Thursday, 2 February 2012

Film Review: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)

Director: Brad Bird
Writer: Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec
Stars: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg and Paula Patton

Simply put, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is this year’s best action picture and delivers everything you could ask from a non-stop, thrill-ride of a blockbuster. Let me tell you why.

The key to the film success (of which there are many) is the energy and pure spectacle of what we are watching. Director Brad Bird (of Pixar fame) handles his first live-action feature with a clear understanding of how an action scene should look and never lets the audience rest for a moment as the action moves around the world from Russia to the more glamourous Dubai and India. This, the fourth instalment in the M:I franchise, is the closest to how James Bond used to be, with nuclear missiles and globetrotting and luxury cars and beautiful women; however, the writers still keep the ‘impossible’ in Mission: Impossible with the gadgets and customary break-in sequence. The heart of the series remains despite the wall-to-wall action that runs throughout the 133 minutes of screen time.

The plot is more in line with the original 1996 film than the two previous sequels as Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF team must stop nuclear launch codes from getting into the wrong hands. Unlike the Brian De Palma film, the plot of Ghost Protocol remains fairly straight forward and understandable, but never slips into the plain and rather boring story of the series’ weakest entry, M:I-2. But with $140 million on show, I want to discuss the reason why you should part with you money to see Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. And that is the action. And there is a LOT of it!

The story opens in Russia and this is where we have the break-in sequence and, although it’s not on par with the break-in to Langley or Vatican City as we’ve previously seen from the IMF, it’s still exciting and ends with the film’s first story arc; the explosion at the Kremlin. The film is split neatly into three acts. The Russia part is the first act and sets up the story and background of what’s happening, who the bad guys are, and who the new team members are (notably Paula Patton as Jane and Jeremy Renner as Brandt). From here on, it is non-stop as we move on to Dubai…

The marketing for the film has mostly focused on the Dubai section and the now well-known use of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. In the trailers and online clips, we’ve seen Cruise scaling the building on the 135 floor, but believe me when I say that this scene MUST be seen in full IMAX just as director Brad Bird intended it to be. The Burj Khalifa scene is pure and utter movie spectacle, shot and made for no other reason than to wow and delight its audience. This is what sets Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (and the series as a whole) aside from its competition because Tom Cruise always wants to out do what we’ve seen on screen before. The iconic break-in to CIA headquarters at Langley in the first ‘Mission’ and the train and helicopter chase for the finale - nothing like it had been seen on film before and was a completely new direction for De Palma to go in. The drone attack on the Chesapeake Bridge in M:I:III remains, in my opinion, one of the greatest action set-pieces ever filmed and marked the arrival of JJ Abrams to feature film directing. And now the most audacious set-piece of the series so far.

When Cruise stands by the open window and the screen goes from standard to full IMAX, you cannot help but feel a sense of vertigo. Even though we know the scene was filmed without a hitch, in those few minutes, the sense of danger for Cruise/Hunt is constant and remember that really is Cruise on the building – no CGI backgrounds or stuntmen here. It is the most exciting and awe-inspiring sequence of the year for my money and is worth the price of admission alone and certainly worth the trip to your nearest IMAX to experience it. This beats 3D any and every time.

But Dubai isn’t just about the Burj Khalifa, and we are treated to the most daring and ingenious car chase I’ve seen for many a long time - in a sand storm. Bird films this scene expertly well, and the CGI is used to great effect as neither Hunt nor audience is aware of what is in front of them. This isn’t in a blurred, frantic Michael Bay way, but from a director who knows how to give the audience something new. It is a brilliant 20-odd minutes of entertainment.

Finally, the action moves to Mumbai and this is where the film could lose maybe 10 minutes of its running time, and also lose one element of a scene completely. It has been rumoured Jeremy Renner is to take over the M:I series (although there is nothing in this film to suggest Cruise is ready to hand over his IMF badge) and because he is a fairly big name now, he gets his own action scene and it is the only element I would cut out. It’s too far-fetched even for the M:I series and it only serves to drag out what is already a long sequence. That criticism aside, the action is relentless as we focus on Hunt in yet another unique action set piece, this time in a multi-level automated car park. Cruise, once again, delivers the energy and athleticism we’ve grown accustomed to as he throws himself into, onto, and through an array of cars to save the day. Like any James Bond, Die Hard or Indiana Jones film, we suspend belief that the hero could survive any of what we’ve seen, and just enjoy the sheer entertainment of it all.

This is very much Tom Cruise’s film, but the supporting cast do their job very well, especially Simon Pegg who reprises his role as Benji Dunn and supplies much of the film’s comic relief. Moreover, this fourth film is funnier and more comedic than the previous entries despite having more action than the others put together; I especially like the self-destructing message which doesn’t self-destruct. It’s a blend which works well and sets itself apart from the other movies. Each ‘Mission’ has its own identity and each director has put his own unique stamp on each film, and Brad Bird follows suit. A special mention also goes to Michael Giacchino whose score is right on the mark, although possibly not a clinical as it was on M:I:III, but that can be decided on future listening.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is everything you can ask for from a fourth film in the series and is the most explosively entertaining film of the year. Your mission, and you should accept it, is to see this in cinemas and IMAX this Christmas.


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