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Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

December 19, 2011

9/10 Tower Heists

The best one yet, the best thrill ride of the year, total insanity.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol picks up with the Impossible Missions Force’s top agent Ethan Hunt getting busted out of a Moscow prison so that he break into the Kremlin and steal the launch codes to some nuclear warheads. When things don’t go according to plan and the Kremlin gets blown the hell up, the US is blamed for the attack and the IMF, along with all of its members, are immediately disbanded. With no one else to support him and his ragtag crew, Hunt busts out the gadgets and gets to globetrotting in order to stop a mad scientist before he kicks off a nuclear holocaust.

I think the last time I saw the first Mission: Impossible was when it was still out in theaters, and while I vaguely remember liking it, I was mostly just scarred for life by Emilio’s death-by-elevator scene. Then there was the second one which was both beyond ludicrous and had way too many dove cameos; and most recently was the third which was pretty darn wild despite a story that didn’t make a lick of sense. Given the shaky track record and the fact that I could only see it in IMAX, I feel like I should have been more hesitant going into this one. But what can I say, I was a total sucker for that ass-kicker of a trailer, and sometimes you gotta go for the IMAX. Definitely added an extra something to the 6-minute Dark Knight Rises prologue that played beforehand.

Now, I’ve gotten excited over some action-packed trailers before, and more often than not, that kind of behavior has led to some major letdowns. The sad truth is that it’s easy to cram all the best parts of a movie into a two-minute span and then buffer the finished product with two hours of disappointing fluff, the hard part is taking that two-minute highlight reel and then kicking the audience in the face for two hours like you promised. I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up, I should know better, but as you can see quite plainly from the poster, the only disappointment you’ll be experiencing is that you didn’t bring a second pair of fresh undies.

Folks, this thing is just nuts, and the man to be thanking is director Brad Bird. Yup, it’s the first live-action movie by the guy who did The Incredibles, and whoever handed him the reigns deserves a big, fat high-thirty. I mean, it really is like watching a live-action Pixar movie. Unless you’re one of those quacks who still thinks Pixar movies are for kids, I can’t think of a better endorsement than that. Everything flows seamlessly from one scene to the next, each new impossible scenario gets injected with an extra 20 cc’s of impossibility just to make things interesting, and it’s so effing awesome to see a movie that keeps one-upping itself without nuking the fridge. There were a lot of moments where this movie could have done just that, and in someone else’s hands it absolutely could have happened, but with Bird behind the wheel, it’s a high-octane blast from start to finish. Have no idea how he got some of the jaw-dropping, hurl-inducing shots he did amidst some seriously epic set pieces either.

Although that’s not to say that the only reason this movie succeeds is because of Bird’s involvement.

Thanks to the likes of Collateral and Tropic Thunder, Tom Cruise has done an impressive job of remaining in my good graces over the years despite my best efforts to write him off. I want him to be the kooky bastard who couch-surfed on Oprah, I want him to be the uber-defensive Scientologist who gave that glib bastard Matt Lauer the 411 on psychology, I want him to be the best beach volleyball player the United States Air Force has ever seen. But then he starts doing all his own death-defying stunts off the tallest building in the word with the same amount of effort it would take me to cannonball off the deep end, and all of that nonsense disappears into the void. Dammit, Tom… He may be pushing 50, but he makes it look good and he’s totally entertaining to watch. Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, and Jeremy Renner are also on-point as Hunt’s team members, but I was just psyched to see the ridiculously underused Josh Holloway get some love for once as a late IMF agent.

And the gadgets here are so, so, so, so boss. To name a few, we’ve got Spider-man gloves, magnet suits, travel-size mask-makers, and even a Beemer straight out of Minority Report to beat the traffic in style. Wasn’t excited about the gadgets going in and wasn’t expecting them to be a selling point, but they’re just endlessly wild to see in action. Certainly helps when they’re not stupid as hell and beyond convenient. Can’t help but wonder how these guys manage to be so outrageously prepared for each mission despite such limited resources and short notice, but apparently the IMF thought of everything before shit went down. Better to not ask questions about these kinds of things. It’s weird considering that one of the reasons Casino Royale was so good was ’cause they got rid of all the gadgets, but then again, Ethan Hunt never got his Gadget Card revoked for para-surfing off a glacial tidal wave.

