What was Brad Bird (director of cartoon magic like The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille) thinking when he grabbed the reins of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol? For all its star power and name recognition, Mission Impossible is often just what its title says. I am stunned that Bird did what others could not and that is making a fun, action packed film that never gets bogged down in convoluted plots or contrived devices driven from its TV heritage.
Tom Cruise returns as the IMF super-agent, Ethan Hunt. The opening sequences of the movie set the tone immediately with an action packed Russian prison break. The lighthearted approach is made clear when Hunt’s IMF techno whiz Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) tries to guide Hunt through the prison’s labyrinth by opening all the right doors. Problem is Hunt wants to break someone else out of prison and stubbornly waits at a security camera Dunn has control over until Dunn relents and opens the door so Hunt can go through a massive group of bad guys who are ready to pounce on anyone for no particular reason than they are bad guys.
The plot is not all that important in the movie and that is a strength. It is only important in that it doesn’t make one question the plausibility of every decision made on screen, because the plausibility factor suffers greatly if one ponders for more than a second about the action that takes place. The action is key, with fantastic set pieces and inventive spy gadgets. Whether it’s the cool gimmick used to infiltrate the Kremlin, the breathtaking scaling of the Dubai hotel, or the use of a high tech parking garage for a showdown, it all works. The only missteps are in between the Dubai and India action and the lack of a compelling villain. The lulls in the action are noticeable and the attempts to build stronger characters fall flat. The lack of a villain with much life is forgivable, as the threat of nuclear war is sufficient in generating enough suspense.
Ghost Protocol never pretends to be what it isn’t. Those looking for thought provoking cinema or even character development are sure to be let down. This is an action film that has fun being that and nothing more.