Tom Cruise is a man that divides opinion. People seem to love him or hate him as an actor, and his personal life tends to generate as many headlines as his movies. Whatever your opinion of him, it’s hard to deny that he is a proper Hollywood star. 2011 is his 30th year of making movies, and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is his 33rd movie.
The fourth movie in the franchise, Ghost Protocol is directed by Brad Bird, who helms a live-action movie for the first time, after directing Pixar’s The Incredibles and Ratatouille. The action takes place in Hungary, Russia, Dubai and Mumbai, with Cruise returning as Ethan Hunt, leading a disavowed IMF team attempting to stop a Swedish born Russian terrorist from acquiring and launching nuclear weapons. Simon Pegg also returns as Benji Dunn, having first appeared in Mission: Impossible III. The other members of the team are Jane Carter (Paula Patton, Precious) and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker).
The movie begins with Benji and Carter breaking Ethan out from a Russian prison. After the breakout, Hunt and the team attempt to break into the Kremlin, in order to identify a terrorist known as Cobalt. But Cobalt is a step ahead of the team, and triggers a bomb that destroys part of the Kremlin, framing the IMF team in the process. Hunt meets with the IMF secretary (Tom Wilkinson), who explains that Hunt’s team has been disavowed, after the president initiates Ghost Protocol. The secretary has resigned, but gives Hunt one last mission, find Cobalt and prevent him from starting a nuclear war. The car Hunt and the secretary are travelling in is ambushed and the secretary is killed, leaving Hunt and analyst Brandt trying to escape after the car crashes into a river and Russian security forces fire shots into the water. Following their escape, Hunt and Brandt join Benji and Carter, as they plan the next move.
Their mission will take them to Dubai and Mumbai, where most of the action takes place. As you’ll know from the trailer, the Dubai part of the movie takes place inside (and outside) the Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure in the world. In order to hack into the building’s security servers, Ethan has to scale the outside of the building and break in to the server room. In Mission: Impossible II, Cruise climbed a mountain in Utah without safety harnesses, but in Ghost Protocol he climbs the outside of the Burj Khalifa, taking the kind of risks that give Hollywood producers nightmares. It’s a tense scene in the movie, so one can only imagine how fast hearts were beating when the scene was actually being filmed.
The movie offers up the standard fare for modern action thrillers. There are car chases and explosions, fist and gun fights, and spectacular settings being destroyed in various ways. But there’s something missing from the movie. The plot is fairly bog standard, we’ve all seen a ‘shady Russian has a nuclear device’ plot-line in any number of movies in the past. The script also suffers. Pegg essentially becomes sidekick Simon, his character for the most part doing nothing other than fiddle with electronic devices and make quips while the rest of the team get on with the action. It becomes grating after a while, and dilutes the dramatic elements of the movie. The bad guys are under-written, and we learn little about their motivation for wanting to spark nuclear war. Brad Bird’s direction is fine, with some spectacular shots, and he handles action fairly well.
Pegg aside, Cruise does exactly what you expect, leading the film with ease, with Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton also joining him in doing the physical stuff. Michael Nyqvist has little to do as Cobalt, other than a fight scene with Cruise late in the film. Overall, the film never quite lives up to expectations. It feels rather tame and predictable in the post-Bourne world, with not much new or original to separate it from the pack. It’s not a bad movie, but you’ll be left wanting more.