MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL
RUNNING TIME: 133 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
In Budapest to intercept a courier working for a person of interest code-named “Cobalt”, IMF agent Trevor Hanaway is killed by an assassin named Moreau. Hanaway’s team leader, Jane Carter and field agent Benji Dunn extract Ethan Hunt and Hunt’s source Bogdan from a Moscow prison. Hunt is recruited to lead Carter and Dunn to infiltrate the secret Moscow Kremlin archives and locate files identifying Cobalt. However, someone alerts the Russians and, though the three escape, a bomb destroys the Kremlin. Russia blames America and the US president activates ‘Ghost Protocol’, in which the IMF is disavowed. Hunt and his team are to take the blame for the attack, but will be allowed to escape to track down Cobalt, who is actually Kurt Hendricks, a Swedish nuclear scientist who has acquired a nuclear lauhcn-control device and intends to start a nuclear war………….
The Mission: Impossible franchise is an interesting one. Rather than trying to make each film as similar as possible, the idea has been to make each film radically different in look and feel by the employment of different directors and a mostly different crew each time, and name directors too. I doubt that Brian De Palma and John Woo were ever thought of as candidates for directing a James Bond film, because they would probably try to make their film too different from the norm [though the choices of Marc Foster and Sam Mendes for the last two 007 pics do indicate a possible change of thinking from the Bond producers]. Then again, this approach does not always work; for my money, Woo’s Mission: Impossible 2 was a mess. I thought J.J.Abrams made a fine job of Mission: Impossible 3 though, and you know what, Pixar auteur Brad Bird tops him for this latest instalment, which might be the best one yet. Then again, considering Bird made two of my favourite animated movies of all time; The Iron Giant and Ratatouille, plus of course The Incredibles, I was in little doubt that he would make a fine movie. Though certainly no masterpiece, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is a satisfying action film that should please most folks looking for two hours of fast paced entertainment.
At 133 mins, this is the longest of the series so far, but it really doesn’t seem like it [unlike Mission: Impossible 2, which really showed its length!]; its plot moves at a wonderfully fast pace, usually doing so by constant movement rather than sitting around chatting. Dialogue is mostly short and to the point; even exposition is mostly shown as actual action or told to us while characters are in danger or on the move. The opening prison breakout manages some nice twists on something we’ve seen a million times before, from Hunt calmly knocking aside guards with one hand while his other hand holding the terrified Bogdan, to the use of Dean Martin’s ‘Ain’t That A Kick In The Head’, much of this filmed as if we are passing through the action ourselves. Then it’s to the Kremlin and some gunplay before a rather unimpressive CG explosion of the building itself. O well, never mind, real explosions are rare these days, and anyway, we soon relocate to Dubai and then India. The Bond-style globetrotting is matched by the basic idea – a madman having control of a nuclear weapon – having been used several times in that series, though screenwriters Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec complicate proceedings somewhat with much double dealing, espionage intrigue, and the like. Some may find this slows the story down a little; I loved it, and along with the rather surprising Cold War element, gave the film a nice retro feel, though the several gadgets, from a device that lets you float using magnetic attraction, to a thing that copies the scenery infront and displays it into a screen whereby you can deceive other people who are looking at the screen, to a BMW whch 007 would kill to get his hands on, seem state of the art as well as being so much fun.
Though there is plenty of opportunity for Hunt to display his fighting skills, with noises that are almost as exaggerated as a Hong Kong martial arts flick, these scenes tend to be over and done with quite quickly, and generally this movie has a greater ‘family movie’ feel than the more adult and brutal third episode, again showing the stupidity of the way the ‘12A’ rating is employed by the BBFC. Most would probably agree with me that, to take four examples, The Dark Knight and Casino Royale are far more ‘adult’ than Thor and Captain America, which could have been ‘PG’s, yet all were given the all-encompassing ‘12A’ rating, giving the impression they are the same in strength and tone, which is patently untrue. Never mind, this is not the place to have a rant at our dear censors, rather I should be raving about certain thrilling scenes in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol such as Hunt climbing up the tallest building in the world Burj Khalifa with suction gloves, and a chase which carries on during and after a sand storm. Last week I mentioned how Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows seemed to approach truly great movie action at times, and so does this effort, with occasionally exhilarating results. Bird doesn’t seem to have much truck with the idiotic fast cut/shaky cam craze, and I salute him! When the camera swoops up into the air and lets us see Hunt and the person he’s chasing go into a large building and then move over so we can see them coming out the other side without a cut, I felt like cheering, you just don’t see this kind of stuff done this way these days.
The one fairly lengthy sequence where people actually talk blends suspense, humour and invention in a great way, as we cut from a deal being made on one floor of a skyscraper to the same deal being made on the floor beneath by the same people; I won’t say more, but it is very clever indeed. The script has fun ringing a few changes on what you might expect, with for example someone other than Hunt doing the ‘dangling above something’ routine, and provides laughs at just the right moments, sometimes even in the middle of an action scene, but not diminishing the excitement. Simon Pegg is given many of the funny lines, and as usual he’s a little annoying, but I defy you not to chuckle when he makes out he’s been through it really badly when in fact he’s been on the computer all the time. Also funny is Anil Kapoor [from Slumdog Millionaire and a thousand Bollywood films] as a sex-crazed billionaire whom Jane has to seduce. Sadly the movie falls down a little in its climax, which is disappointing considering what has come before, not to mention unconvincing [Hunt can dispatch loads of henchmen in seconds, but takes ages to take out an old guy]. However, it redeems itself with its final scene, which is both surprising and nicely touching in a bittersweet way.
The one major problem remains Hunt himself. He is still one of the blandest and least interesting action heroes in cinema. An attempt has been made in this one to make him seem a little more vulnerable; he’s certainly more easily hurt, but he’s still just a cipher, almost a robot. Tom Cruise, despite spending the usual amount of time running, and remaining in great physical condition, plays him like one, and the script never allows us to get inside his head. Maybe that was the intention, but for me it means that I never really care about him, and therefore remains a flaw, especially when not enough is made of most of the other characters either, such as Lea Seydoux as a ruthless female villain Sabine Moreau. Still, with a typically fine score by the ever-busy Michael Giacchino which nicely mixes in ethnic sounds and elements from the 60s TV series including the original theme, this remains a thoroughly enjoyable Summer blockbuster that may not have actually been released last Summer, but is more pleasing than most of the ones that were.