‘Ghost Protocol’ a lighter, more action-packed sequel
Editor’s note: This review first was published Dec. 21, 2011.
With a leaner, hard-jawed and painfully willful Tom Cruise at its helm, “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” hurtles with reckless abandon into the realm of outlandish scenarios bordering on the verge of actually being impossible. The fourth in the “Mission” franchise, “Ghost Protocol,” Cruise’s latest endeavor into extreme-ness, greatly benefits from a solid cast (including Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg); a new director (“The Incredibles'” Brad Bird); and absurdly unrealistic, though mostly self-aware, situations. But with the ever-present manic intensity radiating from Cruise no matter the reason, you can’t help but feel that more’s at stake than saving the world this time. This time, it feels personal.
Striking a Bond-like chord, “Ghost Protocol” follows the established procedures: fist fights, gun fights, sleuthing, kissing the pretty girl, more fist fights, more gun fights and lots of dead bodies. Explosions are as plentiful as nitrogen. The mood, though tense thanks to the impending doom always around the corner, is of light fare.
The movie, written by Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec, breaks from the third installment in the franchise, a dark, brutal episode involving a gruesome torture scene, nihilistic villain (a chilling Philip Seymour Hoffman) and unneeded wife (Michelle Monaghan).
Instead, “Ghost Protocol” decides to drop the wife and get back the high-flying action, with all the globe-trotting, futuristic gadgets and rubber masks you’d expect a government spy to possess. (It also was partly shot in IMAX, for whatever value you deem that.) The villain this time around, Michael Nyqvist, is a little less mental.
Ethan Hunt (Cruise), after being unofficially released from a Moscow prison, is immediately thrown back into the fray with an old colleague, tech whiz Benji Dunn (Pegg), and the new pretty lady this time around, Agent Jane Carter (Paula Patton). The mission, as is expected, doesn’t go according to plan, nor does a debriefing with Ethan’s boss (Tom Wilkinson), whose murder leaves Ethan and his team reeling, disavowed by their own government, and in the company of an intelligence analyst, William Brandt (Renner).
Renner, best known for his role in the Oscar-winning “The Hurt Locker,” easily falls into place in the blockbuster genre, utilizing some real acting (his role actually required it) in a movie better known for its cartoonish human interactions. He may not seem the action type, but when he picks up a gun, you’ll have no doubt he knows what he’s doing.
Cruise, on the other hand, seems to be lacking the invincible aura so potent 16 years ago in the original “Mission” film. His energy is still intense, but he seems reluctant at times, even wooden, though he comfortably resumes his franchise role. Some may blame his age; some may blame the heavy burden of the public spotlight (remember his marriage, or, heck, even Oprah?).
Somehow, though, this new aura works well for “Ghost Protocol.” As always, Cruise was meant to portray an extraordinary man capable of achieving great feats with a “Oh, that little thing?” attitude and passing as believable. This new fragility adds a real sense of risk, and you can’t help but feel on edge when you see him dangling from the tallest building in the world (Dubai’s Burj Khalifa), bouncing around in a car factory or trying to outrun Arabian sandstorms. He’s absorbing every blow, and you’re well aware of it.
But maybe that’s why “Ghost Protocol” is a surprisingly effective action flick. Maybe that’s why it’s an escapist’s dream. Maybe that’s why this installment is a successful reboot to this stalled franchise. Or maybe it’s the car. (You’ll know the one I’m talking about).
Four infiltrating stars out of five.