I’ve been a fan of the Mission: Impossible movie series since it’s spectacular launch back in the 90s. The first movie was spectacular and really has few flaws in my opinion. The second movie, opting for an ‘X-Treme’ upgrade in set pieces, actually turned me off to a degree, to the point where I think I’ve only seen the movie once or twice. It didn’t tarnish my love of the first movie, but I wasn’t eager to see that repeated. Thankfully, J. J. Abrams did the third movie, which was spectacular. Unfortunately, by that point we had collectively found out how much of a screwball Tom Cruise is, and it was hard to get other people excited about the film. It was really good, but was unfairly maligned by Cruise’s personal life.
Finally, after a long hiatus, we have Ghost Protocol, where we see Cruise pass the baton (everyone suspects) onto the current A-list action hero of Hollywood movies: Jeremy Renner. You may remember Renner from the Oscar Award Winning movie The Hurt Locker, or from the upcoming The Avengers movie as Hawkeye, or, perhaps, as the newly designated star of the Bourne Identity series. Yes, Renner is very rapidly displacing all of our standard action heroes and, honestly, I”m okay with that.
But Ghost Protocol is still squarely centered on Cruise, who, looking a little long in the tooth these days, must forge a new team of specialists into a tactical weapon to prevent a terrorist from initiating a nuclear war. Yeah, the threat of Global Thermal Nuclear war may seem old hat, but honestly, it’s just as valid a threat today as it was twenty years ago, perhaps moreso, since people with power aren’t all that aligned with massive super-powers anymore. Anyway, Cruise leads the team through a series of increasingly over the top stunts and fights, but manages to pull of a pretty perfect combination of appearing doggedly tired and yet determined enough to push though it to succeed. It sort of reminds me of why we all started to like Tom Cruise to begin with: he’s actually a great actor.
Taking on the Director reins this time is Brad Bird, whose portfolio before this movie includes the charming ‘The Iron Giant’, the spectacular ‘The Incredibles’ and, my personal favorite, ‘Ratatouille’. The jump from children’s movies to big office action heroes couldn’t have been made more smoothly. Bird takes a series where the characters are often simply props to be thrown by explosives, and tells an emotional story.
Now, I’m not entirely convinced by the story of Renner and the female spy who co-stars beside Cruise, but they’re serviceable enough, and work well to contribute to the cool determinism of Cruise’s story, which is not at all what it seems. Still, Bird knows well enough that an engaging scene involves the collision of several character’s stories in conflict, and uses that knowledge admirably. It seems as though almost every member of Cruise’s team has different motivations to complete the mission they’re on, and yet it never seems melodramatic. These people are professionals, after all, and they keep their business quiet until they can do so no longer.
Its also worth noting that the movie has a pretty good sense of humor, with a lot of dry, snarky comments coming from Renner and returning favorite Simon Pegg, who are well aware they’re in an outrageous situation and refuse to let that fact slip by without a quip. It works well to moderate the tension in some of the longer scenes. The science-fiction/magic technology used in the first two iterations of this series are the subject of a lot of humor as the series tries to ground itself by pointing out how absurd some of those things were. Especially the magical masks, which are COMPLETELY UNUSED in this film (YAY!). Leave it to the director coming from Children’s movies to realize how fanciful those were…
All in all, the movie is a great send off for Cruise and a worthy followup to M:I3, and I hope to see Renner star in future iterations of this franchise, possibly with Brad Bird sitting close by. Recommended.