Review: Mission Impossible- Ghost Protocol: Trail of Destruction

I’m a big Tom Cruise fan.

I’m not entirely sure about the Scientology stuff, but each to his own. And I have to admit for a while, after he wooed Katie Holmes I had something approaching loathing for the guy, but on the whole I’m pro-Cruise.

I can’t think of a single Cruise movie I don’t like. Among my favourites of his are the Mission: Impossible movies, part 2 is a little weak, but the other two are brilliantly gripping action thrillers. The third installment even managed to turn Phillip Seymour Hoffman into a genuinely menacing villain, which is quite a feat.

Every decent action star has one signature character or franchise, some have more than one (Stallone- Rocky and Rambo, Ford- Solo, Jones and Ryan) and in Ethan Hunt, Cruise has a pretty good one. It speaks to Cruise’s abilities that he creates a wholly believable bad ass character.

So I was really up for seeing part 4.

The newest installment, subtitled Ghost Protocol begins with Hunt imprisoned in Russia. IMF (Impossible Missions Force- one of the goofy things left over from the TV show) agents release the prisoners to cause a distraction and he escapes, but not before going back to rescue a fellow convict who helped him out before. Hunt has seperated from his wife and is no longer an active IMF agent.

Hunt’s rescuers, a young agent Carter (Paula Patton) and his old colleague, newly qualified field agent Benji (Simon Pegg) have just been part of an unsuccesful mission in Budapest to intercept a file intended for a mysterious figure known as Cobalt. During this mission another agent Hanaway (Josh Holloway) was killed by the assassin Moreau (Lea Seydoux).

Reactivated as an agent, Hunt is charged with leading the team in order to break into the Kremlin to attempt to discover Cobalt’s real identity, as he has previously worked with the Russians. However, during the mission they are exposed by Cobalt who then blows up the Kremlin, with Hunt being injured in the process.

With the blame falling on Hunt and his team, Hunt escapes hospital, now pursued by Sidorov (Vladmir Mashkov), a Russian spook. Meeting with the agency’s secretary (Tom Wilkinson), Hunt is informed that the US government has invoked “ghost protocol” whereby the entire IMF has been shut down and disavowed.

They are attacked and Hunt escapes with Brandt (Jeremy Renner) an IMF analyst. They reunite with Carter and Benji, and must now attempt to clear their names, beginning by intercepting Cobalt’s deal with Moreau, ensuring that Cobalt does not gain possesion of the nuclear launch codes that Moreau stole from Hanaway. To do this they head to Dubai, the start of a globetrotting mission to aprehend Cobalt, stop nuclear war and clear their names.

Its a great movie, and I thoroughly enjoyed.

Cruise is, as ever, on fine form and Hunt’s an extremely likeable character, leading his team into action and generally kicking ass. The hints of darkness regarding his wife and the reasons for his imprisonment are quite intriguing and there’s a steeliness in him that means that regardless of the obstacles he never gives up.

Hunt and the rest of the team gel really well, there are some entertaining scenes with Pegg and presence of Carter means that Hunt gets to play a mentor role to the younger, troubled agent. Brandt clicks well as someone who seems genuinely out of his depth and Renner is brilliant in the part, playing it just right as the more insecure, nervous member of the group. Renner gets some of the film’s funniest lines and sparks off Pegg very well in some of their scenes.

Renner is, after Cruise the strongest performance in the whole film and it fills me with optimism for how he’ll handle Hawkeye in the Avengers, its a great, simple performance, with Renner creating a well rounded character through small actions and capturing his nervouseness in a believable way.

Brandt however also causes one of my major problems with the film. Or rather, the film’s trailer. In the movie, Brandt is introduced as an analyst and a bit of a desk jockey, only to reveal in a later fight scene that he’s actually pretty badass himself. This is a nice touch in that it casts doubt and suspicion on the character, and leads to a revelation about his own back story, adding depth to both his character and Hunt’s.

But it fails because of two things. One- In the trailer they show Brandt being a badass. His fight scene and gunsnatching abilities serve as a major part of the promotional stuff, which meant that the reveal isn’t the shock it should be.

I know this isn’t the filmmaker’s fault, because they don’t cut the trailers but its just stupid, and happens all too often. There are plenty of other high action moments they could’ve shown which wouldn’t have given away the plot development, and the trailer overhypes the suspicion on Brandt meaning I spent much of the film expecting him to turn bad guy. Which sucked as it meant I waited for something that never happened and which kind of meant I couldn’t enjoy Renner’s great performance for what it was.

And secondly, Renner is buff.

Renner- Believably badass, unconvincing desk jockey

I mean seriously, they do allude to this in that Carter seems dubious that he’s just an analyst but it does kind of make it fall down. In a suit, maybe, he could just be a big bloke, but there’s a scene fairly early on where he wears a t-shirt and the guns are clearly on display. As good as Renner is in the part, and for me, he’s one of the best things in the flick, you can’t help but thinking it would’ve been better to cast someone a bit more regular or wiry looking (Cillian Murphy for example).

But this is one of very few flaws in the flick. The other is the character of Carter. There are times in the film when she really works, in the fight scenes you totally believe that she can take down her bigger opponents, and there are glimpses of toughness and ingenuity, but several times in the movie she does incredibly stupid things. Yes, she was in love with Hanaway, and feels responsible for his death, but too often her emotions creep in and she falters. It just seems a shame as they had the chance to create a genuinely cool female agent, but then give her all this emotional weakness which undermines it.

More of this, less of the emotional frailty

Brad Bird, the director, has previously worked in animation (The Incredibles) and clearly this means that he’s planned things in great detail, meaning that a lot of the shots are gorgeous and the film is visually perfect.

One of the standout sequences involves Hunt climbing the outside of the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The sequence is extremely tense and shot in such a way that even watching it on screen I felt my stomach tighten with vertigo and fear. I’m not good with heights, but I can’t think of a film that better conveys it and causes such a physical reaction in the viewer.

The thing it reminded me of is the YouTube video of some Russian teens messing about on a painfully high tower, which just gives me the heebie jeebies.

The action sequences are fantastic, with the fights having a hard, gritty edge where you feel every blow and it never looks choreographed.

There’s also some fantastic Bondian gadgets and gizmos, which are brilliant fun.

The plot is fairly standard spy movie fare, but its handled well and the villainous Cobalt (Michael Nyqvist) is an interesting character. A former strategist his reason for wanting a nuclear war is that he believes it is only after universal suffering that mankind will finally be able to pull together and achieve peace. It sets him apart from your average villain, and he makes a good opponent for Hunt, and convinces that he’s a fitting physical match for the man from IMF.

Verdict: As the Bond franchise becomes more serious and “dark” its good to know there’s still one fun spy-series out there. Beautifully shot and executed thriller with a good cast and the Cruiser on top form. 8/10

Any thoughts? You know what to do. TTFN

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