“MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL” Review (✫✫✫1/2)

Pray for Tom Cruise’s sanity.

There is something seriously wrong with Tom Cruise if he is not pissing his pants while scaling up the world’s tallest building in Dubai. In Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, he shows he’s more daring by stumping a feat that he matched in MI2 where he free-climbed up a canyon wearing nothing but a safety harness. This time, he’s climbing up the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai, which happens to be the world’s tallest building at a whopping 829 meters. That’s the equivalent of three Eiffel towers.

What is wrong with him?

This feat, among others, demonstrates that Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is by far one of the most visually spectacular of all the Mission Impossible movies. It’s also one of the more entertaining ones as well. Like the other Mission Impossible movies, there is never a dull moment, and never a thrill wasted. There is appeal in every scene of every shot, whether it is a ridiculous chase/action sequence, a precise line of exposition, a humorous exchange of dialogue between characters, or Cruise pulling off yet another stupidly insane stunt that would probably kill anyone else. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is the definition of great moviemaking.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol takes place a few years after the events of the third Mission Impossible. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), who was previously happily married to his wife, Julie (Michelle Monoghan), is now incarcerated and in a federal prison in Moscow, Russia. What he’s doing there, we have no idea. Not until later in the movie.

He is broken out of prison with the help of two IMF agents: agents Carter (Paula Patton) and Benji (Simon Pegg), who you would remember as the dorky, but funny, computer geek we saw in Mission Impossible III. They are ordered to break Hunt out of prison for one reason: assistance on an upcoming mission where they have to break into the Kremlin to discover the identity of “Cobalt”, a global criminal who intends to start an international nuclear war in order to issue a new era of peace. His idea is similar to Ozymandias’ in the 2009 film Watchmen: before humanity can be saved, there first needs to be something to save them from. That is, at least, what “Cobalt” believes.

Here is a film where the visual spectacle and design of the film overwhelms the story that is being told. In the two previous Mission Impossible movies, that was a weakness. Here though, I applaud it for its ambition in visual spectacle and for its audacity to impress the audience in sheer spirit and style alone. Besides the climbing of the Burf Khalifa sequence, I can name many other sequences that really impressed me, such as the prison break scene in Moscow, the breaking into the Kremlin, a chase scene between Ethan and “Cobalt” in Dubai, and a final spectacular fight sequence that takes place in a car lot in India. I was so impressed by all of these sequences that I went back to the theater to watch it again just for those scenes alone.

Don’t think for a second, however, that just because the story is secondary to the action, it doesn’t mean it cannot hold up on its own. One thing I was initially worried about with this movie was how it would handle being a sequel to Mission Impossible III, which I thought was a fine way to end the franchise on a happy note. How they tie that movie into this one is brilliant, and there are many moments where we can pick up what happened to Ethan and Julie in between the events of MI3 and Ghost Protocol. This is where the film’s emotional appeal comes from. Ethan is trying to recover from what happened with him and Julie in the past, and as husbands and lovers, we can sympathize with Ethan and his problems. It isn’t tear-wrenching, but it doesn’t need to be. It gets a response from its viewers, and it doesn’t need an explosion and a falling building to get it. As a movie that is action-focused, it impresses me that the movie focuses on all the areas that it needs to: not just the ones that will bring it the biggest bucks.

Cruise, of course, is as slick, cool, and crazy as he always is, and comes back to this movie with the same charm and charisma that made him an icon in the original “Mission Impossible” movies. Paula Patton, who is most known in supporting roles like “Déjà Vu”, “Precious” and recently “Jumping The Broom” plays here yet another supporting role who is just as effective in other movies as she is here. She is smart, ambitious, and incredibly passionate, who puts in everything she can into every shot. And, if I may say so, she looks damn good while doing it.

Two actors who I felt had great presence in the film: Benji, played by Simon Pegg, and a new character named Brandt, played by Jeremy Renner from The Hurt Locker. I loved both of them in this movie. If Cruise and Patton provided the action-packed, exciting moments in the movie, these two provided the comedic relief. I can remember countless lines of dialogue from them both that made me and everyone else in the theater laugh. One especially funny scene was basically a re-enactment of the iconic dangling scene from the first Mission Impossible movie. Was it exciting, suspenseful, and nerve-wracking? Yes, but Benj’s oblivious comments combined with Brandt’s agitated responses culminated for a very funny moment that started off very unnerving and heart-pounding. Few films have the capacity to be able to switch from one tone to another; this film does it with surprising efficiency.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this film is that this is the director’s first live-action film. Director Brad Bird is famous for animated critical successes such as The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille, but no live-action films prior to Mission Impossible. How was he able to make this and make it look so amazing? Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is visually spectacular, sharply humorous, and relentlessly spirited and invigorating. It may not be the best Mission Impossible, but it is definitely the best sequel.

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