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REVIEW: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Friday 23 December 2011, 04:35PM

132 minutes
Rating: 13+
Director: Brad Bird
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg

Nearly 15 years after the original Mission: Impossible film debuted (and 45 years after the TV series began), we are once again presented with another franchise offering of what arguably should have been limited to a single installment.

But, more than six years after the rock-solid mediocrity of Mission Impossible III, Brad Bird has succeeded in his mission to bring a fresh and stylish M:I installment to the big screen.

While Ghost Protocol doesn’t hit the mark in every scene or character interaction, the majority of the film is an in-your-face action adventure with a number of enjoyable performances and exciting set pieces.

Unlike previous entries, the story in Ghost Protocol is pretty straightforward, with a linear race against time to stop a nuclear war. Tom Cruise once again returns as series lead, Ethan Hunt, who is incarcerated in a Russian prison at the opening of the film.

When Hunt is sprung from jail, it’s only a matter of time before he’s caught in a shadowy conspiracy – one that doesn’t just result in the destruction of the Kremlin, but also the dissolution of the entire Impossible Missions Force (aka IMF); that is, with the exception of Hunt and his newly-formed team, which includes Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), and Jane Carter (Paula Patton).

While some franchise fans might wish for a few more twists and turns, Bird’s installment in the series works largely because it keeps the focus grounded in the moment on a number of eye-popping action set-pieces, as well as tense, and interesting, character interactions.

But the trimmed-down plot in Ghost Protocol is by no means thin, and successfully provides a sharp and believable globe-trotting James Bond-like adventure, leaving room for plenty of Bird’s style and humour. Despite the high stakes, the film manages to find an enjoyable balance between  tongue-in-cheek absurdity in the onscreen hijinks, and a tense and relatively realistic tone.

While Cruise has always carried the M:I movies, his performance this round is particularly in sync with Bird’s tone and style. Ethan Hunt’s personality, despite being an action hero stereotype on principle, has been somewhat amorphous from film to film. But in Ghost Protocol, the story humanises Hunt: we’re privy to moments of him struggling with loss, frustration, and even his sense of humour.

Regardless of which director is at the helm, the M:I series has always been about action and spy/infiltration scenarios, and there’s no doubt Ghost Protocol delivers on those points. Bird takes the series up a notch with enjoyable performances and character dynamics (even if a few fall flat), as well as a straightforward but still intriguing story that keeps the action moving at a steady clip.

3 1/2 stars

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