Videodrome: Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Sexy French assassin? Check.

Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday, April 17th. Should you see it? Should you not? Answers within. 

There’s a good chance that if you have any interest in seeing Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol, you’ve already gone to the theatre and had your fun. MI4, you see, dominated the box office last December when all the other prestige pictures couldn’t pull the monetary value of their pretentiousness. Fans of Tom Cruise and action films lined up for this international spy thriller and came away satisfied.

I am not, generally speaking, a fan of Cruise or action movies. I started losing real interest in the genre when Daniel Craig (an actor I otherwise like) sucked all the blood and fun out of James Bond. Then when Paul Greengrass inundated me with a bazillion cuts in the Bourne trilogy, I checked out completely. But the prospect of Brad Bird (The IncrediblesThe Iron Giant) directing his first live-action movie was too enticing to pass up, even if it was the fourth installment of a franchise that hasn’t been exciting since Brian De Palma was in the director’s chair. So, I pulled my car into the parking lot of my second run theatre, did a few jumping jacks, bought my ticket, and sat while the action played out on the big screen in front of me. 

Was my adrenaline satisfied? Yes!

MI4, for all its wonky spy-thriller plot silliness, is a big ball of fun that happily does away with all the drab seriousness of recent action movies. Within the overlong 133 minute run time, MI4 has everything you could ever want from a big blockbuster action movie: a sexy French assassin, exotic locals, high-tech gadgetry, threat of world destruction, grand set pieces, well-placed humor, and, above all, thrilling action sequences piled on top of thrilling action sequences until the whole thing becomes the type of wild, almost abstract, roller coaster ride that we should both expect and demand of the genre. Like everyone else, I’m a little surprised that a franchise on its fourth installment could have this much life in it.

Did you want a sexy French assassin in this movie? Good. She looks better when she's not this angry, though.

Anyone who has seen a trailer for MI4 will know that Bird and co. had the cojones to shoot their centerpiece sequence inside (and outside) the Burj Kahfila, the world’s tallest building. The sight of Tom Cruise scaling the outside wall of this dusty skyscraper while wearing a pair of semi-functional super sticky gloves (SUPER STICKY GLOVES? OH, YEAH!) is almost too great. But then to watch him hanging from a rope, running sideways across the face of the building so that he can throw himself through an open window? That nearly sends us into the action movie stratosphere.

The film begins as Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his cohorts infiltrate the Kremlin. Their mission, which fails miserably in the most exciting way, sets off a hot war with Russia. The US government then disavows Ethan and his agency, forcing Hunt to go on what is called a “Ghost Protocol” – a sort of “fix the problem you made and do it without any governmental help” type plan. The plot of this kind of movie is almost always secondary to the explosions and gunfights, but this set up, however innocuous it may seem, keeps the movie scaled down to manageable character levels. The “Ghost Protocol” team consists of four people – 3 male, 1 female – who, in the absence of secondary characters, are able to keep the focus of the movie on small character arcs and action sequences rather than some convoluted and unnecessary plot structure. The action has room to breathe.

Cruise is his usual cocky asshole self, playing secret agent and action hero extraordinaire Ethan Hunt pretty much the same way he’s played the part for the previous three MI movies. Cruise keeps his perpetual cool alongside Jeremy Renner, who is serviceable as William Brandt, but he is easily the blandest team member (I like Renner a good deal, but he’s a real actor and isn’t given enough to do here). There’s also Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), a dweeby computer dude who supplies all those aforementioned high tech gadgets and who gives the film its needed funny bone. The team is rounded out by Jane Carter (Paula Patton), a sexy American secret agent (foil to her French counterpart), who, like Renner, is sorta dull as a character…though fairly exciting as eye candy. These characters, despite their cookie cutter pedigree, serve the film’s action scenes nicely. They do their talking when they need to and perform their rough and tumble scenes perfectly. Or they let a stunt person do it for them. I can’t tell the dif.

If MI4 has any real flaw, it’s in the third act. After the rousing set pieces in Moscow and Dubai, the action shifts to Mumbai, India, and Brad Bird does absolutely nothing to engage his locale. The climactic sequence ends up taking place in a rotating, automatic carport – a modern marvel that is as likely to be found in Mumbai as it is in Los Angeles, Dubai, or London – that showcases nothing of India in the way that the Moscow and Dubai sections showcased Russia and the UAE. Had the second act (Dubai) been placed in the third act, audience members wouldn’t be able to feel the film’s strenuous run time. As it is, the mind can easily begin to wander by the time viewers are dragged to the two hour mark.

It’s a small problem, though, in an otherwise refreshing piece of popcorn fluff. But it’s enough to make you wonder if some UAE-hating, disgruntled Indian editor snuck into the lab and rearranged a few reels just hours before the final prints were set to be struck. Payback!

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