays. Michael Bay really should take a look at this before making his next movie. Bird brings his sensibility for characters and situational humor to this movie while never forgetting what this franchise is about: elaborate action sequences (usually involving scary heights), fast cars and crazy gadgets. All of these and more are present. Bird has delivered the distinctly best action movie of the year with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Starting with the film’s opening scene in Budapest, this globe-trotting adventure never slows down, delivering several huge action set pieces. The Dubai sandstorm chase and the final showdown in Mumbai being the major standouts, the film is just filled with imaginative non-stop action that delivers all the thrills one would hope to see in a film like this. Unlike a movie like Quantum of Solace, Ghost Protocol actually manages to make its action very engaging, always keeping the viewer on the edge of the seat, even though they know that the good guys will win and the bad guys will be defeated. That’s truly successful filmmaking.
Of course it is possible to complain about issues with logic, apparent immortality and invulnerability of some main characters or the ridiculous gadgets. But frankly, a movie that barely gives you a moment to catch your breath (and that despite a 2+ hours running time) and has your eyes glued to the screen doesn’t give you much of an opportunity to think about its flaws. It’s a high octane thrill ride that is the definition of a great summer popcorn movie – except that it is not released in the summer.
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