In the opening minutes of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, there is a scene involving Russian prison chaos set to the song Ain't that a Kick in the Head by Dean Martin. It was at that moment I knew we were in for something different. That being said, I suspected as much for a long time because the director of this fourth instalment of the blockbuster franchise is none other than Brad Bird. Not that much of a household name (yet), Bird previously directed Pixar films like Ratatouille and The Incredibles, with this being his live action debut. And what a debut it is. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is a rip-roaring action blockbuster with all the right ingredients: brisk pacing, vertigo-inducing stunts, jaw-dropping action sequences, well-timed comic relief and perhaps most importantly, a decent plot. Hit the jump for my review.
The film kicks off in Russian prison. A prisoner is lying on his cell bunk, repeatedly bouncing and catching a stone off two of the cell walls. He does it so effortlessly and with such expertise, that he must either have mad skills, or he has been in the prison for a long time; or both. It's not long before we realise that the prisoner in question is none other than IMF Agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise). Needless to say, Hunt escapes with a little help from his friends, and what follows is a crazy action packed journey that takes him and his team all over the world: beginning at the Kremlin, stopping over in Dubai and ending in India. The reason for their journey? Well, the world is at the mercy of a deranged but brilliant terrorist (codename Cobalt), and the threat of nuclear war hasn't been this grave since the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Mission (should they choose to accept it) is simple: Intercept Cobalt and avert nuclear war. The catch? Cobalt, with his IQ of 190, orchestrates a massive disaster in Russia that is blamed on the USA via Hunt and his men, leading to the initiation of "Ghost Protocol", the disavowing of the IMF and leaving Hunt and his team with no plan, no backup and no choice.
Tom Cruise of course returns as Ethan Hunt, but this time he is joined by a few new team members. There's the eye candy provided by Jane Carter (Paula Patton, who I last saw in Precious), the comic relief in the form of recently promoted Benji played again by Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) and the "analyst" Brandt, played by newly risen action star Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, The Town). The villain is Michael Nyqvist (As it is in Heaven, the Swedish Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy), and I'm delighted someone finally saw the light and cast him as a villain - he is way too creepy looking to play the good guy all the time. All in all, the entire cast was at the top of its game, and did a terrific job in bringing this film to life.
Any action movie, especially a Mission: Impossible franchisee, would amount to nothing if there weren't decent action set pieces. Well, this is where Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol rises above any action film I have ever seen. Yes, there were the requisite explosions, fights, riots, crashes, car chases and of course, gadgetry you will only see in a Mission: Impossible movie. However, Brad Bird delivered something extra in each instance: anything from Swing music to dust storms, rotating parking lots and the tallest building on earth was used to spice things up. I should also mention that, for once, the gadgetry was terrific and used effectively throughout the film, whether as the main feature in a scene or barely noticeable in the background.
Apart from all that though, most of the praise must go to Tom Cruise. Think of him what you want, but the man is a movie star in the truest sense of the word. His performance was brimming with intensity, and his stunts nothing short of death defying. It is well known that Tom Cruise does his own stunts, and this film has attracted a lot of attention over the last few months due to filming at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and, specifically, Tom Cruise swinging from the building like the mad man he is. Well, no matter how much you think you have seen, that particular sequence will blow your mind. I will see the movie again just for that sequence alone. Okay, maybe it could be attributed to my fear of heights, but by the gasps in the theatre last night, it would not be unreasonable to conclude that everyone was in awe.
With a decent story, an excellent cast and bone crunching action, we almost have all the ingredients to the perfect action film. There is, however, one last mention in order, and that is the score composed by Michael Giacchino. Of course the original Mission Impossible theme by Lalo Schifrin is the basis, but Giacchino, who won an Oscar for the Up score and is fast becoming the next Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore or John Williams (take your pick), added some terrific new music. What I liked most is the fact that global each setting, whether it was Russia, Dubai or India, saw the theme change drastically in order to suit the location. The result? One of the best scores of 2011.
I was a fan of Brian de Palma's first Mission: Impossible almost entirely because of the iconic scene in the vault with Tom Cruise and Jean Reno (to which there is a great tribute in this film). However, John Woo's M:I II did me no favours, and JJ Abrams' M:I III was totally forgettable (seriously, I can't remember a thing). With the latest instalment, Brad Bird has completely won me over. It is by far the best of the franchise so far, and based on the open-ended conclusion, I won't be surprised if yet another instalment is on the cards.
8 out of 10