“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” Review Will Self-Destruct

I know I’m about a week late, but better late than never, right?¬† Now, the family’s gone away after another joyous Christmas, and I had actually really been looking forward to Tom Cruise’s newest adventure as Ethan Hunt.

Say what you will about Tom Cruise. I know people who won’t even see a movie of his due to his apparent batshit craziness. Most of the time, I can agree with this. But Ethan Hunt is who Tom Cruise was born to portray. Does that mean he deserves an award? Nope. But the guy knows how to make a fun action flick. And when just about everything has been done in the world of action cinema, you have to tip your hat to a guy willing to literally risk his own life (and millions in net worth) to entertain us. And Cruise does most of his own stunts. Like scaling the tallest freaking building in the world. But we’ll get to that.

The plot of the movie is probably the most simple plot of the franchise. There is no inner-IMF betrayal. There is, in fact, no IMF, after a bombing at the Kremlin is blamed on Hunt’s team, consisting of Jeremy Renner as Brandt, Paula Patton as Carter, and Simon Pegg reprising his role of Benji from the previous entry. This new, bare-bones team is forced to go rogue in order to clear their names and stop a Russian maniac bent on starting Nuclear World War One. The plot couldn’t be more simple, and yet that is the beauty of this highly enjoyable movie.

Gone are the boyishly handsome charms of Tom Cruise, and I find myself more intrigued with him as an actor. His age shows for the first time in this movie, but not in a decrepit old man way, more of a hardened, embattled soldier who still has a few years of ass-kicking left in him. This is an actor who is, for the first time in his career, relying on his more than serviceable acting chops more and more as his youth begins to fade. And perhaps that is why he brings Hunt to life so well here. Ethan Hunt is no spring chicken, but he is just as determined, if not more so, to accomplish his mission. I won’t spoil the subplot here, but Hunt has made certain sacrifices since the last film for the greater good of the IMF’s world-saving agenda.

Jeremy Renner plays the mysterious Brandt, who may hold a secret to Ethan’s past that could tear the team apart. Renner is, as expected, more than capable of keeping up with Cruise, although with a bit more reservation and a small side of comedic value with his attempts to be the action hero.

Paula Patton is my favorite M:I female lead so far, though Maggie Q is a close second. Her role is beefier compared to previous Mission Chicks, and I did not mind that one bit. She’s gorgeous, and though she is an absolute badass, she is given good cause early in the film to have a personal vendetta in this mission. There are scenes where she very obviously is having difficulty with her task due to her loss, and Patton plays it without coming off as a weak, incompetent damsel in distress.

What can you really say about Simon Pegg? He is always funny, and he even gets a slice of the action himself this round, after becoming a field agent between the last film and this one. At this point, I’d be shocked if Pegg somehow did not steal nearly every scene he’s in. Not that he takes away from the film; quite the opposite. His character was written, and he performed it so that he’s constantly cutting through the tension with the same child-like wonder that I think most of us would exhibit were we thrown into the world of IMF. He really wants a chance to wear one of the famous masks used throughout the series. And damn it, so do I.

OK, moving on to the action sets. Jesus, Tom…are you trying to kill yourself these days? Ethan Hunt takes a beating throughout the movie. Every leap from one platform to a moving car, from the outside of the Burj in Dubai, swinging to a lower window…you feel it. Beautifully shot in glorious IMAX, the film’s major action scenes draw you in. I’m not comfortable with heights, and as I found out, I’m apparently not comfortable with the illusion of height. I nearly fell out of my seat as the camera flew over the tallest building in the world. I can’t recall feeling like a film’s lead actor was in mortal danger as much as the scenes of Hunt scaling this skyscraper. When you genuinely feel like the major star of the film could die, it definitely adds realism to the experience. See this in IMAX if you can. You will not regret it.

This is director Brad Bird’s first live action film, after two successful computer animated ones, The Incredibles, which is one of the best superhero movies ever made, and Ratatouille. I sincerely hope we see many more from him. He has a very keen eye for action, as he is able to portray chaotic and frantic elements, such as the sandstorm chase, without ever losing focus on what is taking place.

I went into this movie thinking it could be an established ending to the mostly well-done franchise. But I get the feeling now that we are in for more missions, should we choose to accept them. And based on the box office numbers for the first week, as well as roundly-positive reviews, it seems like we do.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol  

4/5 stars