Action movies have long played fast and loose with the laws of physics, largely eschewing logic in favor of spectacle. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol doesn’t just play footsie with fantasy: it is a two-hour middle finger to Sir Isaac Newton, a love letter to physical deeds that can’t be done. And it is so much stinkin’ fun.
Unlike the previous entries in the franchise, which have either been lambasted for dour complexity (director Brian De Palma’s first entry) or laughed at for daffy simplicity (director John Woo’s second flick and director JJ Abrams’ third installment), Ghost Protocol is just serious enough to ponder and just goofy enough to relish. In an era where James Bond has become a stoic, steel-eyed, bare-handed killer, it’s nice to frolic a bit in a world where spies still brandish cool gadgets and spit in the face of nuclear destruction.
Although Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is no 007 in terms of recognition and popularity, he’s no slouch in the global salvation department. This time, we find our floppy-haired hero in a Russian prison, where he’s sprung loose by Benji (Simon Pegg) and Jane (Paula Patton), two fellow members of his Impossible Mission Force. As always, they quickly choose to accept a new mission, one that pits them against a madman questing for nuclear launch codes.
Unfortunately, when the Kremlin is blown up, Ethan’s department is fingered for the crime and has been disavowed by the American government. This means that other than Brandt (Jeremy Renner), an analyst who came to deliver the bad news, the small gang of spies has no external assistance. No worries though, unlike the career of the actor who plays him, absolutely nothing can derail Ethan Hunt.
Director Brad Bird, who helmed the glorious animated films The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, makes his live-action debut in scintillating fashion, bringing with him the same kinetic energy found in cartoons. While Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec have included nary a plot twist, that didn’t seem to be their job. Their primary concern was finding a way to loosely link epic action set pieces, including scaling the world’s largest building, outrunning a sandstorm and fighting in a futuristic parking garage.
Sure, things sometimes get dicy in between these gorgeous moments of spectacle, like when Brandt shares his limp backstory or when Patton is forced to get weepy, but it’s easy to forgive those faults as soon as the first strains of the theme song filter in. Cruise is and always has been the perfect action icon, overly polished and robotically charismatic to the point where it’s a weakness in real life. But this is where we want him: thwarting peril and delivering the kind of grand escapism we don’t get enough of these days.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is insignificant and delightful. As previously fun fare like comic book movies and action flicks continue to grow more sinister and serious, this picture serves as a reminder of how great it can feel to just forget about gravity for awhile.
Grade = B+