Right to the point. The fourth Mission Impossible movie is good. Very good. So good as an action thriller, in fact, that it’s the only movie released this year that wouldn’t be completely overshadowed by a 7 minute preview of The Dark Knight Rises.
A series of events lead to the death of an IMF agent, the loss of nuclear launch codes and the destruction of the Kremlin in Moscow. Russia blames the U.S. The president blames the IMF and the entire agency is disavowed. It’s up to Ethan Hunt and his team to sort the whole thing and clear their own names by finding the person responsible.
Unlike previous installments of Mission Impossible, this film isn’t the Tom Cruise show. It’s the first movie where the rest of the team matters. And the cast helps make this movie such a standout. Female lead Paula Patton possibly upstages Cruise as Jane Carter, a sexy field agent who’s motives for finishing their mission are very personal. Jeremy Renner stars as William Brandt, IMF chief analyst, who finds himself on the team after an unfortunate incident changes his circumstances. And Simon Pegg returns from the previous installment as Benji Dunn, the computer expert who’s finally passed the field test.
Unlikely director Brad Bird, who helmed Pixar’s amazing film The Incredibles, demonstrates here that he is as adept at crafting live action as he is animated action. The set pieces in this film are insanely intense, suspenseful and enthralling. Far more so than average action films. The key ingredient to turning each of these scenes into highlights is the stroke of fallibility that Brad Bird and screenwriters André Nemec and Josh Applebaum give the characters. It’s a brilliant strategy actually. All of the characters, including Hunt, slip, fall, miss, forget, keep secrets, make mistakes, argue, fight, and get scared. In other words, these characters are human. Their humanity instantly raises the stakes and creates a real and healthy fear that they might fail.
And while these characters’ humanity is the key ingredient to the movie’s success, it’s not the only one. The stunning, mile high IMAX cinematography makes this film a true visual experience. A sequence that takes place along the side of the Burj Kalifa in Dubai is one of the most jolting and vertigo inducing scenes ever shot thanks to 70mm film or “IMAX” format. Likewise, the imaginative staging of a chase scene during a sandstorm will have viewers leaning forward in their seats to see anything moving as it also presents heavy challenges for the characters involved.
Brad Bird displays a great feel for pacing in Ghost Protocol. The exciting scenes come one after another, with few quiet moments between. But the scenes themselves often unfold by gradually building to a climax. Then the next scene starts all over again. Ghost Protocol’s intensity is only matched by it’s humor. The interplay between each of the actors provides for well timed comic relief after some of the more heart-pounding scenes. Tom Cruise, playing it straight and super serious as the team leader is perfectly balanced by Simon Pegg’s bright eyed character, who’s thrilled to just be out of the office.
Of course you’d expect the guy who made The Incredibles to do a solid directing job. But it’s refreshingly surprising to see the fourth film in a franchise is also a very good film. It’s no big deal that the final act runs a few minutes too long, or that the main villain gets only minimal screen time. Brad Bird, taking his first crack at Hollywood live action, handles it like something he’s been doing since time immemorial. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol has a classic “Bond” or “North by Northwest” feel to it. It’s smart and visually grand. Certainly the best action film this year. Grade: A
Paramount Pictures presents: “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.” Directed by Brad Bird. Written by André Nemec and Josh Appelbaum. Starring: Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Michael Nyqvist and Tom Wilkinson. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence. Running time: 133 minutes.