- Production Values
Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol is the fourth film in the franchise starring Tom Cruise. The first film was made in 1996 – 15 years ago – but this film certainly shows that the franchise has not become stale.
The film starts with secret agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) in a Russian prison, but over its 133 minutes takes us to Budapest, Moscow, Dubai, Mumbai, and Seattle – never pausing for breath. Hunt and his team have been framed for a terrorist attack and are working without support both to clear their name and stop a nuclear war. Simon Pegg returns as tech support Benji Dunn (now certified for field work) and new to the team are Jeremy Renner as analyst William Brandt and Paula Patton as agent Jane Carter. Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist (best known to Americans as the star of the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo films) is the villain.
I went into the film with a little trepidation because it seems like all of these films are about the team being disavowed and having to clear their name. They never seem to be about normal assigned missions. And the movies had each declined in quality, from my perspective. I loved the first film and its smart noir atmosphere from director Brian DePalma. The second just seemed to be an excuse to indulge director John Woo’s overused stylings. The third, from J.J. Abrams, was largely forgettable. This fourth film is directed by Brad Bird – an interesting choice because he’s made his career directing animated features like The Incredibles, Iron Giant, and Ratatouille. That background appears to have been outstanding training, as it taught him a visual language needed to make two dimensional illustrations feel like a three-dimensional world. M:I: Ghost Protocol is full of great imagery and use of perspective.
Regardless of story and director – the real carrying force for these films is the star – Tom Cruise. There really isn’t an actor out there that can pull off action scenes as well as Cruise does. It is so obvious that he throws himself 100% into each scene, that whenever the character is breathless, the audience doesn’t even for a moment think that that is acting – they assume that Cruise is exhausted because he’s been pushing so hard. In the second film, Cruise pulled off some pretty impressive rock climbing stunts. This film takes that daring much further, with an astounding sequence filmed high up on the Burj Khalifa, the tallest manmade structure on the planet, at 2723 feet tall. Parts of this scene were revealed months ago, when tourists visiting the building observed the sequence being shot and posted their own videos and photographs on the internet. This sequence was filmed with IMAX cameras and looks amazing.
Of all the incredible stunts featured in the film, the thing that repeatedly stretches suspension of disbelief is the physical scenes between Cruise’s character and Nyqvist’s character. Nyqvist looks every bit of his 51 years of age and although Cruise is only two years younger, he looks much younger and much more physical. I found it a little hard to believe that Nyqvist could outrun him.
Jeremy Renner is, as usual, excellent in his role. This is the first film I’ve seen Paula Patton in (since Hitch). She does an excellent job of being beautiful, believably dangerous, and also complex. Pegg provides the comic relief that creates the levity to make the tense scenes feel all the more tense.
Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol is a great action movie that will hopefully revitalize the franchise and Tom Cruise’s career and provide the exposure to bring more opportunities to Renner, Patton, and Pegg.