Review – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

                  Rating = ★★★½    Tagline = Full Price

The Mission Impossible movies have always been decent enough action movies. They’ve never risen above the ordinary in any way, though. I was started to get tired of them. They finally have with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (MI4). Yes their missions are pretty impossible and most of their gadgets could never exist in the real world – at least, not yet – but MI4 has all the right pieces to make for a really fun time, and more. It rises above the current Hollywood formula for big-budget (typically meaning, B-movie grade) action fare and establishes a new standard for the MI franchise. Fianlly, a Mission Impossible that gives us everyhting we ever wanted in this type of movie (it was about time). Fourth time at bat, MI4 hits one over the fences. It’s a home run!

 The IMF has been implicated in a global terrorist bombing plot. They’re shut down. Ghost Protocol is initiated. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his new team go rouge, then go undercover to clear the organization’s name. They have no backup. No help. Only themselves.

 I was surprised to find out that MI4 was directed by Brad Bird. He’s a great director, but has only done animated movies. The animated movies he’s directed have been great ones, though. Bird directed The Incredibles, The Iron Giant and Ratatouille. This is his first live action movie. I don’t know if doing animated movies helped him with this in any way, but his direction is outstanding. Bird directed the action scenes in a way that you don’t just see them and think, hey there’s an action scene, now it’s over. His action scenes start off cool and just keep getting cooler. Action scenes have become gratuitous and pretty boring, really, in most Hollywood blockbuster movies of this sort. If the action isn’t an integral part of driving the plot, advancing the story and reinforcing the character development, it’s just distracting. As in Brad Bird’s animated films, he doesn’t disappoint.

 The action scenes are phenomenal. This is where the movie truly shines. These are easily some of the best action sequences I have ever seen. They are just stunning to look at and fascinating to watch unfold. In too many movies, with too much action and where the action is used as the main device to “engage” the audience, the action winds up having the opposite effect on me – ultimately, becoming boring and repetitive. Transformers 3 is a prime example. Here, the action scenes rivet your attention. The full MI4 team gets a lot of screen time and in a lot of different locations. So, there’s always a new and interesting backdrop to the action and story. They use the locations to their fullest. There are lots of breathtaking visual set pieces. I don’t want to give any of them away; just know, they’re outstanding. This just proves you can have lots of action and special effects and still have a great movie.

Tom Cruise gets some good exercise in this.

The script was good. It provided some great lines to the characters and told the story extremely well. Those are the best things it did. What was missing, though, was a proper villain. There isn’t really a direct villain in this movie. One big problem with MI4 has to do with the development of its villains. Hendricks and his henchman have the basic making of good villains. The movie suffers, though, from not giving them enough screen time. And one of the few weaknesses of the script is that it doesn’t fully flesh out the characters of these villains. They serve the basic need of the plot; that’s all. MI4 doesn’t deliver the villain that an audience loves to hate. This is the one thing that the third Mission Impossible movie did well. The character development of the villain was obviously side lined at the expense of the screen time needed to develop the characters of the MI4 team. In this respect, the script succeeded and succeeded beyond expectations. I just wish they had focused more on the villain, as well.

What I really love about MI4 is its focus on the team. It’s not just Tom Cruise, alone, like in the other MI films. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), and Jane Carter (Paula Patton) make an excellent team. Each character has their own personality, skills, depth (that surprised me) and background. The characters play off of each other very well and their relationships were all believable.

 MI4 benefits from great acting performances from each of the characters. Tom Cruise is pretty much doing the same thing here as he did in the 3rd Mission Impossible, but if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Cruise is good in these action roles. He’s always intense and focused. His performance in MI4 couldn’t have been better – the best to date for the franchise. Simon Pegg is just plain funny. There’s no getting around that. He has excellent comedic timing. He is funny, but never comes off as annoying in any way – or, as in so many movies, as the comedic relief guy thrown in as an afterthought. I was wondering if Renner was the right choice to take over the Bourne franchise. After seeing his performance in MI4, though, I have no doubt he’s the right actor for that role. He delivers the goods – pitch perfect. He’s the thinking man’s action hero. Every Renner role, since his star turn in The Hurt Locker, has lived up to the same standard. Paula Patton delivers one of her best performances in a movie to date, if not her best. These four actors (who make up the MI4 team) work together so well, I hope we get to see them together again.

