Mission Impossible IV: Ghost Protocol Review

Mission Impossible returns yet again with another intense and action packed adventure for Ethan Hunt(Tom Cruise) with his new team made up of the returning Benji(Simon Pegg) and newcomers Jane(Paula Patton) and Brandt(Jeremy Renner).  With Tom Cruise beginning to show his age and Brad Bird(The Incredibles, Ratatouille) stepping in to direct his first live action film; it is a somewhat relevant question to ask if this series really has any juice left in it with this latest installment. Can Ghost Protocol deliver the same intricate storylines and intense action scenes as its predecessors or is Tom Cruise effectively running his career as an action star into the ground?

Ghost Protocol begins with a surprisingly entertaining jail breakout sequence as Jane and Benji get Ethan out of a Moscow prison. After being released from the prison Ethan goes straight into his mission(if he chooses to accept it) which involves Benji and him breaking into the Kremlin in Russia to steal some intelligence without being spotted. The break in scene was a really cool and surprisingly intense before it ends completely differently than what I was expecting. Once Ethan has broken into the safe to get the intelligence; he realized that the info they needed has already been taken. As Benji and he attempt to make their way out of the Kremlin without being spotted; somebody triggers a bomb and alerts the security to their presence. While both of them make it out of the building; the bomb still goes off and kills hundreds of people and the entire incident gets pinned on Ethan’s team and IMF. Ethan and his team become outcasts and the secretary of IMF gives them one last mission to fulfill before he cuts all ties to them as he realizes the government cannot continue to fund IMF. Brandt ends up joining the team about a third of the way through the movie to complete the team.  The incident at the Kremlin also raises tension between the US and Russia and leaves them on the brink of a nuclear war. After being briefed Ethan and his team discovered that the man behind the Kremlin also wants a nuclear war to happen as a means to further human evolution. From this point fourth the movie unfolds much like many globe trotting action movies with some really great action set pieces as the team pursues the madman.

If this story sounds overly complicated and intricate; its because it is. Like all of the past entrees in the series, Ghost Protocol also fits into the espionage genre mold as always moving and never fleshing out. There are many times in the film that the plot is told and explained as opposed to shown and told visually. Generally I am against this type of story telling, and while I do have some issues with how the film was handled I also think that these explanations work because they actually keep the momentum of the movie going. The pacing of the movie is actually incredibly fast and never dragging or slowing down too much. While the movie does have its share of explosions, car chases, and fist fights,  the movie succeeds the most in its intense, but surprising quiet action scenes such as the infiltration of the Kremlin or  the entire set piece of the tower of Dubai(the tallest building in the world which Tom Cruise did in fact climb).  The scene was probably the most intense in the whole movie and there was not a single explosion or bullet fired during the duration of the scene. This being said the movie excels in performing its slightly ridiculous yet also semi-believable action set pieces which occur very steadily throughout the film. This is the more elegant and clean action film this year needed because of all of the loud, sloppy, and over the top action movies that have rained supreme (Fast Five, Transformers 3) this year. Even though the action set pieces are plentiful and the movie never really slows down, I also never felt tired and actually really enjoyed the entirety of the running time.  The action was clean, smooth, and intense and it didn’t rely on constant explosions to keep the movie interesting which in my book makes it the best action movie to be released this year.

