After nearly a month hiatus from going to movies and reviewing them, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was the right movie to see upon my return. As a side note, it would appear that 2011 was the year of the colon in movie titles.
That said, the fourth installment in Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible franchise is all kinds of fun. With homages to the TV show, really nicely done characters, and a killer pace, it is well worth your time and money. Here’s a preview:
Released December 21, 2011
Written by Josh Applebaum, Andre Nemec, and Bruce Geller (he wrote the television series)
Directed by Brad Bird (Ratatouille, The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, creative team on Up and Toy Story 3)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, and Jeremy Renner
* * * * *
JJ Abrams hasn’t put his foot wrong in a long while. His reboot of Star Trek was outstanding. He directed etc. last year’s best film, Super 8. He did Lost, which I have never seen but have heard good things about. He’s the producer of Fringe, one of the best sci-fi shows ever to grace TV. He did Cloverfield, which I adored.
He produces this film. He wrote the third MI film. He even wrote Forever Young and Armageddon.
There is very little this fellow has done that I don’t like.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is further evidence that JJ Abrams knows his stuff and knows very well how to tell a story. What’s more, Brad Bird makes the jump to live action in a masterful fashion, proving that story crafting abilities transfer just fine, thank you very much.
There is so much of good in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. First off, it pays homage better than any of the previous three installments to the original series. I loved the opening fuse. I loved the malfunctioning tech. When a story is so in touch with its roots, it can’t help but have an extra portion of heart.
This installment of the Mission Impossible franchise begins with a chiseled, skilled spy evading capture as well as he can. He leaps from a building, turns in the air, fires at his pursuers while falling, and lands on a personal air mattress. This isn’t Tom Cruise.
But it DOES set the tone of the movie: it’s not going to be all about Ethan Hunt, unlike the last film, which was that last film’s only drawback. We only find out why we care about this other agent a little while later in the movie. In the meantime, Ethan Hunt is in a Russian prison and needs to be broken out.
Why is he in prison? We later find out that he’s in there because he killed 6 Ukrainian bad guys after they killed his wife. Sad. But watch the entire movie. This is a deftly plotted film, with reveals coming in the very last few minutes.
The breakout is a wonderful sequence of action, acting, gadgets and really, really well timed humor. In fact, this is the funniest of the four movies in the franchise. Of course, the three previous ones were actually very intense and were in almost no way funny. But life isn’t like that, and people aren’t perfect, and plans don’t always go as hoped, and these moments add humor to life. And these moments add genuinely excellent humor to this movie.
Before long, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is working with a team of operatives consisting of Benji (Pegg), Jane (Patton), and Brandt (Renner). They have to stop a fanatic from beginning a nuclear war. They race around the world, dangle from the tallest building in the world, run through sandstorms, and do all kinds of other craziness.
The reasons this movie is so good are these:
*The humor is real and natural.
*The characters are human, not caricatures or superheroes. They get frustrated, sad, and hurt. This is a new thing for these movies.
*The pace is such that even as the movie goes quite long, you think, “Wow, this is so freaking cool.” The action is hard on these newly human characters.
*The acting is Ace. So good. Pegg does a nice job with the humor in that it isn’t comedic relief, but is real to his character. Renner nails the mysterious and troubled agent– his motivation is strongly emoted. Cruise shows his timing and human acting abilities again. But Paula Patton kills it, hits it out of the park, and all around steals her scenes. Everything she does is informed by the turmoil in her soul. Loved her so much.
*The story is timely and very, very deftly told.
*The gadgets blow your mind.
*The gadgets stop working and the characters have to find answers inside them, rather then in a certain toy.
*Prices are paid. Each ‘good guy’ pays a price for her/his values.
I really loved this movie. It’s easily in the top ten for 2011. Well worth the time and money. Exciting, breathless, really funny at times, and deeply felt. Brad Bird should get an award of some kind of his work here.
Content warning: It deserves the PG-13. Lots of fighting, some blood, plenty of death, some language. Only a bit of sensuality.
Writing: 5 Acting: 5 Overall: 5
Don’t believe me? See if my review matches those on Rotten Tomatoes.
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