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Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, Michael Nyqvist, Lea Seydoux

Written By: Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec Directed By: Brad Bird

The Short Version

Fifteen years later, a good franchise starter gets a worthy sequel.

The pace is perfect.

The action eye candy is outstanding.

The characters and the performances work well; Paula Patton is a standout.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is a poli/spy adventure that’s definitely worth the time.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


Something with kick to keep you moving when the pace doesn’t let up.

Pairs Well With...


I remember ads calling it “the choice of gentlemen and rogues,” and these folks certainly fit the bill.  Besides, it’s smooth, tasty stuff.

“Next time, I get to seduce the rich guy.”

To say that I felt a little trepidation going into Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is an understatement.  Why?  Call it a pattern of steady decline.  I loved the first movie, was ambivalent about the second, and hated the third.  So why would I want to bother with the fourth one?  The answer, of course, is “because that’s what I do,” even if I don’t get there for two years and change.  And so I finally gave it a whirl…

…and was pleasantly surprised.  Though there’s still no cause for James Bond to start sweating anytime soon, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is an enjoyable bit of escapist poli/spy adventure that proves to be much better than the franchise’s other sequels.

The action starts in a Russian prison, where disavowed IMF Agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, Oblivion) has been left to rot as punishment for carrying out an unsanctioned hit.  But now it seems that the IMF needs him again, so they cheerfully break him out to the tune of Dean Martin.  (No; I’m not kidding.)  Once out, he learns that he has just four hours to steal some secret files from the heart of the Kremlin in hopes of preventing a nuclear war.  Alas, things go wrong, part of the Kremlin blows up, and the Russians think the IMF did it.  Now the President has ordered the IMF disbanded, the Secretary (Tom Wilkinson, The Grand Budapest Hotel) has been killed, and Ethan and his small team are left to go rogue, clear the IMF’s name, and, oh yes, still prevent that little nuclear war from happening…

…and if any of them are captured or killed, civilization as we know it has a good chance of self-destructing in five days or less.  So, you know; no pressure.

 Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol pulls off the neat trick of reigniting a fluttering franchise without disowning any previous material.  Indeed, though the primary story lives as a standalone piece and can be enjoyed perfectly well by someone who is not familiar with (or who has selectively chosen to forget) any of the previous films, the underlying arc upon which it is built is a straight-up continuation of what’s happened before, most notably a major multi-pronged subplot that refers directly back to Mission: Impossible 3.  If you get it, some of what happens here may, depending on how one viewed the previous flick, either enrich what happened there or trash it.  If you don’t get it, it doesn’t matter.  There’s still a totally new adventure going on.

A very fast totally new adventure.

One of the greatest assets that Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol has to call upon is its pacing, which is just about as close to perfect as one can get for a modern adventure film.  The movie opens with an action sequence, and the urgency of that sequence never really drops off until it’s time for the story’s epilogue roughly two hours later.  This is not to say that the overall action is “nonstop” in the Michael Bay sense of the term involving sensory overload that causes general fatigue and can’t really be tolerated by human senses; there are in fact a few breaks in the action, allowing audiences to breathe, and even when the action is moving fast and furious – which is most of the time – it does so at a pace that most viewers can handle without getting a massive headache.  But regardless of what is or is not happening on the screen, the urgency is always there, even during simple conversations.  The metaphorical clock is always ticking.  To me, that is what defines perfect pacing.

The fact that the screenplay for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol also manages to deliver realistic, reasonably flesh-out characters about whom it is actually possible for the audience to care even while keeping up such a pace is a marvelous bonus; keeping them just as interesting whether or not one has already seen (or still remembers) the previous material is a double bonus.  For those already familiar with Ethan Hunt, he gets some extra layers; for newcomers, one is never at a loss for who he is or where he’s coming from.  The members of his team – one familiar, others not – have their own backgrounds and personalities, with just enough of each revealed to make them human and real without pulling them away from the story.  The villain’s scheme comes straight out of the “Megalomania 101” handbook, but the villain himself (Michael Nyqvist, Europa Report) puts an interesting spin on things in terms of the “why,” and that “why” automatically turns him into something special.  Hell, even the spoiled rich guy (Anil Kapoor, Slumdog Millionaire) whose only purpose is to be the target of a faux seduction is given a layer or two.  Amazingly, incredibly, there are no cardboard cut outs to be found in this movie.

Did I mention how pleasantly surprised I was by this flick?

With all of that in mind, it would still be delusional to think anything along the lines of “the action and the intrigue serve the story,” because Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is still a movie wherein the characters and the story are there to serve the cause of the action and the intrigue.  It works because it runs and because it rocks while it’s running.  The Dean Martin prison break is amusing, but it’s amusement set against a riot.  The story calls for the good guys to break into the Kremlin just to show off some cool ways to break into the Kremlin.  The only way into the server room that controls the world’s tallest building – conveniently located on the 132nd floor – is via scaling the outside windows simply because it’s cool to see someone scaling the upper reaches of the world’s tallest building with nothing but some glitch high tech gloves to hold him up.  While a sandstorm is coming.  The judo seduction sequence…  Come on; it’s a judo seduction sequence.  The big hero and the big villain chase each other into a high tech parking elevator specifically for the sake of having a fight in a high tech parking elevator; that this fight will likely decide the fate of the world is almost but a sideshow meant to tack on an extra notch of tension.  See what I mean?  Saving the planet is nice, but action scenes are awesome. Especially when someone takes the time to make them look this good.

And that, in the end, is what counts.  Call a standout performance from Paula Patton (2 Guns) plus Jeremy Renner (The Avengers) working his way into his first of three different action franchises as icing on the cake.

Bottom line, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol turns out to be a very solid action movie, whether one comes in as a franchise fan, as someone disillusioned by the previous sequels, or as a newcomer.  The pacing is dead on perfect, the characters are well drawn, the performances are good across the board, and – still most important here – the action sequences make for some dynamite eye candy.  If the poli/spy scene is your thing, this is one movie that’s worth your time, and which definitely stands well above the two sequels that came before.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, March, 2014

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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