Review – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)
Director: Brad Bird
Writer: Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec
Stars: Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner
The movie is streaming on fxnetworks.com (as of 10/11/19)
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is ecstatic; each scene and each set piece is full of adventure, action, charm, and whimsy in such proportions that it leaves viewers with a toothy grin on their faces for its entire runtime. Brad Bird, the director of this modern popcorn masterpiece cut his teeth directing a slate of acclaimed animated features, The Iron Giant, Ratatouille, and The Incredibles. In each of these features, particularly The Incredibles, he displayed an impeccable eye for action, and an unparalleled ability to keep multiple interconnected sequences active at the same time without sacrificing any of their tension. This ability is most evident during the film’s extended climax, which left me gasping gratefully for every joyous breath.
All of the sublime action nonsense that this film delivers with a completely straight face is held together by Tom Cruise (lots of stuff you’ve probably seen), who delivers goofy lines with cement-faced seriousness and sprints like he’s racing a herd of gazelle. I’ve never been a huge fan of Tom Cruise the actor, but Tom Cruise the action star is without rival. In possibly the most highly-publicized stunt of his career, he hung outside the 130th floor of the Burj Dubai Khalifa, acting out a very tense and ultimately comedic scene. I say comedic because during this and almost every other stunt sequence in Ghost Protocol, the sequence is narrated by a running dialog between Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his analyst partner Benji (Simon Pegg).
I consider the character of Benji, and the irrepressibly hilarious exasperation Pegg (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, Star Trek) brings to the role, as integral to the film’s success. While he seems to have a quip for every situation, his commitment to the reality of every action scene keeps the action light yet exciting. Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton round out the cast, lending in their own gravitas to the proceedings, and ensuring that over-the-top action never fully overshadows character dynamics. Whereas I felt earlier editions of the Mission Impossible franchise were a bit dour, the charming, lively performances of this film’s cast keep the story afloat.
The story of this movie, while it involves the very tangible threat of nuclear war, never gets bogged down in the implications of the actions its characters take. The movie feels like, and is simply Tom Cruise, under the sharp eye of first-time live-action director Brad Bird, having a fantastic time giving his audience exactly what they want. It is not deep or emotional, but for those seeking out a good time at the movies, there’s hardly a modern release I’d recommend first.