Director: Brad Bird
Stars: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg
Plot: When the IMF is blamed for the bombing of The Kremlin, its agents must fight to clear the organisation’s name by whatever means possible.
In the ‘good old days’ of the Cold War, we knew, in cinematic terms at least, who the ‘enemy’ was. James Bond and MI6 did battle with Russian agency SMERSH and various shadowy figures who tended to employ a dodgy Soviet accent to easily pigeon-hole them as the evil spy film stereotype. After the break-up of the U.S.S.R. filmmakers had to look elsewhere – unleashing a torrent of (life-size) Dr. Evil clones who had no particular allegiance. The latest entry in the Mission: Impossible machine combines the two – taking the action beyond Eastern Europe whilst including a megalomaniac hell-bent on provoking nuclear war.
On an Impossible Missions Force (IMF) task in Budapest, agent Trevor Hanaway (Josh Holloway) is killed by assassin Sabine Moreau (Léa Seydoux) whilst atempting to intercept a courier working for the mysterious ‘Cobalt’. Hanaway’s team leader Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and field agent Benji Dunn (Pegg) break Ethan Hunt (Cruise) out of a Moscow prison in an effort to infiltrate The Kremlin’s archives to discover the identity of Cobalt. Before they can complete the mission, their cover is blown by a mystery voice over the IMF radio frequency so it is aborted, but as Hunt walks away outside, a massive explosion rips the building apart and the IMF is implicated in the bombing.
Ethan is informed by the IMF Secretary (Tom Wilkinson) and analyst William Brandt (Renner) that the American President has activated ‘Ghost Protocol’, disavowing the entire IMF, but allowing Hunt’s team to track down Cobalt. Their car is attacked but Hunt and Renner manage to escape and link up with Carter and Dunn, discovering that Cobalt is actually Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist), a Swedish-born Russian nuclear scientist who intends to start a nuclear war as the next part of human evolution. Hendricks destroyed The Kremilin in an effort to obtain the activation codes from his courier in Budapest to launch a missile at America. Hunt and his colleagues must travel to Dubai and then India to intercept the exchange and ensure that the devasting plan is not carried out.
Ignore the cynics, because MI:4 is hugely entertaining. It may not have the intelligence nor the level of acting of the Bourne films, but the set-pieces are brilliantly realised and it will take a lot of beating. Brad Bird, more known for being a director of animated films such as The Incredibles and Ratatouille does a fine job of bringing the dizzying stunts to the big screen and you won’t need IMAX to enjoy the full effect. Mixing high jinx action and drama with flashes of comedy, Ghost Protocol is the film that the last, somewhat stale Bond film Quantum of Solace should have been like. As Tom Cruise clings precariously to the Burj Khalifa’s windows in Dubai or runs from one of the biggest and impressive explosions ever committed to celluloid at The Kremlin, you’ll find the action consistently taking your breath away.
There’s no denying that Tom Cruise has made the character of Ethan Hunt his own. Despite being vertically challenged, Cruise makes the fight scenes look incredibly easy, especially against burly Russian prisoners almost twice his height during his frenetic introduction. Simon Pegg’s Benji, Q to James Bond’s Hunt, is given a more meatier role than last time and a vast array of gadgets that far outstrip the comparatively tame collection at MI6. The most memorable of these is a holographic screen which is used to infiltrate The Kremlin, which is a scene of pure ingenuity and hilarity and needs to be seen to be believed. Pegg, Renner and Patton provide great support and will hopefully reprise their roles for the seemingly inevitable fifth instalment.
The plot itself takes a backseat to the action – while this maybe necessary as otherwise the running time would be exceptionally bloated, we could really do with more thoughtfully-drawn bad guys than the hammy, unholy trio of Hendricks, Moreau and Brij Nath (Anil Kapoor). Averting world destruction is nothing new – you would have thought the scriptwriters had seen Mike Myers’ three Austin Powers films, which mercilessly lampoon such unoriginal storylines, but evidently not. Also, the exceptionally corny ending proves to be a bit of a let-down and it’s still unclear why the screenwriters couldn’t bring themselves to think of something a little more unpredictable. Nevertheless, this is a vast improvement on M:I 2, which was riddled by John Woo’s slo-mos and also a step up from the underrrated M:I 3, which really set the franchise on the road to redemption.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is sheer escapism and doesn’t take itself too seriously. The producers of James Bond’s Skyfall and its rival The Bourne Legacy (also to feature Jeremy Renner), should take note: your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to come up with a film that, at least action-wise, is as thrilling, exciting and entertaining as this. Good luck with that.