reviewed by Tom-Tom
The Mission Impossible film series is unique in that each film has been shaped by a different director. Brad Bird is the fourth director to tackle the franchise. He brings with him his considerable talents for stylized silence, humor, gadgetry, action and dramatic cinematography in a cool spy film which is fun, shocking, and satisfying.
The film opens unusually for a Mission Impossible after a rather exciting opener from two people we don’t know stealing from and killing one another. The scene changes and we get what looks like security camera footage of a Russian prison in which the doors are electronically locked with clear red lights for closed and green for open. Suddenly one door opens and a giant tattooed thug walks free into the hall not believing his luck. It’s got a bit of teatre d’absurtite feel to it. We soon realize the doors were opened by Benji (Simon Pegg) who only had two rather funny yet memorable cameos in the third film. Pegg is such a natural comic actor with a very expressive face demonstrating shock, annoyance, confusion in a series of rather funny faces as he plays around opening cell block after cell block and looks on using his many faces as things take a turn he wasn’t expecting. Ethan Hunt IMF (Impossible Mission Force) Agent is also in the prison for reasons we know not. As Benji takes the hacker’s high road, an unknown female agent (the kickass and beautiful Jane Carter played by Paula Patton) takes the subterranean low road while keeping in constant contact with him. Ethan defers from the easiest path of escape and seeks to help another unknown character Bogdan, a string-haired bearded man who calls Hunt Sergei, escape.
It turns out Hunt was in prison by choice keeping his ear to the ground for info in the Russian underworld. The reasons for his rescue are promptly explained by Agent Carter (sound familiar?) and Benji (Agent Dunn if you please). After a standard debriefing of their mission at a Russian Public Telephone with spy benefits,it’s time for an ambitious op redolent of the daring CIA break-in of the first film but in Russia. I admit to grinning like an idiot at the prospect and knew immediately I was in the hands of the great Brad Bird, who demonstrated his love for secret missions and gadgets in the excellent The Incredibles. Super cool tech toys make their way in this MI installment as well and they’re funny and suspenseful to watch. Pegg’s talent for humor and an almost De Palma-ish scene of complete(-ish) silence make rather than break the scenes. The completely unexpected happens and the agents find themselves on their own cut off from Washington. Tom Wilkinson makes a cameo as the Secretary whose only importance thus far in MI is that he or she reserves the right to disavow the agents who are caught or killed. He gives the IMF mantra in person this time which is nice for a change.
The increasingly impossible missions lead the team to the tallest building in the world in Dubai in another breathtaking set piece not without rather humorous suspense due to unforeseen circumstances. I was happy to see that not all IMF gadgets function perfectly and in this instance, it adds to the tension. We realize how much of the mission perfection thus far has been to the support of IMF headquarters and things such as knowledge of inclimate weather systems (SANDSTORM!) and access to facial recognition smooth things along and how their absence doesn’t. I haven’t mentioned Jeremy Renner as William Brandt who is introduced as an analyst but knows a few moves, more than Benji anyhow. His greenish comments like mechanical indicating depleting time limits or stating the painfully obvious are rather endearing traits, I thought as is the light way Benji delineates what the field agents will have to do to accomplish their specific tasks breezing over the death defying parts as a dispassionate computer guy is wont to. Does he actually think Hunt and Brandt like scaling up the sides of mile-high buildings, chasing targets through sandstorms, and jumping into ventilation ducts?
The monster at the end of the film is Kurt Hendricks (the great Michael Nyquist of the Millennium Trilogy) who’s master plan may have provided the inspiration for Ultron’s in the Avengers’ second movie outing. I rather like Brad Bird manufactured villains. They also have an all too familiar sinister quality about them than no amount of maniacal posturing by your run-of-the-mill movie bad guy can replicate. Hendricks is another wonderful contribution to the Bird Bad-Guy Pantheon.
The final showdown takes place in India in another multi-tiered high stakes, laugh filled set piece. I was quite happy that the fate of the world comes to a head in some place as ordinary as a parking garage rather than trying to outdo what had come so far. This is made possible by almost unbearable suspense which really pushes the envelope of how close things can come.
Ghost Protocol is an exciting and fun film with meaningfully suspenseful scenes and jaw dropping stunts and action sequences. The gadgets are all eye-poppingly fascinating even when they don’t work properly. Even after the action is all over, an appearance from an old friend, and a resolution unasked for but welcome all the same. The camaraderie feels so real and it is just what the franchise needed to keep it going for the next 15 years as long as Tom Cruise stays healthy and fit.