The characters in this movie are just as enjoyable as they’ve always been with Cruise actually breaking the cheesy smile he’s know for and actually seeming more real this time around as he no longer appears to be the Terminator of the MI films. I actually like the fact that Cruise seems legitimately more human and more fragile than he has in past films as it allows him to appear more real (he did really climb the Dubai Tower to do his stunts). By the end of the movie he is no longer walking away from explosions, but actually appears mortally wounded and on the brink of death many times in the movie. While he takes his fair share of unbelievable hits in the movie; the character of Ethan seems legitimately aware that the things he is attempting are absolutely insane. The movie succeeds at making Ethan human despite the fact that he is a a machine of a man(mostly because of Cruise who still manages to carry his sarcastic charm). The other characters are also pretty memorable with Simon Pegg returning as the fan favorite tech nerd Benjii, Paula Patton giving us a truly sexy, epic, and memorable female supporting action star, and Jeremy Renner who joins the team as the new guy who also has a few tricks of his own. The team is great fun and this film does a tremendous job at giving each of these characters their deserved screen time. The film still feels like a movie about a team as opposed to a movie about Tom Cruise who is the head of a team because the supporting cast is so strong. The real weak link in terms of memorable characters is the villain whose name I cannot even recall while writing this review(Kurt Hendricks played by Michael Nyqvist). While his threat is huge the actual character is of little screen presence and does absolutely nothing to set himself apart  from any other villain in the action film industry. I believe this is less a fault of the acting as much as it is in the writing department.

The film’s director is Brad Bird who did an outstanding job on both the Incredibles and  Ratatouille. While one would think the transition from animation to live action would be a little bit jarring; his style actually carries over rather well. He had the difficult task of making sure that this movie stayed as grounded and believable as a MI movie could while also trying to deliver on the spectacular action sequences the series is known for. And succeed he did. The action scenes are not only the best I’ve seen this year, but they are also the best of any in the franchise(aside from a couple of John Woo’s set pieces in MI2). The tower of Dubai was probably the most intense and edge of my seat sequence in the movie while the other action sequences such as the chase in the middle in the end of the movie certainly kept the adrenaline pumping.  Brad Bird delivered by giving us some of  the best choreographed action sequences and set pieces I have seen in recent memory. The best part about it was that it was far more believable than what can be seen in many action movies currently popular(despite its ridiculousness).  Part of the movie was filmed in IMAX and while I can’t say I saw it in the IMAX, I can say that it some of the cinematography looked absolutely gorgeous even for an action film. Brad Bird had zero problems in his transition into the live action as he delivered an elegance and method to both the action set pieces and the cinematography that most action directors still struggle to reach.

Overall Mission Impossible IV: Ghost Protocol is the best action film of the year because of its clean, smooth, and intense action, cast of likable and memorable characters, and excellent direction from director Brad Bird. Despite its sometimes overly complicated story and poorly done villain the great outshines the bad here tenfold.

Story: 6.5

While the story is nothing particularly new or dramatically different than other espionage films, it manages to hit all the right beats at just the right time. At times the plot can get a little muddled due to the way the story is explained as opposed to shown to the audience. This aside, the pacing is perfect as the story never seems boring(save for a slightly drawn out ending), but because of this there is also little time to fully digest what is going on until the credits role.

Character/Acting: 9

While the characters don’t have a ton of development, they are all very likeable and very memorable. It seems that this may be the best team assembled in the Mission Impossible movies as this team seems to have the perfect chemistry. None of them stand tall over another as all of them(Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, and Jeremy Renner) all fulfill a certain niche in the team and all of them fit perfectly. In action movies the most important aspect of the characters portrayal is that they are likable and memorable and in this film the team passes with flying colors. Unfortunately the same cannot said for the villain of the film who is so forgettable I cannot even recall his name off the top of my head or who played him.

Direction: 10

Brad Bird does a terrific job in his transition from animation to live action. The set pieces are masterfully choreographed, the cinematography is terrific, and the special effects(which are thankfully mostly practical) are handled with excellence. Brad Bird knocked it out of the park in this fourth Mission Impossible movie, and he may now be my favorite of the Mission Impossible directors who have already set a fairly high bar in previous entrees to the series.

Overall Effectiveness of the Film: 9.5

The movie is the best action movie I’ve seen this year and is one of the best I can think of in the last several years. Anything  someone would want in an action movie is here and is masterfully executed. The only thing the film lacked was a really memorable villain which does take away from the immediate threat facing the team. As an action movie I cannot think of any reason not to recommend this film.

Overall Score: 9

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