Film

A Real Action Film: 'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol'

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is 2011's most consistently entertaining effort.


Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Director: Brad Bird
Cast: Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Tom Wilkinson, Michael Nyqvist
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Paramount
Year: 2011
US date: 2011-12-16 (Limited release)
UK date: 2011-12-23 (General release)
Website
Trailer

Over the last few years, ever since Paul Greengrass handheld his way into the path of an erratically edited Michael Bay, the action film has lacked... something. Call it intentional internal logic or a sense of space and time, the notion of video assist and the whole "you are there" approach has turned the average thriller into a confusing - and sometime, nauseating - shaky-cam experience. So it's with much fanfare that Academy Award winning director (Ratatouille, The Incredibles) Brad Bird arrives to the genre with his Pixar polish intact. Aping James Cameron and other who understand that stunts have to be carefully crafted and captured in order to mesmerize the viewer, his take on the tepid Mission: Impossible franchise is so fierce, so absolutely astonishing, that you'd swear you were watching a whole new style of filmmaking, not some long lost art.

Tom Cruise is back as Agent Ethan Hunt, and this time, it's World War...3. When a bomb goes off in the Kremlin, it stirs up bad feelings between the Russians and the United States. Smack dab in the middle of this crisis is the IMF - Agents Carter (Paula Patton), Dunn (Simon Pegg), and our hero. Seems they were trying to discover the identity of a madman named Cobalt, and got caught up in the crossfire. Now the US has disavowed the group, the Secretary (Tom Wilkinson) is warning about blowback, and the entire planet seems poised for nuclear annihilation. With the help of an 'analyst' named Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and their individual undercover skills, they tie the plot to a radical named Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) with a fatal prediction for everyone on the globe.

With a "WOW" that should send shivers up the spine of every would-be action auteur, Bird crafts the year's most satisfying theatrical experience. From the opening bombing of the Kremlin to the delirious automated car garage finale, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol plows forward at breakneck speed and rarely lets up. With just enough narrative - stop the rogue nukes - to hang its set-pieces on, the film flies in the face of traditional big screen convention. As mentioned before, purveyors of latest editorial approach to cinematic derring-do have overloaded the stream with unnecessary shakes and jitters. Instead of creating logistical flow, understandable odds, and the (barely) believable breaking of same, they believe hyper histrionics will keep you engaged. Bird, on the other hand, goes old school in combination with F/X high tech, the result being a pure lump in the throat exhilaration.

Bringing back the best of the previous installments - that would be Pegg's prissy, hysterical Dunn - and adding a pair of amazing co-horts, Cruise combines his best attributes with an aging maturity to really get us to sympathize with Hunt. We can tell he's suffered, see the pain behind his otherwise steely eyes. Because there is this tragic nature to his personality, we want to see him win. It's not a question of stopping Armageddon. It's Hunt proving that no one - not anyone in IMF or any other similar secret organization - does it better. Since they are literally on their own (the title refers to a Presidential order dismantling the elite espionage ring) and must rely on only themselves, the story gives everyone a chance to shine...as well as a reason to do so. For Carter, it's personal. For Brandt? Well, let's not spoil one of the movie's major reveals.

Still, no one really comes to a Mission: Impossible movie for plot. They come for the fireworks, and Bird brings enough sky rockets to keep the twilight's last gleaming well in check. We begin with a prison break, followed by the aforementioned explosion. Then there is a trip to Dubai (and the scaling of the world's tallest building) that simply has to be seen to be believed. Filmed partially in IMAX and benefiting greatly from the clarity and detail provided, the entire hotel sequence is mind-boggling...and then the chase takes us into the middle of the city and a major sandstorm. As cars fly through zero visibility and every turn takes on an extra level of suspense, we recognize we're in the hands of a true master. While The Incredibles proved that cartoons could be just as spell binding as their live action cousins, Ghost Protocol takes it to a whole new level.

Even better, you can tell that this movie wants to deliver. You can see a desire to play to the audience, to prepare them for something great and then giving it to them over, and over, and over again. By the ending, everyone and everything is exhausted...including the viewer. Indeed, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol may suffer a bit from overkill. Bird is so eager to please that he practically levitates, his images spinning out of the frame in near frantic freshness. Luckily, he realizes his mistake and constantly keeps things in check, allowing his ambitions to merely suggest, not sink, his final results. As for Cruise, he keeps confusing those who would write him off as a fading superstar. Granted, his last few films have been more global than localized events, but Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol should bring his original legions back in droves.

That's because this is an action movie for those who've forgotten what made the genre so formidable in the first place. One can easily imagine the about face studio suits will have to do once the box office tallies come cascading in. While Brad Bird will get the majority of the credit - and he deserves it, along with ex-Alias scribes Andre Nemec and Josh Appelbaum - it's the series itself that probably deserves the most appreciation. Without the desire to constantly try something new, to make these movies a director's medium, we wouldn't have the bravado on display here (and, as many would point out, the flop sweat of John Woo's take on the material). Luckily, someone decided to give Brad Bird a shot. His Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is 2011's most consistently entertaining effort.

9

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image