The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - GHOST PROTOCOL"

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Jeremy Renner and Tom Cruise are hanging around.

The Mission: Impossible franchise is one of the more interesting to come out of Hollywood. As with the Alien franchise, every installment has been directed by a different filmmaker, each with his own distinct style. J.J. Abrams' Mission: Impossible 3 was not the same as John Woo's Mission: Impossible 2, which was not the same as Brian DePalma's Mission: Impossible. The fourth entry, subtitled Ghost Protocol, is the first live-action feature from Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles), who instantly establishes himself as a top action director. He has made the best Mission yet.

Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt. To make a complicated story short, there is a madman named Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist, of the Swedish Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) who is trying to procure nuclear launch codes in order to start a war. Hunt's IMF unit wants to track him down, but they've been disavowed by the American government after being implicated in a Kremlin bombing. This means that they have to nail Hendricks with no extra support. And there are only four of them: in addition to Hunt, there's the returning Benji (Simon Pegg), a new agent named Jane (Paula Patton), and an analyst named Brandt (Jeremy Renner). In order to stop Hendricks, they have to intercept the launch codes and gain access to a satellite. The villain is cunning, though, throwing up roadblocks every time they try to make a move.

The villain in Ghost Protocol isn't very well-developed (his reasons for wanting to start a war are hazy, at best), but that's really the only gripe I have. By and large, this is one of the most insane action movies I've seen in years. Something intense is happening almost every single second of its 132-minute running time. It starts with a frantic prison break and just goes from there. An extended sequence in Dubai is a high point. It entails Hunt dangling from the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, via a pair of adhesive gloves. I literally gripped my armrest and jumped several times. There's also a tense scheme to swipe the codes, a chase through a sandstorm, and an elaborate break-in. The finale, set in an automated parking garage, is yet another stunner. All these scenes are handled with great deftness not just in terms of stunt work, but also in terms of pacing, camerawork, and acting.

It's a testament to the movie's quality that the humans don't get swallowed up. In fact, the action feels more intense because we do care about the characters. Cruise brings a little more humor to Ethan Hunt, while Pegg provides additional comic relief, and Patton supplies emotion. I also enjoyed the chemistry between Cruise and Renner. Their characters have an unspoken competitiveness. The actors have it as well. Renner is clearly intent on not being upstaged in the macho department by his co-star. He has the right approach. That dynamic gives all the mayhem an added shot of energy.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol has a zip that the previous ones did not. They were all action-packed and fast-paced, but I don't remember them feeling as seamless as this one does. The momentum flows gracefully from one thing to the next. When exposition comes (and, as in all these kinds of pictures, it does come), it's handled with deftness; you never feel like things are grinding to a halt in order to explain plot points.

I enjoyed the heck out of this movie. It is enormously fun. Typically, by the time a franchise hits the fourth installment, it's running out of gas. If Ghost Protocol is any indication, the Mission: Impossible franchise still has a lot of gas left in the tank. Just please bring back Brad Bird.

( 1/2 out of four)


Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence. The running time is 2 hours and 12 minutes.


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