Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol—movie review

Reviews
by Leonard Maltin
December 16, 2011 1:00 AM
6 Comments
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Unlike most movie series, this one has actually improved with each new installment since its debut in 1996; the last one, directed by J.J. Abrams, reinvigorated the concept, while this fourth entry—which the studio seems to want to downplay as a Mission: Impossible film, given the tiny typeface they’re using in its ads—is the best yet, a breathtaking, globe-trotting action yarn that pulls out all the stops.

Character development is not the movie’s strong suit. One simply has to accept that Tom Cruise is the leader of a team of deep-cover agents who’ve been cut loose from the government and have to survive on their own. Simon Pegg returns, from the last film, to provide welcome comedy relief as the unit’s high-tech specialist, while Paula Patton is the requisite female agent. They’re joined by Jeremy Renner as a man with a mysterious past who is quickly adopted as one of the team.

Why are these agents hopping around the world, from Russia to Dubai to Mumbai? I can’t really tell you, but screenwriters Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec manage to inject the necessary urgency into each twist and turn of the plot, in the interest of keeping the IMF team on the go. The script is more-or-less a clothesline on which to hang a series of large-scale action set-pieces. That it works as well as it does is a tribute to the consistent pace set by director Brad Bird, the exceptional staging of those segments, and the commitment of his actors.

Tom Cruise is as watchable as ever, and proves to be nearly as indestructible as the Terminator in the slam-bang action scenes. They’re just believable enough to keep us hooked, especially since the film doesn’t pretend to be anything more than pure escapism.

As an animation buff, I can’t pretend I’m not sorry to see the talented Brad Bird—the man who gave us The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille—devoting himself to a live-action film that any number of other people could have piloted. But I have to give him credit for making the most of this opportunity and scoring an absolute bull’s-eye. He’s brought along at least one of his Pixar colleagues, composer Michael Giacchino, who makes great use of Lalo Schifrin’s original Mission: Impossible theme and builds a lively score on top of it.

If you crave action and don’t demand very much in the way of subtext, I think you’ll have a great time with Ghost Protocol. (I sat a little too close to the IMAX screen and was almost overwhelmed by the experience; if it had been in 3-D my head might have exploded.)

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6 Comments

  • Patrick M. Gouin | February 3, 2012 5:22 PMReply

    The formula as usual. Having seen most of the films playing that I wanted to see and not being impressed by the new offerings, I decided to go for eye candy and leave my brain at the door. Unfortunately, the latter came to join me anyway and at that point everything unravelled. Critics claimed that this 4th outing in the series was the best, which doesn’t bode well for the previous ones which I didn’t bother to see. As a teen, I loved this TV series with often well thought out stories. What I liked most of M-I on tv was the way they used everyday objects in innovating ways to great effect. But in this film, we are in super effects to fill the eye, especially in Imax, along with doubtful tools. Everything in fact to try to mask an improbable story. Tom Cruise shows us once again his depth by playing Tom Cruise as usual, as he did in so many films before. It gets tiring in the end. He plays this intrepid and invincible American hero who fears nothing, save pretending the fear of heights to pretend to be comical. I could hardly wait for the end of this.

  • Matthew | December 28, 2011 4:06 PMReply

    A very entertaining picture that does require one to suspend some disbelief. Simon Pegg is hilarious, and Paula Patton is hotter than hot.

  • Gerald Gray | December 21, 2011 5:51 PMReply

    Leonard, I have to disagree with you this time. I think this movie certainly had merit, and that merit is collectively just what you describe. There were several weak elements however. The weakest undoubtedly being the plot. This so-called plot seems to be completely franchise and actor generated, serving little more than to provide the locations and situations necessary for the hyperactivity and special effects on which the movie stands. I say ‘hyperactivity’ because in the past year or two big budget action movies seem to be in an intense race to see who can include the most angry, jolting, spine-jarring, vertigo inducing effects in their two hours of screen time. This movie is no exception. How much further can this go before people start fainting and throwing up due to this merciless assault on the senses (which mostly seems to be in place of drama rather than in addition to). Certainly the stunts and special effects are effective and rendered on the screen with huge impact and are for-the most-part quite satisfying. However stunts, special effects and violence (all of which have their place in film) are always most effective when they illuminate a story that can stand on it’s own dramatic legs. Here, they carry the film (and do so as well as stunts and effects can I suppose) but I am still left wanting for character development and resolution of a complex plot. There was some humanity that reached us in the final scene where Ethan Hunt has a glimpse of his wife. Tom Cruise’s acting has certainly attained depth and dimension over the decades but I am left wondering if his days as an iron bodied, indestructible Ethan Hunt are numbered. His shirtless moments are very impressive for his age. I commend him for that. But his aging body is beginning to challenge my ability to suspend disbelief. The other actors did not seem to speak beyond their stereotype (ie. the tech guy, the agent with a story, the femme fatale) in fact, no one really even turned out to be anything other than that which they appeared. I hoped for someone to surprise me as did Jon Voight’s character ‘Jim Phelps’ in Mission Impossible 1. It IS a spy thriller you know! One last thing... I hope Apple computers and BMW motorworks paid for a lot of this film. The shameless product placement made me feel a but used.

  • C138 | December 20, 2011 1:13 AMReply

    This movie did remarkably well in the box office. Transformers made more money in its opening weekend because it played in all theaters. MI4 only played on IMAX this weekend, and is being released wider to multiplexes on Wednesday.

  • Donna Mariveles | December 19, 2011 10:49 PMReply

    The boxoffice is a real downer. How come trash like Transformer make boatloads of money while a movie this good makes only half of what Alvin the chipmunk makes? I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this doesn't ruin Bird's and Cruise's future prospects.

  • Chris | December 16, 2011 4:45 PMReply

    I too love Brad Bird's animated films. While I don't know that this movie would be a first choice for him isn't it bascially an "audition" so he can get approval to make 1906? If that is the case I hope this movie is a huge success for him.

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