The one and only thing that I was pretty bummed out about is Michael Nyqvist as our villain of the hour, Kurt Hendricks. The first thing that sucks is that Philip Seymour Hoffman was so freaking good as the bad guy in Mission: Impossible III that Nyqvist was kinda doomed from the start. The second thing that sucks is that Nyqvist doesn’t even get the chance to one-up his predecessor because Hendricks is a shell of a character. In his defense, the dude wants to go War Games all over us so he needs to be taken out, but since he has absolutely no vendetta against or history with Ethan Hunt or the IMF, you don’t really care about him outside of the threat he poses. He’s essentially the finish line and nothing more, and that’s a damn shame considering how fleshed-out all the good guys are. And not that it’s really pertinent, but the third thing that sucks is that Nyqvist’s character got the shaft in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, too! Bizarre how this guy can’t catch a break no matter how big his movies are.

Still, I’ll take the weak villain in light of everything else that flat-out destroys. Also nice to have a story that actually adds up for a change.

After digging Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for being the antithesis of this movie, I was awfully taken aback by what a time I had with Ghost Protocol. It wasn’t a mindless experience in the least, it’s as fun as they come, and I was breaking out in flop sweats every ten minutes from all the crap Ethan keeps getting himself into and out of. Seriously, I was a mess, thought I was going through menopause or something. The long and short of it is that there aren’t too many franchises out there that manage to kick this much ass by the fourth installment let alone the first. Fourth installments are where franchises go to die and the world doesn’t need another fourquel to clog up an industry that’s already overflowing with unoriginality and unnecessary sequels. But now we’ve got Ghost Protocol, and it is one pants-crapper of an exception.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Matt Stewart permalink
    December 19, 2011 12:08 am

    Great review as always, friend.

    I gave it an 8/10, but we agree entirely as a whole. A fantastic popcorn flick indeed!

    • December 19, 2011 12:51 pm

      Thanks, bud! Glad you dug it as well and glad this thing turned out as well as it did. So freaking awesome.

  2. December 20, 2011 12:01 am

    This was undeniably one the top films on my list to see this year. It isn’t as a deep and baffling as MI 1 and MI 3 and yet it isn’t as action-centered as the MI 2 either. In fact, it manages to maintain a quite happy balance. For this reason I enjoyed this film even more than the other films in the series. MI 4 doesn’t achieve anything new or groundbreaking, but it does a fine job of twisting well-known topic into an appealing story that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

    • December 21, 2011 10:59 am

      I totally agree on the happy balance, that’s what this series has been striving for all along. I did think that some of the stunts and set pieces were nothing short of groundbreaking, but you’re right, it just does everything really well and it ends up being everything you could ask for in an action movie. Hell yeah, man.

  3. December 20, 2011 3:45 pm

    Michael Nyqvist. He was better used as a to-go package for Mexican food in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and he plain sucks here. Who likes this guy?

    • December 21, 2011 11:03 am

      Hahaha. I’ve heard he’s good in some foreign stuff, but have yet to confirm that. Definitely ain’t winning any points here though.

  4. December 21, 2011 6:16 am

    “one pants crapper of an exception”….

    This should be on the poster.

    • December 21, 2011 11:03 am

      Hahaha. Thanks, man! Totally what the studio is aiming for.

  5. December 26, 2011 10:30 pm

    Saw this movie last night and I must say your review was spot on. This was by far the best MI movie yet. I am an old Tommy Crusie fan from way back…amd I have an idea for Hollywood. Top Gun 2…the plot. Maverick is an instructor called back to duty after Iceman gets shot down by a rogue pilot working for a covert terrorist organization. Maverick stricken by guilt loses the edge..gets it back. Only to find out the rogue pilot is in fact Jester. Maverick has no choice but to take him out and high five the bald dude commander.

    • January 2, 2012 8:07 pm

      Thanks, man, and glad to hear you dug it! Talked to a lot of people over the last week about it and I feel like I liked it WAY more than most folks. Nice to feel sane for a change.

      And while I’m not the biggest Top Gun fan out there, I’d say that’s a fine idea for a sequel. Tom Cruise is killing it these days.


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