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A Pure Return to the Action Genre, No Gimmicks Here, Just Perfectly Delivered Action

  • Dec 27, 2011

Days before seeing Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, I plowed through all of the previous Mission Impossible films so I could make it in time to see Ghost Protocol in an IMAX release with the Dark Knight Rises footage thrown in. To make a long story short, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is, by a long margin, the best in the series, and an entry that demands to be seen in the IMAX format. The movie picks up a few years after Mission Impossible 3, with our usual hero Ethan Hunt breaking out of a Russian prison only to discover a typical plot by your typical evil mastermind known only as “Cobalt” to basically start World War 3 and start the Earth’s civilization from scratch. It’s actually a pretty straightforward story that uses the classic tropes of the Mission Impossible franchise (your typical face mask switcheroos, other-worldly cool gadgets, people being lowered from ceilings, and Tom Cruise running, falling, and shouting at people. But considering how long it’s been since we’ve seen this franchise and how inconsistent all these elements have come together in the past installments in a wide range of complexity in the past stories, leave it to Brad Bird to absolutely nail the balance between all of the elements wrapped inside a refreshingly uncomplicated story. That’s not to say the story isn’t rich though or without the many moving pieces and motivations inside of it that keep this a Mission Impossible movie, but all you really have to know is if the guy speaks with an accent that isn’t American or vaguely British (Benji, can you believe he passed his field test?!), chances are they’re a bad guy out to destroy the world and need a good face-punching. Compared to the first film where the plot’s close to unfollowable in the final act and the second and third films where the stories bordered more on the silly side, Ghost Protocol takes its time and gives you a clear objective, although to be fair I would have liked there to have been one last little twist at the end to mix things up just a little bit. The movie also somewhat addresses the idea that Ethan Hunt’s been gone for so long (and by “so long” I mean 5 years) and ties that into his marriage from Mission Impossible 3 in some really interesting ways that even tie into some of the newer characters. As has become the unofficial tradition of the Mission Impossible series, Ghost Protocol has a new, different director to try his hand at the Cruise-mobile, this time being “Incredibles” director/Pixar veteran Brad Bird. While John Woo’s take on Mission Impossible with MI2 was ridiculously solemn and stylish, Abrams’ take was predictably Abrams in MI3 and De Palma’s is the classic Mission Impossible we all know and revere as the best in the franchise up until now. Now, Bird’s clearly taken the prize as the best fit for this admittedly stagnant franchise even if you’re solely judging him by the action sequences in the film. Much like a traditional James Bond movie, Bird chose to focus Ghost Protocol in three separate locations, giving the entire movie a clean feel with both the earlier mentioned over-arching story and by also giving us one big action sequence at each setting. From a spectacle standpoint, the action beats in Ghost Protocol are a pure joy, from a technical standpoint; they’re by far some of the best that set it apart from any action film I’ve seen in recent memory. Brad Bird’s ability to coordinate action and characters on screen during the most hectic of fights while also managing to dazzle and impress with long, swooping, uninterrupted shots of these beautiful locations they visit is definitely impressive. Gone are the days of the shaky camera, instead Bird often keeps the camera completely still allowing you to take in all that you need to, but he also takes the opportunity to give a shot or two to display the grander side of things, especially during the film’s greatest triumph: the climb of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. There’s nothing quite like seeing an actor like Tom Cruise genuinely risk his life for the sake of a set piece. Yes, that’s really him running down the side of the world’s tallest, swinging across the front, and nearly meeting his tragic death several times. Seeing as how I saw the film in IMAX, and seeing as how a vast majority of that scene is spent with the camera looking down at the seemingly never-ending drop to the bottom and making you feel like you’re about to take the plunge of death with Ethan Hunt at any minute, it’s a nerve-wracking experience. So nerve-wracking in fact I, along with several other people in my theater, gasped in horror then burst into a type of laughter that comes straight from the purest form of relief when Ethan Hunt narrowly misses the jump on the front of the tower only to be saved by Jeremy Renner’s character. Yes, I spoiled that small detail of the scene, and yes, you and your cardiologist will thank me later. The other main action beats of the film that take Ethan and the rest of the IMF from the film’s first big “chunk” action beats in Russia to the afore-mentioned Dubai and then the conclusion that takes place in India (of which thankfully not a lot has been spoiled by Warner Bros, so it’ll all be a relative surprise), are all the main scenes that are shot in IMAX, and naturally all look stunning. The action set pieces are as diverse as they come, and will always forever keep you guessing. If anything else SHOULD be said about Bird’s superb direction, it’s that he brings to life a film that seems to be addicted to adrenaline. Like some kind of evil monster in a B-grade horror film, it’s always shifting to the new set piece, to the new line of crucial dialogue that’ll move you to the next critical moment, so on and so forth. So many times in my own reviews I’ve said, “It’s fun and so it works”, but with Mission Impossible 4 it takes that ideal to the next level and adds a bit of flair to it all. With the way Bird crafts these ingenious action sequences one after the other there are times it feels like he’s setting a new standard for “fun” in your typical action movie. Let’s just hope Bird gets a call to return back to the series. Not to mention it’s a very smart film too. It definitely joins the ranks of films that put Michael Bay to shame (which is quite a big club) by producing the same amount of spectacle without sacrificing any of the intelligence. It has its cake and eats it too. It’s an action film with no strings attached, no hidden drawbacks, no gimmicks, and nothing that you have to sacrifice in order to have a great time. Probably one of the film’s best achievements minus the spectacle is the fact that it brings Tom Cruise out from under his rock and back into the light as the certified awesome action start that he is. Even if you don’t like the guy as an actor you cannot deny him credit where credit is due for doing his own stunt work in the sequences in Dubai. If there is to be a case made about the greatness of practical effects this movie is Exhibit A. When you’re looking out the window and you see Ethan Hunt frantically climbing for his life and the fear that’s in his eyes that he feels like he’s thousands of feet in the air, that’s all real emotion coming from Cruise, because he’s really thousands of feet up in the air in a scene that could have easily been done with computer effects. Coming back to the action beats in the film for just a moment, each one does have a really inventive, creative vibe to it using practical effects at every opportunity given and when using CGI using it well. The sand storm sequence in particular is a glorious marvel for any action fan. Ok, back to Cruise and how he rocks this movie. He still carries the charisma, the deft skill for comedy and obviously the stamina to still be one of the best action stars of the day. Paula Patton and Jeremy Renner both fare great as well, even if Jeremy Renner isn’t given quite enough to do. Either way I’d love to see them return for future installments when they come. Simon Pegg also steals the show comedically, getting in so many hilarious lines in the movie in what’s typically a VERY hit-or-miss series when it comes to attempts at humor. Finally, it needs to be said that this film has to be seen in IMAX. If you’re not seeing it in IMAX, you’re doing yourself an injustice and to the filmmakers. The Dubai scene in particular plastered all over the posters is by far the most intense feeling I’ve felt in a theater all year, and there’s one particular moment Ethan Hunt almost meets his death by flubbing his jump that almost made me yell in terror. (Also it’s worth seeing just for the Dark Knight Rises prologue, but that’s a whole different story.) As I mentioned earlier, if there was anything I could complain about it’s that the film plays it too safe in the story department, not even giving us a character betrayal in the last inning. Watching the other three Mission Impossible films in the 36 hours before this one wasn’t the best idea mainly because I was so over-exposed to the Mission Impossible format, but it did work in my favor because it was clear to me the newest one was by far he best. All in all Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is definitely one of, if not the strongest action film of the year, and definitely earns the title of the most thrilling adventure of the year. It’s a pure, adrenaline-filled return for the action genre that was a delight to watch. f you’ve been looking for a exemplary action film that you can take your family to this holiday season, consider your mission accomplished. 


