Mission: Impossible–Ghost Protocol (2011)

25 Jan

mission-impossible-ghost-protocol-tom-cruise-brad-bird-burj-khalifa-dubai

Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

There’s no doubt about it—the best action sequence in the fourth “Mission: Impossible” movie (subtitled “Ghost Protocol”) is the one in which Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt has to scale a skyscraper. But not just any skyscraper—the Burj Khalifa in Dubal. The world’s tallest building. Ethan has to scale the glass windows from the outside, more than a hundred stories up. He’s equipped with special gloves that stick to a surface, which of course malfunction so that Ethan can hang on for dear life.

Why doesn’t anyone else do this? Simon Pegg’s Benji’s reponse is simple: “I’m on the computer.” Jeremy Renner’s Brandt’s response: “I’m…the helper.” And Ethan is…well, he’s the hero. He was going to scale that tower no matter what. What floor does he have to stop at? 130.

Pulling off a sequence like this is tricky enough, but then I found out this piece of information—apparently, Tom Cruise did his own stunts. Wait…what?

OK, maybe some heavy wirework was involved or there were unseen footholds around, but Tom Cruise reportedly insisted on performing his own stunts. I simply can’t believe it. There’s a shot where we actually pan out from Cruise scaling the building to where we get a full shot of the place, and I simply can’t believe that anybody would really try this. But apparently, Cruise isn’t CGI in these shots and we really are looking at him. This either means that Cruise is very brave or very stupid.

Either way, this whole sequence is impactful. I have an underlying fear of heights and seeing this on the big screen gave me vertigo. It’s that impressive.

This may be the standout, but there are other terrific action sequences in “Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol,” an exciting thriller that comes along like the lost James Bond picture. We have it all—stunts, chases, explosions, neat gadgetry, a megalomaniac villain with a thuggish henchman, and wall-to-wall action. It’s a lot of fun and easily the best entry in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise, proving that sometimes the fourth entry can be the charmer (see “Live Free or Die Hard” or “Star Trek IV”—just please don’t see “Superman IV” or “Batman and Robin”).

OK, maybe the story is a bit muddled and somewhat confusing in that certain things are left unsaid, but there are still some kick-ass action sequences to turn this into a thrill ride to make us care for it. It begins with a prison break, as Impossible Mission Force (IMF) need Ethan back to take care of something big. Ethan is stuck in a Russian prison, so agents Benji and Jane (Paula Patton) break him out in a nicely-done opening scene. The team is hunting down the international terrorist Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist), a genius who is looking to gain control of nuclear weapons. He must be stopped before he succeeds in unleashing nuclear war—he believes that the way to gain world peace is to start over, from the rubble.

Hendricks and his brutish sidekick Wistrom (Samuli Edelmann) blow up the Kremlin and frame IMF, forcing “ghost protocol.” But Ethan, Benji, Jane, and analyst Brandt are still carrying out the mission.

Aside from the skyscraper scene, there are some neatly-staged sequences in the movie. Of course, a lot of these aren’t plausible, but they are thrilling. There’s one in particular that comes in the final half of the movie where the team is in Mombai, and Brandt jumps into a ventilating shaft somewhere. I guess he wears a steel belt so that Benji can keep him safe in the shaft via a mobile magnet. Of course, there are close calls in that sequence as well, as you’d predict. But close calls are what make action scenes all the more exciting.

I liked the four central cast members. They do appealing work and I was interested in following them because they were entertaining. Tom Cruise is on hand for action as he always is in these movies (although you have to wonder, in those sequences where he’s running like mad, if he’s going crazy). Jeremy Renner is apparently stepping in for Cruise in a fifth “Mission: Impossible” movie; he’ll have earned his position as a new lead. (I forgot to mention that his character Brandt isn’t just an analyst—he has field agent training.) Simon Pegg has nice moments providing comic relief. I hate to actually have to type this in a review, but…Paula Patton is hot! And she gets some neat girl-on-girl action in a fight scene between her character and a sexy female assassin played by French actress Lea Seydoux.

This is the live-action film debut of the great animation director Brad Bird (“The Iron Giant,” “The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille”) and it proves to be a spectacular one. “Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol” is alive and entertaining with nifty action sequences and an exciting feel.

And the next best thing I can say about the skyscraper scene is this: I wish I had seen it on IMAX…or maybe I don’t. Like I said, I have a fear of heights.

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