When it comes to ludicrous chase scenes and over-the-top action mayhem, the old pro Tom Cruise still has it. With "The Incredibles" director Brad Bird seamlessly stepping into the series, "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" is a clever, heart-pounding action extravaganza that marks a new high point in the superspy franchise. Complete with a couple interesting new characters and the best action scene of the year, "Ghost Protocol" breathes fresh life into a popular series that previously seemed to be heading the way of the dodo.
Elaborate breakouts of Russian prisons, magnetic suits that allow spies to hover in midair, secret exchanges for nuclear codes, "Ghost Protocol" has a little bit of everything. After a new team busts Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) out of his cell in a Russian jail in a humorous opening scene, it's full steam ahead for IMF's number one spy. Here's a man who doesn't exactly want to take a vacation, and luckily for us the world once again needs saving.
As soon as Ethan breathes free air, he's already given a new mission that involves breaking into the Kremlin in Russia. Considering that he's previously hacked into CIA headquarters in Langley, the Kremlin should be a piece of cake. Unfortunately, Ethan doesn't believe that he has his A-team with him, though that doesn't exactly slow him down from hurdling into danger and chaos.
Joining him in this mission is computer supergeek Benji (Simon Pegg) and the gorgeous but deadly Jane (Paula Patton). Ethan initially has his doubts, but Benji is the kind of guy who can hack any system in the world with a couple keystrokes, though he's also a babbling buffoon who's just happy to be going on a mission with one of his personal heroes. Jane, on the other hand, is the type of beauty perfect for seducing an unknowing target, even if her real talent is possessing skills that would make Bruce Lee sit up and take notice. Then there's Brandt (Jeremy Renner), a low-key analyst who may be a bit more than he seems.
As if the inexperienced team needed any added pressure, they also have to deal with a madman hell-bent on setting off a nuclear holocaust that will engulf the entire planet. Think a younger Dr. Strangelove with a better mind for mission tactics. After IMF is dissolved following a mix-up, Ethan must lead his team on his own and figure out a way to keep the world from the clutches of nuclear disaster. Nothing to be too worried about.
Much of the plot is your typical spy stuff that you've seen over and over again in James Bond thrillers, but "Ghost Protocol" has a few tricks up its sleeve. The one that separates it from its contemporaries is a brilliant little action sequence that involves Ethan scaling the side of a skyscraper in Dubai, which just so happens to be the tallest building in the world at just a shade over a mile high. With footage that has Cruise clinging to the side of the building, the scene is so convincing and well-made that it shames action movies that rely on computerized explosions and CGI. Even though "Ghost Protocol" definitely has some computer and camera trickery of its own, it goes out of its way to make it look and feel as authentic as possible.
What "Ghost Protocol" excels at, though, is finding a way to make our heroes human, which isn't often the case in action movies of this sort. Jane may be a beautiful vixen able to disarm just about anyone with her bare hands, but she's also capable of getting flustered and nervous when she must seduce a man in order to help divert a nuclear disaster. Ethan is even allowed a couple moments of shock when he realizes he's the only one crazy enough to climb the world's tallest skyscraper with nothing but a couple of high-tech gloves he's never worked with before. Simon Pegg is also pitch-perfect as the twitchy sidekick, and he once again shows that he has a knack for deadpan humor that can break up the action monotony.
But the movie still belongs to Cruise. Though the action star has become a bit of a punch-line over the years, he seems perfectly at home in action movies filled to the brim with absurd action, and "Ghost Protocol" finds a way to suck you into the story even if you could poke holes in the logic just about at any turn. "Ghost Protocol" reminds us how fun it would be to live in a world packed with secret spy rooms inside moving trains, exotic locations and confidential missions delivered through payphones. Led by Cruise and director Bird, "Ghost Protocol" has the type of zeal and enthusiasm for spy movies that is difficult not to admire.
If you're looking for a realistic bit of cinematic espionage, best to check out George Clooney's incredibly underrated "The American" or current release "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," both of which at least acknowledge the laws of physics and delve deeply into a spy's psychology. For escapist action, though, "Ghost Protocol" is up there with the best of the Bond movies and a refreshing reminder of what action movies are capable of being in the right hands.
by RTT Staff Writer
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