Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol
Directed by: Brad Bird
Written by: Josh Applebaum & André Nemec (screenplay)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton and Simon Pegg
Tom Cruise commits his body completely to a role, often at the expense of character. Many of his most iconic performances, including this long-running gig as Ethan Hunt in the Mission: Impossible series, have him performing all the major action hero duties at a break neck pace.
In this latest installment, tacked with “Ghost Protocol” instead of the number 4, Cruise performs the biggest stunts of the series yet. Brad Bird, director of Pixar films like The Incredibles and Ratatouille as well as lesser known ones like The Iron Giant, makes his live action debut and is tasked with controlling this chaos.
The cartoonish action trappings of the series provide a formidable proving ground for Bird, who maintains such command over the proceedings that the lackluster plot and gapping logical lapses vanish. Hunt scales Dubai’s Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building) with magnetic gloves as a sand storm looms. The entirety of the Dubai sequence is masterful action filmmaking, with Bird rotating between Ethan and the other three agents as they try to obtain nuclear launch codes from two separate parties.
All of these situations are of course preposterous, but the entertainment level provided by the editing has you riding along and feeling every near-death. It helps that Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton play agents on Ethan’s new team with straight-faced intensity, though Simon Pegg’s plucky comic relief is sorely out of place. We follow them from a Kremlin explosion to those wonderful scenes in Dubai to an inevitable Nuclear Holocaust scenario in Mumbai.
Hunt is on the prowl for a fairly generic madman named Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist, from the Swedish Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), who barely has any screen time. The movie’s more than two hour running time moves by fairly quickly because of the extended action sequences. When those aren’t happening, the narrative is not capable of picking up the slack.
The impressive opening scene, with Ethan being broken out of jail by Benji (Pegg) and Jane (Patton) to the tune of Dean Martin’s “Ain’t That a Kick In the Head,” sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Dialogue is only spoken to advance what action is about to happen on screen, and then as Benji remotely hacks into the security system, a riot breaks loose and Ethan escapes with an informant amid the chaos.
It’s not clear why he needs to be busted out, and in the end it’s not really important. Ethan Hunt is not a character that has been consistently human over the course of the series. Cruise has him run and gun in peak physical condition, and the grab at audience heart strings that was so intensely made in the third installment felt weird even though it was effective.
Though the Mission: Impossible series has had nowhere near the tenure of the James Bond films, the on-again off-again humanity can be seen depending on which Tom Cruise decides to show up to play him. Here, there are a couple attempts to reignite that human spark behind his eyes, but thankfully Cruise is kept to mostly a physical performance. He runs, climbs and jumps his heart out instead of getting it wrapped up in any new love interest.
While globe-trotting around the world tracking down the bland terrorist, Ethan has little time to do anything but his action sequences. Most of the dialogue that isn’t the piss-poor character development focuses on “Where are we going?” “Who’s the target?” “What are we shooting?” type of dialogue. Bird’s mission, which he thankfully accepted, was to ratchet up the tension, extend the action sequences and hope nobody questions what exactly those people on the inside of that tall Dubai building think about Tom Cruise climbing in front of their windows.