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Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011) Review

Review; Dec. 20, 2011; Channels: Movies; By Kyle James Hovanec
Accept this mission

As someone who has enjoyed all incarnations of the Mission Impossible film series (yes, even the second one, only much less so than the others), I can say without a doubt that Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is easily the best of the bunch. It takes all of the tension and dynamic teamwork from the TV series, the high caliber stunts and action set pieces from the movies, and combines them to make a highly entertaining and fast-paced action/spy movie. It's not just one of the best action movies in the last year, it's one of the best action movies in the last several years.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

The story of Ghost Protocol is incredibly simple. Rogue intellect (Michael Nyqvist) feels the only way to set the world right is to set it on fire with nuclear weapons and steals the launch codes from Russia while, at the same time, bombing the Kremlin and framing the one group that was trying to stop him, the IMF or Impossible Mission Force. Now framed with an act of war toward Russia, the IMF only has a certain period of time to find the madman, stop the nuclear launch, and prevent nuclear fallout.

While the story isn't anything new, it functions merely as a skeleton to get from one scene to the next. But this isn't a strike against the film. It may have been done before, but what is here contains enough twists to the tired tropes of action cinema to make it interesting.

Most action flick heroes have a tendency to turn into a macho parody of one man versus the world as he guns down dozens of enemies without taking a hit, getting the beautiful girl at the end of the day, and leading the over-the-top bad guy to his certain, horrible death. Ghost Protocol has none of this. No one in this movie is invincible, no one gets the girl at the end, and the villain does not suffer death at the hands of the hero. In fact, for a majority of the movie, Ethan Hunt (played by Tom Cruise) and his fellow IMF agents do not successfully complete a single plan. There is always a complication, always a surprise element that makes each of already near-impossible missions fall apart on a surprisingly frequent basis.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol Stills
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While this sounds like a flaw, it actually is a brilliant move. Director Brad Bird once said that invincible characters are not interesting characters. Even if a character is near-invincible, he or she has to occasionally hurt -- he or she has to fail in order for the audience to identify with him or her. That is where the appeal to the characters comes in. Most action films have characters only to exist as props and set pieces for action. Bird has made each character vulnerable, made them have real motives and needs, made them seem more human, and when presented with situations of peril, the danger and excitement are much higher. Hunt continues to take more dangerous missions due to a sense of loss and duty. His partners, Agents Carter (played by Paula Patton) and Dunn (played by Simon Pegg), are relatively new agents who have their own motivations for wanting to follow him on the mission. The last member of the team, Brandt (played by Jeremy Renner), also has his own motives for tagging along with Hunt: An incredible sense of guilt plagues him throughout the entire film that may or may not have to do with a secret involving Hunt.

Along with the great characters, the action sequences also deserve mention. The trailers have shown a decent mix of some of the larger action pieces, but what has been shown cannot possibly do justice to the actual thing. Each sequences starts out with an absurd premise and continues to escalate until the action has reached a fever pitch, and you're on the edge of your seat, eagerly awaiting the conclusion. The scaling scene in Dubai is filled with equal amounts of tension and fear-inducing vertigo. There are also two car chases which, due to magnificent camera angles and sound editing, were loud, fast, and always had a sense of urgency and danger. There was never a point through these sequences where I felt safe for any of the characters on screen.

The stellar action shots must be attributed to the IMAX camera used throughout the movie to frame the best possible angles for each sequence. Whether it was a sweeping view of Dubai or following Hunt as he dangled from the side of the world's largest skyscraper, the enhanced clarity and higher stock of film lent an incredible amount of detail to each scene. The scenes and stunts appeared larger-than-life, and when combined with Bird's excellent cinematography, made each action sequence pop. There were times I was squirming and dodging in my seat as debris flew toward our heroes or times when my hands were gripping the edge of my seat while he clung to the side of a building. This was probably the best translation of vertigo to the big screen that I have seen since, well, Vertigo. You may have seen the advertisements about viewing it in IMAX, and they are absolutely true. The action sequences are visceral and, unlike most modern action films, devoid of shaky cam and easy to follow. This needs to be seen on the largest screen possible. You will do yourself a disservice by waiting for DVD.

It's refreshing to see an action film with likeable characters, impressive stunts, and well-shot action scenes in the modern day theater. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is the next great action film to see. Bird has done a fantastic job making his transition from animated action films (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles) to the live action realm. It's full of nods to the past MI movies and contains a lighthearted sense of humor that never takes itself too seriously. Ghost Protocol is the perfect popcorn flick to see this holiday. It entertains on a massive scale and proves that action movies haven't gone entirely stale yet.

* This movie was seen on a 70mm IMAX screen, the highest quality format available at the time of viewing.

Comments

RGoodman4483

RGoodman4483 - Dec. 28, 2011 at 9:36:07pm

Just saw this as well. Very good action film, and the best M:I movie I've seen yet.

Review Score
9.4

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