Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Brad Bird) 2011

When I saw the trailer for this movie I let out an audible groan.  Not another one.  It almost seemed comical how many sequels could be churned out for an action series with little/no intention of making something fitting Mission Impossible.  It is kind of like those foreign exploitation remakes like when Bruno Mattei does Terminator 2 or Jaws 5.  It’s got a shark terrorizing people in a peaceful harbor town.  It’s close enough to a Jaws sequel right?  In the Mission Impossible series its like “Hey we have…people doing spy stuff aaaaaand I guess some of the character names are the same.  Generic Tom Cruise action series; you have a home!“

But I guess I’ll go a little further and explain briefly how I felt about the series.  Mission Impossible was a good action thriller if you can take it as just an action thriller.  If you are looking at it as movie actually about Mission Impossible you will be mad especially at the raping of the team and especially the complete character assassination of Jim Phelps.  MI:II is actually funny to recall because as a kid I thought it was fun and looking at it recently I wonder what brain damage I suffered at that age to make me think that.  MI:III was okay except that it really didn’t stick with me.  Honestly, I really don’t remember anything about the movie except for small bits.  It was directed by JJ Abrams and it honestly felt at the time like he directed a movie version of Alias except with Tom Cruise instead of Jennifer Garner.  It also seems like many others forgot about this movie too as many of the people I talked to about Ghost Protocol called it Mission Impossible III.  So this was another movie was really dreading to see but as it turns out this is probably my favorite action movie of the year.

This is, hands down, the best Mission Impossible movie of the bunch.  It helps that we FINALLY have a team collaborating on a mission instead of it being the Tom Cruise show.  The crew actually has more character development than Tom in this one.  Simon Pegg does a great job at comic relief (whitout going overboard on goofy), Paula Patton is very charismatic, and Jeremy Renner shares some of the action.  While Cruise still handles most of the big action, it is strange that he seems to be in the Jim Phelps role of wise leader.

The focus is on the action, which is done extremely well.  I wouldn’t give this movie a back handed compliment by saying the plot is simple but that it does the job it needs to do for the purposes of this type of movie.  We are quickly told who the bad guy is and shown why he is evil and the mission is layed out simply in ‘go to A and do B‘.  The complications aren’t in the plot but how the team decides to work out their plan.  That is why this works.  We aren’t fussing over plot details and instead invested in the mission and how they plan to deal with the problems that come up in their path.  Bird does a great job in giving the audience several different and inventive action sequences such as the tower climb, the sand storm chase, and the parking garage brawl.  And because we actually care about the characters it makes the action all that more intense.

The movie still has the over the top gadgets but they work to better effect in this movie.  For example, I hated the face mask plus the voice box because it seemed like an easy out for everyone involved.  It added no drama or tension to the story and was used as a lame reveal every single time.  Here one of the tech pieces used are the climbing gloves which, while complete nonsense, doesn’t change the fact Ethan Hunt still has to physically climb to the top of a 130 story building.  Bird does a better job than the other Impossible directors in establishing the universe of this movie.  It is set up as a rather tongue-in-cheek action movie where characters can bounce off cars and not get hurt and all the spys have super cool cars/gadgets.

If I had a complaint it might be that the villain is almost non-existent.     Seriously, he and Ethan don’t exchange ANY dialog in this movie.  If there was one thing I actually loved about MI:III is was Phillip Seymore Hoffman as probably the only villain in the series with any menace.  But that being said, the movie was more about the mission to get to the villain rather than the villain himself.

Ghost Protocol is kind of like the Iron Man of 2011.  It is a film that not many people were expecting to be awesome and just caught everyone off guard.  I’m sure this will spawn some more sequels and here’s hoping they have the same energy and imagination as Ghost Protocol.  I loved this movie as it was the summer blockbuster I was waiting all year for.  Check it out.

 

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