Operative Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is back in action in Brad Bird’s live action directorial debut. The Pixar famed director joins the superstar on this jaunt across the Eastern hemisphere. The Impossible Missions Force is dissolved after taking blame for a bombing. Ethan and his remaining colleagues must attempt to prove their innocence while also averting world war.
Their first stop takes them to Dubai. The team has a brilliant plan ready, but a change put Ethan outside of the Burj Kalifa, the world’s tallest building. Not only is it amazing to see a person climbing and swinging across this building—screw computers— but that Tom Cruise does his own work makes for heightened suspense. This is even followed by a foot and car chase under the cloak of a sand storm. Either of these make for a memorable signature event.
Beneath the thrilling daredevil action lies a critical problem. The screenplay for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol works to set up chases, gunfights, and stunts. Some of the characters have backstories that stretch back as far as the last installment, which is acceptable, but the villain of the film is nothing but a haphazardly written necessity. Do you need a bad guy for Ethan and co to take down? Yes. Does Michael Nyqvist play this part? Yes, but only to the most minimal of requirements. In Hendricks, a man who made some speech about how nuclear war would bring world peace, there is no gusto. He’s a shell with no fire inside. Hendricks lacks a believable motive, has no emotions, memorable lines, etc. One of the first things anyone writing an action thriller should know is to make a quality villain. Without effort in this area, others suffer. Our simple villain has an uninspiring plan.
Product placement is nothing new, but BMW’s involvement in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol deserves scrutiny. There have been BMW sponsored Bond films, but that didn’t mean that nearly everything he touched became a BMW. In Ghost Protocol Ethan his struck by a BMW, then hops into one to pursue. He even gets access to a prototype concept car (despite his team being supposedly cutoff) and is able to make use of a new Bimmer inside a jukebox-style automated parking garage. Every car serves to show off a safety feature, it’s like a 2 hour commercial.
There have been three consistencies with the Mission: Impossible film franchise. One of those is Tom Cruise. Another is the transformative power of masks used throughout the series, allowing spies to take on identities with perfect accuracy. This has always been achieved by having an actor play double, but the process of constructing masks changes with each installment. Here the fun is in not getting around to using them. The last consistency has been Luther, Ethan’s right-hand man played by Ving Rhames. Initially I was upset that someone who had survived three of these movies couldn’t make it into round four as his name doesn’t appear among the cast, but rest assured Luther makes a proper appearance.
Ethan’s support staff has the usual stock of characters. Paula Patton is the hot tough chick Jane. Simon Pegg returns to lend comic relief and work gadgets. Meanwhile Jeremy Renner is Brandt, an analyst who falls in with the team but of course has a secret.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol works to establish spectacle. The stunts and effects are awe-inspiring. Seeing Tom Cruise scale the Burj Khalifa is worth the IMAX enhanced admission price alone. As a narrative, it falls flat. The execution of the plot is amiss. The silly logic of the foe lacks credulity. Even the comedic efforts are underwhelming, particularly from womanizer Brij Nath (Anil Kapoor). Shame there isn’t more under the dust storm. **½