MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE - GHOST PROTOCOL. Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist, and Lea Seydoux. Directed by Brad Bird. Rated M (Action violence). 133 min.
This film is the fourth installment in the Mission:Impossible series with Tom Cruise again in the main role as Agent Ethan Hunt. In this film, Ethan is on assignment in Moscow, when a terrorist bomb destroys the Kremlin. Russia declares "undeclared war" on the United States, and it looks as if the Mission Impossible Force (IMF) is implicated. Russia's response forces the US to dissociate itself from the entire IMF team. Ethan sets out to clear the agency's name, and he s allowed to work outside the unit's command structure to try to find out who is to blame. His task is made especially difficult by being given no official support (code-named, Ghost Protocol) in locating the source of the attack. The film on location is set in Budapest, Moscow, Dubai, Mumbai, and Vancouver, and uses the different locations to give it a very glamorous look.
Ethan has infiltrated the Kremlin to steal one of it's documents, but a disturbed nuclear terrorist, named Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) is in there also to blow the Kremlin up. He succeeds, implicates the IMF, and Ethan inadvertently allows him to escape to create nuclear havoc.
Typical of all thriller films of this kind, the hero is constantly on the look-out for anybody who is after him (and there are a lot who are, including a particularly nasty assassin villain, played by Lea Seydoux). Action sequences abound, and there are explosions, weaponry, and gadgets galore. One has to ask the questions: Does this film deserve continuing the series, in what ways is it different, and is it likely that we are facing the prospect of another Mission:Impossible? The answer to all these questions is in the affirmative.
The movie's plot plays with the tine-worn themes of Russian-American conflict, and nuclear threat, but the dazzling action sequences are highly inventive. This is the first live-action movie for the director, Brad Bird, who pulls the stops out with great flair. Perhaps top of the list is a key scene in the movie when Tom Cruise scales down and up the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai with only a rope and one adhesive glove to help him. The sequence is thrilling, and marvelously photographed with a vertigo-feel by the Director of Photography, Robert Elswit and his team.
The movie flags a little over it's lengthy 133 min., but resurges with more dazzling sequences, such as the destruction of what seems to be dozens of BMW cars, one of which is turned into twisted steel in a multiple-tiered car park. The result of it all is an episodic movie, but a vastly entertaining one. The action of the movie supplies both it's tension and it's continuity, and it's weaponry is cutting-edge, particularly Ethan's high- tech camouflage screen that helps him infiltrate the Kremlin.
Ethan's team is a motley group of agents. Simon Pegg is a technology expert without a lot of experience, Paula Patton plays Jane Carter, an agent wanting vengeance for her fellow lover- agent's death, and Jeremy Renner plays William Brandt, who is a very conflicted person, guilty about his past. Tom Cruise plays his role with studied coolness, and amazing energy. Character development in the movie, however, nearly always loses out to action appeal.
Supported by great cinematography and stunt work, this fourth film in the series could have had a weary look, but it does the genre proud. The film breathes special life into the series, as it heads inevitably toward Mission:Impossible V.
Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Out December 15th, 2011.