Thursday, July 26, 2018

Mission Impossible Series: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)
Directed by: Brad Bird.
Written by: Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec based on the television series by Bruce Geller.
Starring: Tom Cruise (Ethan Hunt), Jeremy Renner (William Brandt), Simon Pegg (Benjamin "Benji" Dunn), Paula Patton (Jane Carter), Michael Nyqvist (Kurt Hendricks), Anil Kapoor (Brij Nath), Léa Seydoux (Sabine Moreau), Vladimir Mashkov (Anatoly Sidorov), Samuli Edelmann (Marius Wistrom), Ivan Shvedoff (Leonid Lisenker), Josh Holloway (Trevor Hanaway), Pavel Kříž (Marek Stefanski), Miraj Grbić (Bogdan), Ilia Volok (The Fog), Tom Wilkinson (IMF Secretary), Ving Rhames (Luther Stickell).
I’m not quite sure I fully appreciated exactly what a massive accomplishment Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was back in 2011 when it came out – even if I certainly did think at the time that it was far and away the best in the series. Part of that comes from the fact that they released the film during Oscar season – a welcome bit of counter programming to be sure, but it sometimes makes films like this released around that time seem inconsequential. Yet, seven years later, I have to admit that this film has lasted – and stuck with me – a lot more than most of those Oscar films have. It truly is one of the best action films of the 21st Century – the easily the best Mission Impossible made up to that point.
For the fourth time in a row, the series changed directors from the last installment –and yet again, it works. Brad Bird was coming from animation – three triumphs in a row with The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille – and seemed to want to prove he could work wonders in live action as well. He proves it, and then some, in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.
The film pretty immediately jettisons much of what JJ Abrams brought to the third film – which tried to ground the emotions of Hunt into the series, and does what this series does best – jump from insane action sequence to tense set piece to insane action sequence and back again, without pausing to waste times with things like emotion or character development. The film opens with Hunt in a Russian prison, but he is broken out with the help of Benji (Simon Pegg, returning for comic relief) and Carter (Paula Patton). The sequence is wonderfully entertaining – set to Dean Martin’s Ain’t That a Kick in the Head – with much of taking place on security cameras, the scene becomes chaotic, with dozens of people fighting, but Bird keeps everything clear. The plot gets a little more complicated from there – as the team has to break into the Kremlin – which, of course, doesn’t go according to plan. They pick up another team member – Brandt (Jeremy Renner) – and head to Dubai.
The Dubai sequence truly is spectacular, as it piles one great sequence on top of each other, and yet all of them are different, unique accomplishments. The defining image of the movie is, of course, Tom Cruise on the outside of the tallest building in the world - Burj Khalifa – which is thrilling in one way. From there, the team has to conduct two simultaneously meetings – one with the assassin (Lea Seydoux) with nuclear launch codes, and the other with the men who want to buy them. These are brilliantly intense thriller set pieces, full of tension and sleight of hand. From there, it has to go immediately into a chase sequence during a sandstorm. All three of these set pieces would be a highlight in most movies – but stacked on top of each other like they are makes them even better.
It also does, admittedly, make the climax look a little weak by comparison. I loved everything with Paula Patton and Indian billionaire, but as Bird tries to crosscut it with Renner’s big action sequence involving a giant fan and magnets, it just isn’t quite as thrilling as we’ve seen before. And like all of the Mission Impossible films save for III, the villain here is kind of generic, Eastern European madman.
Still, Ghost Protocol truly is a remarkable achievement for Brad Bird – and the series itself. It has the most memorable action sequences, which truly is all that is required of this series. I do think Abrams contribution to the series – to make it more grounded – helped a little bit, because it allowed it to go bigger and better than ever before with the fourth installment. A truly great action film – that brought this series to an entirely new level.

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