Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)
Your mission, Simon Pegg (Benji Dunn), should you choose to accept it, is to infiltrate the tired old IMF team and, when no-one is looking, take the mickey out of the whole thing. Should this fail, the secretary and her boss will deny all knowledge of you. Presumably because the offer came with rather more zeros on the end of it than our Simon has previously enjoyed, he accepted. For this, we should all be profoundly grateful. What might otherwise have been a rather tedious enterprise (yes, he also played Scotty in the reboot of Star Trek) now has some genuine laugh-out-loud moments to make us all feel better about spending 133 minutes in the presence of Tom Cruise who, let’s face it, can be rather tiresome.
At this point, I need to say a few words about Brad Bird whose name appears as the director of the whole shooting-match. This man has cut his creative teeth in comedy, being part of the creative team at Pixar that brought us Toy Story 3 and Up. More importantly, he has years of experience on The Simpsons. This is not to say Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is played entirely for laughs. That would rather run counter to the spirit of the MI brand which is supposedly high-octane, adrenalin-pumping action throughout. But even when the camera is on Tom Cruise, there’s a faintly irreverent tendency to play with expectations and make us smile just before he does something spectacular or there are explosions to get us back on track. This allowed a rather hackneyed plot to get through to the end with only a few boring moments.
So here we go again with the megalomanic who thinks it would be a salutary lesson for humanity to provoke the superpowers into exchanging a few nuclear warheads. He starts the ball rolling by blowing up a part of the Kremlin and then gets into the more serious business of launching a nuclear strike at Seattle. The only thing standing between us and nuclear armageddon is the rump of the IMF. That’s Benji Dunn on his first real mission after qualifying for fieldwork, Jane (Paula Patton) who’s aggressively physical but an emotional wreck after her previous field boss was assassinated, and Brandt (Jeremy Renner) who’s also somewhat emotionally suspect given his last outing in the field left the woman he was supposed to protect dead.
In the best traditions of Mission Impossible, we start with a little backstory on Jane and then get into the rescue of Ethan Hunt from a Russian jail. They then have a few hours to infiltrate the Kremlin to steal information about the megalomaniac who’s only known by his code name. This is the usual excuse for Tom Cruise to walk through all the security checks as a Russian General and then break into the archives where the information is supposed to be stored. There’s a nice use of technology with Simon Pegg alongside to ensure it doesn’t always work properly and, with five minutes too much added value, the Kremlin blows up. In total, I estimate the whole film could benefit from being cut by between fifteen and twenty minutes. The MI production team just can’t resist adding just a little bit more to most sequences when less would have been better.
It’s the same when we get to Dubai. The action sequences on the outside of the Burj Khalifa — the world’s tallest building and a spectacular hotel — are jaw-dropping. There’s a wonderful sense of depth to the way this has been filmed and, as one never happy with heights, this is a tense moment for me. But, with the joke about the malfunctioning technology wearing thin, it’s all plotted as excuses for Tom Cruise to climb up and come down rather quicker, for there be be a cunning and more reliable use of technology until it gives them away, and then fights and chases. But for the location shots, this is generic thriller filler with the MI twist. The big fight at the end in the automated carpark is also tedious as we intercut with different team members trying to beat the odds as the missile flies towards Seattle. I feel very sorry for Michael Nyqvist as the villain. He was probably added in the hope it would boost the international box office takings after his success in Stieg Larsson’s “Girl” movies as Mikael Blomkvist, but he gets no real screen time to establish himself as a credible character. It could have been played by anyone and, in the fight sequences, probably was a stunt double most of the time.
Taking a broader view, this would have been significantly improved by more discipline in the cutting room. Given what we are left with, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is one of the better thrillers of the year if only because it’s not taking itself too seriously. Although I can’t see it justifying more films in the franchise, it’s markedly better than the last two MIs and worth seeing assuming you like Hollywood-style, somewhat brainless adventure stuff. As a final thought, there’s a rather nice element running through this which I will not spoil but which does show a slightly more human side to the otherwise mechanical Ethan Hunt.