Dir. by Brad Bird - 2 hrs. 13 min.
by Clayton Hollifield
Do you know how hard it is to win back a viewer after they've bailed on a franchise? The simple answer: really hard. You might even say... impossible. As a quick background, I refused to see the third installment of the "Mission: Impossible" series because I absolutely hated the second installment. It's been a few years now, so I couldn't exactly tell you why I hated it so much, but I disliked it so intensely that I refused to even admit the existence of a third installment. And it might be selective memory, but I don't remember hearing much that suggested I missed out on much of anything.
So the question is, what is it that would make me reconsider? There are two big reasons. First, the trailer was really, really good. If you want to sell a big, action movie, this trailer is textbook. It promises insane situations, exotic locations, huge effects and action pieces, and is set to a really great song (Eminem's "Won't Back Down"). Secondly, it is the live-action directorial debut for Brad Bird, who has a couple of animated instant classics ("The Iron Giant" and "The Incredibles") to his credit. To sum up: looks good, plus I'm curious about the director.
Going in to a movie like "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol," you know that you're not likely to see a hyper-intelligent, mind-bending film. That's not a knock, you're going to see an action movie, and you can't punch or kick a conundrum. There are different standards for different films. In a big-budget action blockbuster, the keys are whether the action pieces are satisfying, and whether or not there are any lulls that would let a wandering mind start to poke holes in the plot. Thankfully, MI4 succeeds wildly on these accounts.
There is a pretty non-stop string of action pieces from beginning to end, with lulls just long enough to let you catch your breath and start to build anticipation for the next sequence to get underway. Things kick off with a prison break, which is a great way to reintroduce the Ethan Hunt character that Tom Cruise plays (as well as the rest of his team). From there, there are extended sequences in Russia, Dubai, and India. I'd rather not get into specifics (it's much more fun to kick back and enjoy the events not knowing what's coming up), other than to say that there is a fun travelogue-esque aspect to this film, and that the Dubai sequence of events is beyond spectacular. There's also a certain logic to the physical combat in this movie that's refreshing - Hunt in particular may achieve his goals, but it's rarely smoothly or without some personal physical agony. It humanizes his character, and gives a little weight to his nearly suicidal complete lack of regard for his own well-being. It's one thing for a character to attempt death-defying feats if they routinely escape unscathed, but when Ethan Hunt tries something in this movie, you know that it's at his own peril.
"Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" holds up well against the other big action movies of the year. Although the story doesn't have a tremendous amount of depth, it's a true adrenaline ride, possibly more so than other films of it's ilk. It's also a refreshing deviation from wise-cracking action stars delivering punchlines out of the side of their mouths; Ethan Hunt is a machine, but verbal cleverness isn't part of what he has to offer. The character understands what is at stake, and prioritizes success over literally everything else. With that driving the film, even the impossible (like me jumping back on the franchise bandwagon) becomes possible.
3.5 / 5 - Theatre