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Review: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

Directed by: Brad Bird

Premise: The fourth film in the Mission: Impossible series. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team are framed for a bombing at the Kremlin and must clear their names before the terrorists attack again.

What Works: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is a fun action movie and a fine addition to the series. A picture like this is all about cinematic craftsmanship and action aficionados can admire Ghost Protocol in the same way a carpenter might admire a piece of furniture; it might not be art but it is a sturdy and well assembled piece of work. This film continues the better elements of previous entries in the franchise while also introducing some new content. Ghost Protocol includes the requisite action scenes, chases, and espionage but it also raises the stakes higher than any other Mission: Impossible picture. The threat of nuclear war gives this film some added edge that helps to distinguish this new Mission: Impossible film from previous entries in the series. Ghost Protocol adds another wrinkle onto the old formula: limiting the tools at the disposal of the IMF team. Most spy films, and especially the previous Mission: Impossible films, often provide the hero with a bottomless supply of resources. This film handicaps their assets, at least a little, and that makes the story more interesting. Ghost Protocol is also notable for its humor. A lot of the previous Mission: Impossible adventures lacked much in the way of humor and what was there was irritatingly smug. Ghost Protocol has some genuine laughs in it and a lot of that humor is due to Ethan Hunt’s crew, which is the most watchable team of the entire Mission: Impossible film series. Unlike some of the previous entries, the team members are actual characters. Even though a lot of their roles are familiar from other espionage thrillers, such as Simon Pegg’s comical technician or Jeremy Renner’s agent with a secret, the script and the actors manage to liberate the characters from their stereotypes. The IMF team is also notable in the extent to which they all participate in the story. The previous Mission: Impossible stories were largely Tom Cruise vehicles, in which Cruise did all the work and the support crew just helped him along. Although Cruise gets most of the major physical scenes in Ghost Protocol, the character shares the responsibilities of the mission with the other team members, which gives each of them something to do and spreads the variables in the film’s finale, making the resolution more thrilling.

What Doesn’t: The plotting in Ghost Protocol is spotty. There are a lot of coincidences throughout the film such as the terrorists and the IMF team running simultaneous operations in the Kremlin and the convenient appearances of minor characters at various points in the story. The film also has a significant credibility gap in the ending that anyone with a basic knowledge of nuclear weapon systems ought to notice. On the other hand, this kind of coincidence and flexible reasoning is familiar to Mission: Impossible films and the liberties taken here are consistent with other action movies.

Bottom Line: Although it isn’t quite as good as the third film, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is a very good action picture. It manages to be an exciting and fresh take on the Mission: Impossible series.

Episode: #371 (January 8, 2012)