Once the credits rolled on J.J. Abrams M:I 3, it seemed that the runny, flippy, dangling-off-shit exploits had come to an end for Tom Cruise’s stunt busting alter ego Ethan Hunt. After all, we last saw him heading off with his newly rescued wife for a life that presumably doesn’t involve him sprinting flat out through a foreign city every other day while someone explains how to defuse a bomb down a phone. Yep, it seemed that Hunt would relinquish his battle to be the most prominent cinematic spy there is and be content to let Bond and Bourne battle it out to see which agent is more relevant in this day and age.
But wait… this is Mission: Impossible we’re talking about here, and nothing is ever what it seems (usually it involves a rubber mask or something…).
So in 2011, with suprisingly little fanfare, along came a fourth installment which acted a both a soft reboot and a continuation of what came before which set the franchise onto the magnificent path it’s on now.
After some heinous spy shit goes down in Brussels, disavowed IMF agent Ethan Hunt is liberated from a Russian prison where he’s been rotting for reasons unknown. He’s out because he is needed to sneak into the Kremlin (yes, THAT Kremlin) to obtain more information on a shadowy enemy named Cobalt, but things go impressively askew when Cobalt arrives there first and frames Hunt for a bombing that turns the historic installation into a rubble strewn parking lot. Escaping from the authorities only to not only find out that the IMF has been shut down as a scapegoat but to run into an assassination squad that kills his superior, Hunt – with agency analyst Brant in tow – forms a shadow team to continue the mission despite having absolutely no back up or expanded resources whatsoever. Further chaos ensues with a trip to Dubai to head off a sale of nuclear launch codes which would mean Cobalt would have the ability to extinguish any city on earth to achieve his apocalyptic aims. During their made-up-on-the-fly mission that involves changing room numbers, masquerading as both terrorist buyers AND sellers in two separate meetings occuring simultaneously and – most stressful of all – Hunt running around the OUTSIDE of the bloody huge Burj Khalifa like Spider-Man on ecstasy, it becomes apparent that some members of the team have different ideas about where their priorities lie and others (*cough*Brant*cough) may actually not be who they seem…
Can this makeshift version of IMF possibly hope to get their collective shit together in order to shut down Cobalt for good?
Even though Fallout, the sixth installment, is techinally the best M:I to date, I have to confess that Ghost Protocol is actually my favorite one to watch and the two things that seal the deal is the utter disregard Tom Cruise has for his personal safety and director Brad Bird (making his life action debut after the superlative Iron Giant and The Incredibles) who adds a lightness of foot in a genre where it’s usually cooler to stomp the shit out of everything. You see where part 3 was “the tense one”, Ghost Protocol could be classed as “the fun one” as it gives each of it’s impressive heists and action sequences a farcical twist by having not a single thing in the movie go to plan. It’s such a simple idea and yet it pays off in spades as virtually every other spy movie ever made has perfectly working gadgets and flawless plans within plans whereas in Ghost Protocol NOTHING goes as it’s supposed to and the team spend the whole movie desperately thinking on their feet. From the message failing to self destruct after 10 seconds until Hunt gives it a whack to the retinal scanner placed on a train being mounted too high, to even the trusty mask making machine breaking down, the amount of shockingly shoddy equipment adds another dimension to the action. Tom Cruise scampering around the OUTSIDE of the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai banging on the windows like a lost bumblebee is pant soilingly freakish as it is (he’s actually DOING IT, people!), but it’s even worse when his fancy sci-fi glue gloves crap out 828 meters above sea level…
All the action has a nice quirky Brad Bird twist to it, from the audacious infiltration of the Kremlin with a ludicrous projection unit to the hugely entertaining opening escape from a Russian prison set to Dean Martin crooning “Ain’t That A Kick To The Head”, and they all balance the the over the top shenanigans with with solid performances from Simon Pegg, Paula Patton and Jeremy Renner as they desperately strive to keep up with the unstoppable Cruise in both intensity and stamina. Ah, Cruise… is there anything he WON’T do for a Mission: Impossible movie?
Also there’s a major head nod due to returning composer Michael Giacchino whose score is nothing short of one of my favourites ever. Usually in these kinds of films different characters get different themes but here Giacchino composes vastly different pieces of music for whatever place on the globe the group is currently in at the time, with Moscow, Dubai and Mumbai all having their own motifs and character while being frequently punctuated by Lalo Schiffkin’s intantly recognisable theme.
However, while Ghost Protocol is insanely fun, it’s not perfect with the villain being somewhat forgettable despite being played by Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’s Michael Niqvist. The pressure on the gas pedal falters a bit too in the Mubai section, although the final fight scene set in a multi story, automated car park that shuffles whole cars like a Mississippi riverboat blackjack dealer is a suprisingly bruising encounter despite involving two guys north of 50.
Rightly credited as the shot in the arm the series needed to push it to blockbuster greatness (the subsequent rise in quality was stratospheric), Ghost Protocol is a riotously fun time whether you love blockbusters, spy movies or Tom Cruise stubbornly refusing to acknowledge any physical restrictions whatsoever.
Choose to accept it…