Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

This fourth Installment might be the best in the franchise but miles behind a true espionage thriller.

At the risk of sounding biased, I must say that I have never been a true Tom Cruise fan; at least not entirely. There are two reasons for this. One: I am yet to see a really inspiring film with Cruise in the lead, other than Jerry Maguire. Sure, crazed fans will hit back with the multi-Oscar winning Rain Man, but let’s not forget, even for a moment, that Dustin Hoffman owned that film. Two: I can’t recall a movie where Cruise has not played a cocky or egotistical character. Right from a hotshot ‘Maverick’ fighter pilot to a self-righteous vampire to a pompous Washington DC senator, Cruise has hardly ever stepped out of a ‘cool zone’ of his own making. Heck, for that matter, off-screen and he really pushes the envelope – ask Oprah Winfrey or David Letterman! With the Mission Impossible franchise, Cruise remains the actor we know him to be and doesn’t budge. Reprising his role as IMF agent Ethan Hunt, Cruise is back for another trip around the globe, complete with made-to-order disguises, hi-tech gadgetry and a team of specialists to work with.

Following a botched mission in Moscow, Hunt and his team are implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin while trying to identify the whereabouts of ‘Cobalt ‘ ̶ an international nuclear arms dealer. Initiating ‘Ghost Protocol’ or a period of Black Ops contingency, The US President disavows IMF as an organization, leaving Hunt and a team of newly promoted field agents to clear the agency’s name while simultaneously averting a cold war crisis between Russia and the United States. With the secretary killed, Hunt and his team are now rogue agents with limited resources, immunity and equipment and the last hope in preventing a nuclear strike on the United States.

For an espionage thriller, this latest installment is a high octane thrill ride right from the opening scene and doesn’t let go till the end. Screenwriters André Nemec and Josh Appelbaum keep the plot fairly simple (actually absurdly simple) where Cruise is supported by the voluptuous Paula Patton as Agent Jane Carter, Jeremy Renner as intelligence analyst William Brandt and funnyman Simon Pegg as the team’s technical expert. With the fast pacing and extravagant styling throughout, there is little time for performance gauging. However, Nemec and Appelbaum’s story is punctuated with ample moments that Pegg pulls off with ease. For this reviewer, adding comic relief to an otherwise high tension thriller and having Pegg execute those scenes are some of the areas where this film excels over the earlier installments and other spy thrillers. Renner and Patton add individual finesse while adding unique contributions towards the plot. As I said before, Cruise is in his own element and you get to see him play another tailor-made character for the umpteenth time. There are disappointments, and my main concerns are weak characters penned for pivotal areas of the plot structure. What worked for J.J Abrams’ MI3 was the dark story and an even darker villain played by the academy Award winning Philip Seymour Hoffman. Sadly, Michael Nvqvist as Hendricks, AKA Cobalt, is never daunting as the nuclear armed criminal mastermind. Playing a telecommunications tycoon cum notorious playboy, Anil Kapoor is not only miscast, his short role is a big disappointment, an unfunny joke and a huge cliché reiterating that Indian romance movies are about running around trees to seduce a woman. Like his overrated role in Slumdog Millionaire, casting Kapoor in this film is another example of why Hollywood can never blend with Bollywood, despite individual world appeal.

All said and done, the real star of the film is director Brad Bird for making this movie the most appealing as the latest but fourth part of the franchise. Coming from a world of animated films like the Oscar winning Ratatouille and Up, MI4: Ghost Protocol is Bird’s first live action film as director and has done a good job in the process. Cinematography is easily the biggest visual treat with never-before-seen angles of the Burj Khalifa, some aerial views of the Kremlin and exotic locales of Mumbai and Bangalore. Close quarter fight scenes are also well choreographed with the style and look of a Jason Bourne or James Bond film. Although visual effects are top notch without going overboard, I do feel (SPOILER ALERT) the sandstorm sequence is a bit over the top as I have never seen such a huge wave of dust in the city, in all the years I have had the pleasure of living in Dubai.

Produced by J.J Abrams and co-produced by Tom Cruise, Bird takes this latest installment to unprecedented levels as not only the best film in the series but also as one of 2011’s above average action thrillers. As filming was done largely using the IMAX format, this film is best viewed in cinemas either on IMAX or conventional screens. Given the overall production value, the cult following behind the franchise, the ‘Dubai’ factor along with other brand endorsements, there is a very good chance this film will remain in cinemas longer than usual; or at least until every Dubai resident has seen this film at least once.

Rating: ★★★½☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.