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.
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.