Smell of Popcorn

film reviews & musings by Max Lalanne

Out on DVD & Blu-ray | Review of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

Posted by Max Lalanne on April 22, 2012

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) is so solidly and  determinedly old-fashioned, both in style and execution, that amidst the era of raw and realistic shaky-cam pounders, this fourth outing in the profitable series has a throwback action thriller vibe that makes it almost a rare oddity, albeit a fine one at that. Set up almost reassuring and recognizably in a formulaic way, even for someone like me who didn’t follow Tom Cruise’s IMF agent’s many exploits throughout the years, this film was like a dependable-ly fun and stylish  adventure, a true popcorn blockbuster.

In a long sequence that really only serves to remind us that we’re watching a Mission: Impossible film, agent Ethan Hunt elaborately escapes from a Russian prison in the beginning of the film with help from his fellow IMF agents, which include requisite female agent Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and nerdy tech-guy Benji (Simon Pegg), and is briefed on his next mission: He must infiltrate the Kremlin to steal Russian nuclear launch codes before terrorist Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyvqiststeals them and possibly launches an attack on the United States. However, a massive explosion rocks the Kremlin, which leads to the entire IMF being disavowed and Ethan’s meager team left behind and depended on to stop the whole world from going boom. No resources, no backup, no extraction help, yada yada yada.

Well, okay, maybe I should retract that “no resources” line I just wrote. Ethan & Co. most definitely aren’t broke, seeing how many exotic locations they travel to (Moscow, Dubai, Mumbai…) and how many absurdly high-tech gadgets they are most handily equipped with. Ethan’s daring scaling of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world – with just magnetic gecko-like gloves, mind you  – was so heavily promoted you would think it’s the centerpiece of the whole film, and indeed it does live up to all the breathless hype. A thrilling and unparallelled sequence in the world of action films, you nonetheless can’t help observing the improbabilities of such an outlandish scenario. I myself was disappointed that no one in this posh hotel looked outside the window and screamed, “Oh my god, it’s Tom Cruise!”

I have so far avoided from mentioning Jeremy Renner, who steals scenes from Cruise as the team’s newest addition. Pardon me please, because while you can’t really call this brilliant actor a revelation – the Oscar nomination he nabbed for The Hurt Locker sort of spoils that, unfortunately – he is as close to being one as you could possibly imagine in Ghost ProtocolRenner is truly best at straight-up delivering sharply comedic lines  when he isn’t saddled with awkward punchlines, which thankfully doesn’t happen a lot. (Still remember the cringe- and wince-inducing “Next time, I get to seduce the rich guy” one, though.)

Ghost Protocol marks director Brad Bird’s first outing at helming non-animated films, and for the most part he brings the magic he worked on Pixar’s The Incredibles (2004) to this film. Keeping the film moving forward in non-action-packed places that could have been fatally stalling, I would also credit him for sort of revitalizing the Mission: Impossible franchise by flawlessly infusing fun into a an otherwise so-so and generic script. Give the man more live-action blockbusters, Hollywood!

My rating: 3 1/2 stars (out of 5)

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