 MI4 was easily the biggest surprise of the year. Now, I’ll wrap up this mission. Awesome action. Great story. Excellent team chemistry. Good script. So much fun. This is the best “summer” movie I’ve seen in a very long time; and it was released in winter! I don’t know how that worked, but it did. If you are not entertained by Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol then entertaining you is, really and truly, an impossible mission.

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12 thoughts on “Review – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

  1. Nice review. I really liked this movie; it was a pleasant surprise. I agree with you. The action scenes (particularly the one on the building in Dubai) are the best aspect of the film. The villains were its weakness.

  2. Ahh, it seems like every time I leave a comment on someone’s review of this movie I always have to share my story about it, and for some reason I always love doing so: I saw this with a friend that accompanies me for many of my theatrical experiences (out of those I see with friends). We saw Little Fockers in December of 2010 (as fans of the Meet the Parents movies, but it was horrible); Tower Heist in November of last year (couldn’t stop laughing at Eddie Murphy); The Lorax from this year; Titanic in 3D a few weeks ago; and we’re going to see Three Stooges today. Anyway, we got to this movie a little late, I guess, a week or two after it had opened, and it was so packed that we were forced to sit in the front row. The same thing had happened to me when I went to see Twilight: New Moon (I think) a few years ago, and I had hated it, plus I had sat next to the front for Sherlock Holmes 2, and it was quite uncomfortable, so I was really dreading the experience. Ironically, it was the best time I’d ever had with an action movie.

    Your review is great; I loved it. I agree with most of your points except that the M:I series hasn’t risen to the point of greatness until now. I still have to see M:I:2 and M:I:III, but when I saw the original M:I for its fifteenth anniversary celebration on AMC, I loved it, and when I saw the reviews, I found it underrated. Here’s my review for this one:
    http://themoviefreakblog.wordpress.com/review-mission-impossible-ghost-protocol

    • Cool Story. I haven’t seen any of the older Mission Impossible movies in a while. I remember them being very unmemorable. Maybe I need to revisit them though. Thanks.

  3. Just discovered your blog, Alec. Nice work! It so happens that I just watched Ghost Protocol for the first time on Sunday and really loved it (I’m a huge fan of the original; #2 and #3, not so much), so I’m glad you dug it too. A revisit to the first one is worth the effort, my friend. 🙂

    I look forward to checking out the rest of your site!

    • I am glad you liked my blog and this review. I was so surprised that this movie was this great. I do want to visit the first one again real soon. Thanks so much.

  4. Nice write up Alec, I was all set to hate on Tom Cruise when we went to see this but I ended up liking the film quite a bit. The only time this film seemed to go off the rails a little bit was when it tried to take itself to seriously.

  5. I took a chance on seeing this from your review, and I am glad I did. I never really liked any of the other Mission Impossible movies. This one though was great. Thanks, and great review.

  6. If you’re a Brad Bird fan, you need to check out the animated episode of “Amazing Stories” that he did (available on Netflix) called “Family Dog.” It is hilarious. It spawned its own short-lived TV series that never lived up to the original, however.

    As for “M:I GP,” I think it was the best in the series, and I’m a huge fan of the first and third film (the second not so much, thanks to John Woo, a man who does not know the word “subtle”). You’re right about the villain, who was pretty much an excuse for the plot to happen. I loved Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s villain in “M:I3.” I think a lot of the success of the fourth film has to be given to producer J.J. Abrams, who directed the third film. He hired Bird when he backed out of the director’s chair and brought in his “Alias” writers to script this one. For once there seems to be continuity between movies (other than Luther), which is a plus.

    Keep up the good reviews!

    • I am with you. This is my favorite “MI” movie as well. I do agree that Phillip Seymour Hoffman was great in the last one. I kind of wish he played the villain here though. I didn’t know that about J.J. Abrams. He officially saved this series. Thanks a lot.

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