This post is the unedited version of the review published in our column “Animadversion”, iMAGES on Sunday (Dawn Newspaper), on Sunday January 1st 2012. The link to paper-published edit is at the end of this post.
Your Mission, For the Fourth-time…Should You Choose to Accept?
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
Believe you me: the Burj Al-Khaleefa scene will knock your socks off! I am not exaggerating, I am telling.
It goes down like this: Ethan Hunt – Tom Cruise, believable, sincere and aptly wearing beaten down look – has to disable the security system at the Burj, and to do this he has to scale the world’s tallest building. From the outside. With a set of malfunctioning adhesive gloves. And so, the vertigo inducing high-concept sequence, perhaps the key element of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’s marketing campaign, becomes a dizzying pulse-throbbing adventure by itself.
But is one scene really enough to put the movie into the list of one of the most entertaining – and as far as I am concerned, one of the best – films of 2011. Well, no, and that is precisely why Ghost Protocol is custom-built around the idea that more is better. And boy, how that idea works.
Within minutes of opening, Ethan Hunt is reclaimed from a prison in Berlin – the reason we’ll get to know later – and is flung headfirst into a series of superficially conceived globe-trotting missions. His back-up is a hampered party of two: Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) – the returning tech-geek from Mission: Impossible III, now graduated into field work. A little later, the troupe adds William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), the bedeviled intelligence analyst who snatches pistols almost as fast as Ethan, and maybe twice as appealing.
Renner, who was a deviation in the trailer campaign as an agent who may or may not take over the franchise from Cruise is just that – a deviation. Mission: Impossible has always been about Cruise – as Ethan often on the run, as a Producer always employing the crème de la crème in direction – and five years down the line, Ghost Protocol helmed by Pixar alumni Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille and WB’s Iron Giant) is the perfect conduit for his re-introduction.
Think of Ghost Protocol as 101 in spectacle-making: strip the team off resources, brand them rogues, wind up the key and let the acceleration do the talking. In blockbusters there’s always too much to do in an insanely constricted time slot. Here, the kinetic exhilaration turns global – another M:I staple – between Russia, where the IMF (Impossible Mission Force, the employers of Ethan and Co.) is disowned by the U.S. government after the Kremlin is bombed, Dubai and Mumbai (a wasted stop by the way), before a Nuclear terrorist strike machinated by Russian extremist Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) takes flight to blows away a U.S. city.
While the plot is one-dimensional the framework is extraordinarily acute. Departing from the norm, the gadgets – a regular flock of Deus Ex Machina in any spy-thriller – fail routinely (read: to amplify drama), entrapping the team in adverse Catch-22 scenarios. By the Mumbai endgame (post the small detour over an over-cocky Anil Kapoor who plays a lusty playboy magnate) at the automated car park, Ghost Protocol drains up its bolster.
Still, the run up to it is fantabulous, thanks to the mild-mannered ingenious of Bird and writers Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec (TV’s “Alias”) who shove one big intelligently conceived set-piece in front of the other – the Burj scaling, the GPRS-tracking through the sandstorm, the Kremlin heist, the data-excavation by Renner – and there’s still ample leeway for the characters to create a semblance of humanity.
Unlike Mission: Impossible III, which shifted its weight exclusively on Ethan’s love-life, Ghost Protocol splits its emotional immensity three-ways between Ethan, Jane and Brandt (Ethan’s wife is dead, Jane loses her IMF-agent beau at the beginning, and Brandt opens up an unexpected twist). Their shared woes are a winning facet, and it detracts from the singularity of Cruise’s star power – which has dwindled considerably by an unnecessary evil of the press. By itself, Ghost Protocol is more than capable of re-jolting Cruise’s career. I am just waiting to see what the box-office receipts are.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is rated PG-13. Bombs, bullets, deaths, time-constrains, plus a lot of emotional excess baggage.
By Farheen Jawaid
The biggest star in the world, Tom Cruise, has been getting a little down time in popularity recently because of some personal and career misadventures. Now, nearing 50 years in age, Cruise returns with his top – and only – event franchise Mission: Impossible, which like its star, had its ups and downs. With Ghost Protocol – the fourth in the series – he quite literally blows the cobwebs out of the M:I series!
In a race to appeal to the tweeting generation Cruise runs harder, becomes ripped with muscle and loses his trademark smile (until the end of the movie, that is). For him it’s more important to make this work and earn big than Ethan Hunt saving the world. Alas, it’s not that easy for either of them anymore. But nonetheless, despite the obstacles, Cruise makes it work – for both him and Hunt.
Brad Bird the wonder-maker of animated spectacles Iron Giant, and Pixar heavy-earners The Incredibles and Ratatouille, has a knack for action, and with Ghost Protocol – his first live action movie – he does it with no less craftiness or velocity.
Bird keeps the action close to his characters and it never feels impersonal or uninteresting. At times it gets too breathtaking to sit still, especially with Cruise climbing the Burj Al–Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, with a set of gloves that are an instant spider-man maker (without the radioactive spider). As Cruise jumps across the building at the end of the scene, the hype surrounding the event lives up to its 100%.
Bird again shows intelligence with his action, which isn’t always loud. He knows when to let it go silent and let the elements speak for themselves, as in the Burj climbing scene and following the chase through Dubai amidst a sandstorm.
Written by the duo team of Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec (graduates of J.J Abrams’ Alias, the director of M:I III, who is producing Ghost Protocol with Cruise), the screenplay maintains a semblance of light heartedness amid the world ending scenario. There are breathers from the smart mouthing banter of Simon Pegg (who is also the film’s go-to tech guy, replacing series regular Ving Rhames) and a few thankful tie-ins with M:I III – something that has never been done in the franchise. Ghost Protocol also has fine support from Jeremy Renner, whose star-like charm pulls off Brandt, and Paula Patton, reluctantly gets to seduce Anil Kapoor in a funny cameo.
It’s not going to get accolades for its genius in story, but it gets things rolling for Cruise and the MI franchise — big time. Ghost Protocol is a visual stunner and a sure fire entertainer.
Published link is:
On Paper, our review looks like this: