MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL
Directed by: Brad Bird
Written by: Josh Applebaum, André Nemec, Bruce Geller (TV series)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Michael Nyqvist
Resurrecting a franchise few, if any, moviegoers want (or wanted) to see again on the big screen seemed like a risky, potentially disastrous move. Add to that to a well-regarded director making the considerable leap from animation to live-action filmmaking (said director being one Brad Bird [ RATATOUILLE, THE INCREDIBLES, THE IRON GIANT]), an actor, Tom Cruise, many presumed was on the downside of his three-decade career as a movie star, and the risks seem even higher, but that’s exactly what Paramount agreed to do when they greenlit the fourth entry in the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE series that began fifteen years ago (the last entry, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III appeared in multiplexes five years ago).
When we last encountered Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), he was seemingly ensconced in wedded bliss to Julia Mead (Michelle Monaghan), a civilian nurse. In the interim between entries in the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE franchise, Julia’s joined a very special IMF (“Impossible Mission Force”) division for ex-wives of current and former IMF agents. Hunts seems to have hit a new low, incarceration in a Russian maximum-security prison. We quickly learn, however, that he never left the IMF. Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), a one-time member of Hunt’s rotating IMF team, and Jane Carter (Paula Patton), another IMF field agent, break Hunt out of prison in suitably elaborate fashion. The IMF’s secretary (Tom Wilkinson in an unbilled role), has a special mission for Hunt: a snatch-and-grab of key documents locked away in the Kremlin’s seemingly impenetrable archives.
The documents provide all-important clues to the not so super-secret identity of a nuclear terrorist known as “Cobalt.” A Bond villain by another name, Cobalt’s eager to start a nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia and with it, World War III. Cobalt also happens to be Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO), a Swedish-born Russian nuclear strategist and sub-Bond villain. Predictably, Hunt’s snatch-and-grab goes sideways, leaving Hunt, Dunn, Carter, and a desk analyst, William Brandt (Jeremy Brandt), the objects of a manhunt after Russian authorities trace the bombing of the Kremlin back to Hunt and the IMF team. The U.S. president puts the so-called “Ghost Protocol,” in motion, effectively disbanding the IMF and leaving Hunt’s team without financial or operational support. Hendricks absconds with a nuclear launch device.
With, as the tagline boldly tells/promises us, “no plan, no back-up, no choice,” Hunt and his team track down Hendricks’ right-hand man, Wistrom (Samuli Edelmann), to Dubai where Wistrom plans to trade diamonds for nuclear launch codes stolen by a French assassin-for-hire, Sabine Moreau (Léa Seydoux). Dubai and, more specifically, the Burj Khalifa, currently the title-holder as the world’s tallest building. The Burj Khalifa gives Cruise, sans stunt double, to put his offscreen climbing skills to good use in a tense, suspense-filled sequence heightened (pun intended) by Bird’s decision to use full-screen, high-resolution IMAX cameras. It’s not the first scene or sequence to use IMAX cameras n the film, but it’s certainly the most gripping and the most intense.
Already weighed down by an over-complicated, over-convoluted, unsurprisingly superficial plot, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL segues, or to be more accurate, careens from one expensive, if well-choreographed, set piece after another, including a one or two close combat scenes, foot- and car-chase through a raging, CG-aided sandstorm, and a minor bit of levitation that echoes the first entry’s most memorable scene, and, for the climactic mano-a-briefcase, a scene set in an automated garage that Bird directs with minimal ambiguity and maximum spatial clarity, a major plus especially if you’re seeing MI4 on a full-sized IMAX screen (as you should).
As for everything else between set pieces, don’t expect much. The script by TV veterans André Nemec and Josh Appelbaum hits all the obligatory action beats without hitting any significant character beats. Hunt is the same (or nearly the same) action-hero we met in the first, second, and third entries in the franchise. Dunn functions as the sporadic comic relief, Carter as eye candy, and Brandt functions as the wild card. He may or may not be who he says he is. He may or may not have a personal connection to Hunt. When we find out the answer to Brandt’s identity, it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL offers the requisite number of occasionally inventive, crisply, if semi-anonymously directed set pieces between the opening and closing credits.