For a franchise that was supposedly killed off by John Woo’s 2000 sequel to the 1996 hit starring Tom Cruise, Mission Impossible is doing very well for itself. When J.J. Abrams took over for the third film in 2006, he brought much needed personality to the story and gave it a strong emotional core to round out the clever action-centric heists that make up the critical component of a Mission Impossible story. With an even greater emphasis on that clever action Brad Bird bring us something akin to Bond meets Bourne with a dash of the J.J. Abrams mystery box drama.
This fourth installment opens with Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) imprisoned in Russia for reasons unknown, with a small team of IMF agents attempting to break him out. Once out he’s sent to the Kremlin to recover information on a nuclear extremist Michael Nyqvyst (Kurt Hendricks) only to discover he’s been used to start an international incident. The entire IMF team is disavowed in order to prevent a war with Russia and the fireworks begin. With no support, Ethan and his team (Simon Pegg, Jane Carter, & William Brandt) must track down Michael and stop him before he can start a Nuclear war.
It sounds cliché, typical, and not particularly interesting … But like all good action movies, it’s not really the plot that matters. It’s the action and the interplay of the characters that lights the audiences fire, and in those things this film delivers. The secret to this films success is unlike the Bond and Bourne movies, nothing seems to come off perfectly. There is a real sense that if the gadgets fail, or you miss by a small margin, you’re dead or the mission is a failure. The film keeps you on the edge of your seat with an endless procession of close calls and unexpected turns. There is one spectacular scene that see’s Cruise climbing, rope free, the slick outside of the tallest building in Dubai. With a sand storm incoming, climbing gear failing, and everything else you can think of going wrong hundreds of metres above the ground, you’re thoroughly hooked into the drama, excited and engaged.
The film also does enough to keep you engaged in the characters, including a continuation of the storyline from the previous film, and a few character twists. Even the nondescript nuclear madman of a bad guy has a unique edge to him granting them film some interesting dynamics in the climatic sequences. It’s these details and the way in which the director keeps the cards close to his chest and only reveals them when the audience will get the biggest kick out of it that sets this film apart from its comeptitors.
The film also doesn’t take itself too serious, and with comedian Simon Pegg in good form you will find enough laughs and chuckles to please almost any audience, so guys don’t need to be too afraid to take their partners. The film even manages a cameo from Bollywood star Brij Nath with mixed results, but it’s clearly trying to broaden its audience base. Perhaps however that’s the strongest criticism of the film that it pay lips service to a lot of the details and complexities of the plot in pursuit of entertainment which can make it all feel a little hollow. Even the dramatic setup earlier in the film goes unexplained and completely ignored after the fact. But these are futile arguments when you consider that you probably won’t enjoy the film anyway if you take it that seriously.
You won’t come away from Ghost Protocol feeling like the action film has been redefined, or you’ve seen something you haven’t seen before. But what you will get is one of the best actions films of the year, doing well what every film of its kind should be at least trying to do. It’s worth the price of admission to see the stunts on the big screen, and in a disappointing Christmas period here in Australia for those seeking the lighter end of mature entertainment, this is a good choise.