The Mission: Impossible franchise has been reinventing itself ever since the first movie debuted in 1996. As producer and star Tom Cruise intended, each Mission has been different from the rest and able to stand on their own. And while audiences may argue about what their favorite film a few things have been consistent in the franchise: a talented director imprinting his own style, great action sequences and Tom Cruise giving himself fully into his character.
For Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, the first film not to carry a number in its title, Tom Cruise and J.J. Abrams (this is the first Mission that Paula Wagner, Cruise's partner, isn't producing) have recruited Brad Bird, the director of the animated films The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille. along with Alias writers André Nemecand josh Appelbaum. Like J.J. Abrams five years ago, Brad Bird has managed to debut into the live action cinema with a bang.
After a unsuccessful mission ends up with a bombing inside the Kremlin, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his new team Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and recently promoted to field agent Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) are accused of being terrorists and the US government initiates Ghost Protocol, meaning that the IMF is shut down and all of its agents are disavowed.
Ethan must not only clear his name once more, but also stop a nuclear war between the US and Russia from happening. His team is joined reluctantly by IMF secretary's chief analyst William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and together they must get the mission done using the resources they have left with no other help.
Ghost Protocol is pretty much a non-stop action wild ride from the first scene involving Josh Holloway as agent Trevor Hanaway in Budapest, to Ethan being rescued from a Russian prison and all of this even before the excellent opening titles. There is an exhilarating break in right into the Kremlin, a chase sequence in the middle of a sandstorm, a fight within an automated parking lot and lots of fighting scenes.
But the biggest and most impressive sequence is the one where Ethan must climb the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world using only a pair of adhesive gloves. The sequence is a perfect indicator of what the whole film is about, keeping it as real as possible, with a character you actually know and care about. The way this is filmed, the camera angles and the fact that this is the real thing only increases the excitement and fear that I'm sure Brad Bird wanted to achieve. This is the greater proof that neither CGI nor 3D is not needed to immerse the audience into the experience.
Paula Patton makes her character believable, including her skills as a tough-as-nails fighter. Also she has a personal connection to the mission at hand with gives her more resonance. Jeremy Renner is even better in playing a character that at first seems like a regular smart-desk guy, but who is later revealed to have left the field after a tragedy for what he feels responsible. With so much drama is easy to fall into a dark mood, but the film carry a nice sense of humor in the form of Simon Pegg, who delivers his lines and actions in his own customary way. He seriously steals almost every scene he is in.
But the star is the star and so Tom Cruise is at the center of the film. But in this film he must evolve from being the best spy in the world into a true team leader. The script forces this four agents to work together and fix their differences as they go along putting aside their personal motives. Many of my favorite moments in the Mission: Impossible movies come from those "team at work" sequences so it's a great step forward to have the team, not just a man, being at the spotlight throughout Ghost Protocol giving each character the time to shine and display their qualities.
The villains are less developed than our heroes but that works better by keeping them mysterious. For instance all we know about Sabine Moreau (Léa Seydoux) is that she's an assassin for hire. The main villain of the film, Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) believes that a nuclear war is indeed a needed cleansing and that will lead to a better world. Nyqvist plays the character cold enough to let us know that he is truly serious about his vision.
And then there are a few nice cameos by Tom Wilkinson as the head of IMF, along with Ving Rhames and Michelle Monaghan.
Special effects have always played a big part on this franchise, but always used as means to enhance the live action work, not replace it and again, it shows here. ILM's work is barely noticeable and it's much refreshing to see that in this day and age where big budget films seem like computer world with live action actors thrown in. It's also great to see that a man like Brad Bird who has so much experience in animation can bring that much reality to the action here.
Last but no least is the film score by Michael Giacchino, returning from M:i:III and the only composer that have worked on more than one film. At first I was afraid that he would reuse and expand his music for the third film (I still think each Mission should be different in every aspect), but those fears are put aside by a more intense score with brand new themes and a twist on the original Lalo Schifrin themes. Like the film, the score barely stops to catch a breath before moving on at full speed again.
Brad Bird has managed to combine the incredible action sequences from M:I-2 with the excitement and urgency of M:i:III to turn Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol into the best action-thriller since The Bourne Ultimatum. Like it's star, the franchise just doesn't seem to slow down and instead shows more energy than ever. Mission accomplished.