'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol' Review (2011)

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol review
Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is a film with major thrills, a lackluster villain and a far greater attempt at laughs than any of its three predecessors. Director Brad Bird (The Incredibles), making his live-action directorial debut, has charged himself with a serious task as he pushes aside his animation chops, picks up large-format, 70mm IMAX cameras and tackles a globe-trotting plot that wows with spectacle but slightly underachieves on intrigue.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Grade: B-

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol"Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" is a Paramount Pictures release, directed by Brad Bird and is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence. The running time is .

The cast includes Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, Vladimir Mashkov, Michael Nyqvist, Josh Holloway, Simon Pegg, Léa Seydoux and Anil Kapoor.

Without initial explanation as to what has occurred since Mission: Impossible III came to a close, Ghost Protocol opens with Impossible Mission Force (IMF) Agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) holed up in a Moscow prison, but he won't be there long. Sloshing through the sewers below is Agent Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and above ground is Mission: Impossible III tech guru Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), no longer strapped to a desk at headquarters, but now a field agent.

Once free, Ethan, Jane and Benji are soon involved in the first of many "impossible" missions, beginning at the Kremlin where a bomb eventually goes off and the Americans are implicated. The fiasco results in the shuttering of the IMF, Ethan and his entire team are disavowed and an eventual meeting with the US Secretary of Defense (Tom Wilkinson) ends with a surprise as well as the introduction of Ethan's newest team member, intelligence analyst William Brandt (Renner).

All of this leads to the threat of world war. Russian nuclear launch codes have been stolen, and without a country backing them up or an agency giving support, Ethan and his ragtag crew are on their own as one misstep after another keeps the plot moving forward until the action-packed finale.

Ghost Protocol isn't light on thrills, outdoing its predecessors when it comes to the number of unbelievable action sequences and, thanks to Paul Hirsch's editing (returning to the Mission franchise for the first time since editing Brian De Palma's introductory feature back in 1996), you'll find yourself on edge more than once as the stunts seen here reach an absurd, though exciting level of impossibility. There's also a small bit of old school flavor to the gadgetry as the disavowed team must rely on what's on hand and Cruise never once dons a full-on, rubber mask, a first for this franchise and a welcome avoidance of continued redundancy.

For most of the action sequences Ethan is put through the ringer as he falls from great heights, has his legs mangled, runs a marathon through a massive sand storm and has his face smashed against hard metal on more than one occasion with a thud that makes your teeth hurt. It's no wonder Cruise looks so weathered and beaten down this time around, playing Hunt with a certain level of frustration I couldn't help but notice as he's teamed with a crew that seems less than up to the task. It's a frustration I felt as well.

Agent Carter's emotions are running wild as events in her recent past are affecting her ability to carry out her job. Pegg becomes the comic relief to the point it's almost impossible to take his character seriously. Then there's Renner, whose character has a back-story that is slow to be revealed, though once it is the screenplay doesn't ever give him a chance to breathe. The previous Mission films featured characters that exhibited a certain level of competence, which I appreciated. Not so here.

This is the first feature film for screenwriters Josh Appelbaum and Andre Namec who are primarily known for their collaborative work on "Alias", which makes sense considering the character development is either paper thin or just deep enough to sustain a 45-minute episode. Worst of the lot is the film's villain played by Michael Nyqvist in his first major Hollywood role following his work in the Swedish adaptations of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy.

Nyqvist has virtually nothing to work with, or even enough screen time to actually work for that matter. His primary talent would appear to be carrying a silver briefcase as whatever else we learn about him comes from Ethan's briefings rather than anything we glean from the actual character.

Overall, there are two takeaways from Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, the first being the action scenes as I'm sure anyone will tell you and I'm sure those that see it in 70mm IMAX (as I did) will be even more adamant in their love for what are some truly impressive spectacles.

After that, the effort put in by Cruise is workmanlike. Just shy of 50-years-old, Cruise appears to have put in effort you rarely see in action films these days. Ethan is pummeled nonstop throughout this film and Brad Bird makes sure each blow he suffers is felt, from the scaling of the 2,717-feet high Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai to the mechanized parking garage finale.

However, for as much as I enjoyed the spectacle and feel confident in recommending you see this film (especially in full 70mm IMAX), I have to say the lack of a villain and the nonstop comic relief from Pegg wore on me a bit. I expect the next time I watch this film I'll be more prepared for those two aspects, but the first time around it took a little of the enjoyment out of it for me.


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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alex-Roggio/1487010008 Alex Roggio

    One quick question. If Russian nuclear codes are stolen, can't the Russians just change the codes? When someone takes a password of mine, I just reset it.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      I'm not going to spoil the plot here, but no, not in this case.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alex-Roggio/1487010008 Alex Roggio

        Fair enough. I guess I'll have to watch it. I haven't seen any of the others though. Will it tarnish my viewing or is the film enjoyable as a standalone piece?

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

          I have no idea

        • chewbaca69

          at least watch the 3rd.

    • Daniel Tayag

      The Russian government doesn't know they are stolen. The villain (Michael Nyqvist) blew up the Kremlin as a cover up for the stolen launch codes. Hunt says when the IMF is disavowed, "It would take at least two weeks for them to realize that the codes were stolen."

      BTW Brad, this isn't Nyqvist's first major Hollywood role. He played the main villain in the horrible Taylor Lautner movie, Abduction.

  • jayma

    Hi, Im also contemplating which one is better to watch.. Ghost Protocol or the Sherlock Homes sequel.. so far, critics liked the Ghost Protocol.. Which of the two do you think is better to watch than the other? thanks!

