“Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol” Movie Review

     The thrilling “Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol”, the fourth entry in the series, will likely stand as the best pure action film of 2011.  From the opening scene to the very last, audiences will be treated to a strong story, well defined characters, a mysterious villain, and wall to wall action.  Keeping the story moving this time is director Brad Bird (The Incredibles) as he makes his leap from animation to live action.  Anchored as usual by the always effective Tom Cruise, “Ghost Protocol” shows no signs of the typical “been there, done that” syndrome common with fourth outings.  Unlike last summer’s fourth “Pirates” film, “Ghost Protocol” uses a wide variety of set ups and interesting back story of some of its characters to keep things fresh. 

     It’s been 5 years since the third film and this one begins with  Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt character being broken out of a Russian prison by members of his vaunted IMF team.  Shortly after, the team is assigned to go to the Kremlin and obtain nuclear launch codes before they fall into terrorist hands.  Unfortunately, they don’t succeed and the terrorists not only escape with the codes, they also set off a bomb in the Kremlin that Ethan and his team are ultimately blamed for.  In a secret meeting, Hunt is told by the IMF Secretary that the President of the United States has initiated “Ghost Protocol.”  This means Ethan and his team have been blamed for the bombing and are now considered terrorists themselves.

     Hunt works with his new team for the remainder of the film in an attempt to stop the real terrorists from launching nuclear weapons and starting a nuclear war.  His team is comprised of Jane (Paula Patton), Benji (Simon Pegg), and Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and each provides a specific function.  With loads of critical undercover work, the need for a female who can handle herself is crucial.  Jane is that woman and more.  The tech guy is of course Benji and he provides much of the comic relief in the film.  His co workers are continually involved in perilous situations, yet he’ll come back from situations not nearly as risky and act as though he’s been through war.  Brandt joins the team late and only out of necessity.  He and Ethan have a past and there always seems to be an underlying tension between them.  Together, this group works through one road block after another, but the stakes couldn’t be higher and they display unparalleled determination during crucial scenes in the film.

     For this review, I don’t want to discuss specifics in reference to the films many pulse pounding action sequences.  You really need to see them for yourself.  I highly recommend seeing an IMAX presentation as the majority of the film’s action set pieces were shot with IMAX cameras to breathtaking effect.  If you’ve seen the film’s trailer, then you know already there will be a sequence in which Ethan scales the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest building.  The massive framing capability of the IMAX cameras really immerses you in the setting as Ethan climbs at the level of the 103rd floor using gloves that stick to the glass surface and peel off when he curls his hand off.  This is less an action scene and more of a white knuckle demonstration of sheer suspense.  The conclusion of this sequence alone is worth the price of admission.  The film’s final sequence, a showdown of sorts between our hero and villain in a very unique parking garage, is one of the most creative scenes I have ever seen.

     The villain in the film doesn’t really exhibit much in the way of emotion.  He seems to be cold and calculating, yet this guy doesn’t seem to have a reason for wanting to start a third world war.  At least not a reason he shares with the audience at any point.  We rarely see him only in glimpses as he removes a disguise or walks by someone in a hallway.  I suppose this film really isn’t about him, rather its about getting to him before the proverbial fuse runs out and the world explodes in hail of mushroom clouds.  I would expect this film is a lot like what we might expect from a “24” movie in the future.  The Jack Bauer and Ethan Hunt characters are similar in that their jobs don’t allow them any kind of a stable life as they are dedicated to stopping really bad things from happening in a way they will never be credited for.  The good thing is, as long as there are bad people out there who are willing to do bad things, we can always expect another Mission. GRADE: A-