At first glance...and second...and third...choosing Bird to helm this fourth Mission: Impossible film seemed a bizarre and risky choice. However, Paramount knew what it was doing when it handed the reins of one of its biggest moneymaking franchises over to the Oscar-winning animated director. Bird's successfully figured out how to bring his energetic visual style from animated movies to an action film without making the end result seem in the least bit cartoony. This fourth outing feels just as fresh as the first, and not one action film of 2011 can touch it when it comes to the quality and originality of its action sequences.
As expected, the plot is secondary to the action. But while other films of the genre have opted to simplify the story to the point of being invisible or make the story so confusing and complex as to become nonsensical, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol's screenwriters Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec have crafted a plot that does follow a logical procession while at the same time setting to serve up the crazy action scenes.
The 'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol' Story:
Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt and when we catch up with him in this adventure, he's confined to a cell in a Russian prison. But given this is a Mission: Impossible film, Ethan's not caged up for long before a team on the outside pulls off a rescue involving the opening of the inmates' cell doors resulting in a full-on prison riot. Almost immediately upon gaining his freedom, Ethan, along with his old colleague, Dunn (Simon Pegg), and a new agent to their group, Carter (Paula Patton), are given a new mission which they choose to accept. Their new mission involving the removal of key documents from the Kremlin goes horribly wrong, resulting in the government abolishing the IMF (it's now in Ghost Protocol mode having been dissolved and disavowed).
Hunt, Dunn, and Carter, joined by Brandt (Jeremy Renner), an agent who claims to be a paper-pusher but is obviously not revealing his true IMF background, must now clear their names while working without any support from the US government. Their target: the powerful and crazy Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) who wants to launch a nuclear warhead in order to start a nuclear war.
It's hard to believe while watching Tom Cruise do some incredibly scary stunts that he's 49 years old (remember when he was just a kid in Risky Business?). Cruise did most of his own stunts in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, putting his body through hell in order to ensure scenes looked as realistic as possible. Director Bird was fortunate to have Cruise in the lead as he was able to get action shots he couldn't have with a stunt double in place (even with the magic of CG). Plus, Cruise knows this character inside and out, and slipping back into Ethan's skin is as comfortable for him to do as it is for the audience to watch.
Simon Pegg is counted on once again to provide the comic relief, which he does brilliantly. Pegg's also involved in the action sequences and makes for a believable enough agent, despite the fact it's hard to take him seriously just because he is Simon Pegg. Paula Patton looks gorgeous (and her beauty is used to lure in one of the key figures in the story) and can handle fight scenes, with guys in the preview audience seeming to be particularly impressed with the cat fight between Patton and Lea Seydoux. Men.
The Bottom Line:
Pay extra and see Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol in IMAX if only for the death-defying scenes of Cruise hanging outside the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. It's an indescribable experience seeing that scene play out in all its glory on a IMAX screen which won't be quite as effective in a traditional theater (or at home on a big screen TV).
That said, if you're scared of heights (I am, I admit it), MI4 is going to challenge your ability to stay focused on the screen and not turn away during some of the craziest high-rise stunts ever put on film. It's nauseatingly intense, but in a good way...
GRADE: A- only because it's a little too long
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol was directed by Brad Bird and is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence.
Theatrical Release: December 16, 2011
Also of Interest: Top 10 Action Films of 2011