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      Mission by a longshot.

      • jayma

        Thanks!! I'm watching Ghost Protocol this weekend :)

  • mfan

    This is the last movie I will see this year, as The Land of Blood & Honey expands in January.

  • Huh?

    "This is the first feature film for screenwriters Josh Appelbaum and Andre Namec who are primarily known for their collaborative work on "Alias", which makes sense considering the character development is either paper thin or just deep enough to sustain a 45-minute episode ... The previous Mission films featured characters that exhibited a certain level of competence, which I appreciated. Not so here."

    Huh? If anything, the new film seems to show a greater range of intelligence and critical thinking from the lead characters than in the previous films.

    In the second and third films, the other characters were superficially conceived and only served as a helper to Ethan Hunt. Who the hell is the Jonathan Rhys-Meyers character supposed to be again? Or the Maggie Q character, besides offering looks and gunplay? Or Ving Raimes, besides bitching about his suits? Or the John Polson character, besides being the most annoying tech wiz in the world?

    More to the point, how exactly are these idiots meant to be competent again? In the second one, the team basically prostitutes Thandie Newton only to later discover that the villain never had the virus in the first place. And, in the third film, they just let go of Hoffman after they captured him. Yeah, these guys are real geniuses.

    In this new film, each of the team members has a specific objective and arc over the course of the film: Renner wants redemption, Patton wants revenge and Pegg wants to be cool. Yep, these arcs are not exactly complicated, but at least they are there, which is more than can be said for the previous two entries.

    If you thought that the previous two films had character development, then I am not sure that you understand the term.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      So you just told me your opinion and then chastised me because mine doesn't match with yours? Tough, but fair. I'm also impressed how you twisted my words for your convenience. Nice!

      • adu

        So Brad, the Dubai Tower scene is not the last grand action scene of the movie? that's a good thing IMO if true.

      • Huh?

        Twist your words? Hardly. You argue that the film lacks character development, but there are more instances of development within the new film than in previous films. As a result, I simply listed examples that contradicted the premise of your argument. I don't care whether you have a different opinion than mine: that's fine.

        However, you need coherent reasons about why you feel this way. For example, if I were to say that this film was better than the other ones because the villain was complicated and richly drawn, then I would be lying. The first film - for instance - gives Jim Phelps subtext (he is lying to his team for the first act) that makes him more interesting than this new guy.

        When you are making a criticism, you have to validate it with examples from the text. Otherwise you are not writing a review: you're just offering an opinion. In this new film, these characters think critically about their actions: after the agency is shut down, Cruise offers the members a chance to walk away. It is a small moment, but an important one for giving these other characters a sense of drive and purpose beyond servicing Ethan's story. In contrast, the second film features Tom Cruise pimping out his girlfriend to a lunatic just because Anthony Hopkins tells him to.

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

          There's a long answer to this I won't get into, but I think I more than adequately explained myself without spoiling the movie and/or character motivations and keeping the word count manageable.

    • Steffen

      I enjoyed the film very much, but I don't see how the characters "show a greater range of intelligence and critical thinking". All they have is a very, very simple individual motivation to stop the villain - that's it. To me they are more cutouts than characters an that works for MI4 because the action is very competent and the editing is superb.

  • Winchester

    95% on RT? I gotta say, even having not seen it, I'm surprised that the rating is so high, even this early on before it comes out.

  • Doc Holiday

    I watched it in IMAX so that probably has something to do with my opinion but I really really enjoyed this movie. I had low expectations and honestly was there for the Batman preview with the thinking that if this movie started boring me I would leave. Pegg never really bothered me and Cruise took himself alot less seriously than previous installments which I thought was good. I think this is probably my favorite of the franchise although the first one would be close although it was a very different type film. I also wonder are they setting up Renner to take over for Cruise in the franchise at some point? Take over for Bourne, then Ethan Hunt lol.

  • buddy

    @doc: from my point of view, cruise is still the main leads if the franchise continues (from the ending)
    @huh‎​‎​‎​: I agree with you in tearms of characterization for this movie. From villain side, yes, it was not powerful, but all the protagonists did their best (probably one of the best in the franchise)
    @brad: for this movie, I had different opinion with you (usually we shared same taste in films, based on your other reviews)... I think this is one of the best mission impossible film from 4. All audiences in my packed theater seems to enjoyed it. This movie makes them gasp, thrilled at the same time... The ending when ethan gaze upon "someone" he knew brings audience sympathy for ethan.... Great movie. I will give it A. And tom cruise is really, superstar..... My advice, Rennner will never carry this franchise since the charisma of MI films came from Tom Cruise.
    Regards from Indonesia

  • kate

    I watched it today at the IMAX theater! It costed me much more than the regular theater, but it was worth it every penny i spent! You gotta see it at the IMAX!!

  • MajorFilmFan

    I can't WAIT To see this on the IMAX!!! This is gonna be one hell of an EPIC MOVIE!!!!

  • Eric

    I saw the film a few hours ago after noting the 93 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and I must confess I was severely disappointed. (It was the first film in the series I've seen.) I thought the film was basically a muddled mess and, well, boring despite a few spectacular sequences. We're given no reason whatsoever to care about these characters, and the setting was difficult to place chronologically, as it seemed to be tied to a Cold War that no longer exists. The film was basically a two-hour chase with little plot that made sense.

    When the fifth in the series comes out, I won't bother.