4.5 out of 5

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December 27, 2011
For me, this had a simple plot, Cruise is his usual self (not really a good actor), but the team dynamics and Brad Bird's action direction made this movie a lot better than I thought it would be. Nice review!
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Jake Wilbanks ()
Ranked #157
   My name's Jake, I write film reviews and the occasional music/video game/comic/tech review. I've been involved in journalism over the past 3 years, and am currently majoring in Journalism … more
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When a terrorist bombing destroys the Kremlin, the United States government initiates a black ops "ghost protocol" and disavows the entire Impossible Mission Force. Ethan Hunt and his team are to be blamed for the attack, but are allowed to escape as part of a plan to enable them to operate again outside of their agency.

However, Hunt is warned that if any member of his team is captured or compromised, they will be charged as terrorists planning to incite global nuclear war. He is forced to work with fellow ex-IMF agent Brandt, who knows more about Hunt and his past than even Hunt himself.

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Movies, Action Movies, Action, In Theaters, Tom Cruise, Spy, Action Thriller, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Nuclear Bombing, Misson Impossible 4 Ghost Protocol, Imaxx, Paula Patton, Brad Bird, End Of War


Director: Brad Bird
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller
Release Date: 16 December 2011 (USA)
Screen Writer: Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec
Studio: Paramount Pictures, Paramount
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