Brad Bird makes a visually spectacular, emotionally hollow film
The Mission Impossible film franchise has had four distinctive looks and feels during its run because it’s had four distinctive directors at the helm. Brian De Palma viewed the film as a traditional spy thriller in the first installment. John Woo looked at the film in more operatic terms for the sequel. J.J Abrams brought the film down to a level closer to a Bourne sequel. And Brad Bird of Pixar fame has focused Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol as an action spectacular.
We meet Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) this time in a Russian prison. With an old compatriot (Simon Pegg) and a new one (Paula Patton) breaking him out, Hunt is tasked with sniffing out a potential nuclear terrorist from within the Russian ranks. When it goes horribly wrong and the terrorist is revealed as a brilliant professor (Michael Nyqvist) who wants to end the world as we know it, Hunt and his team are disavowed by their government. Joined by an IMF analyst (Jeremy Renner) with a past he wants hidden, and on their own, it’s up to the team to prevent nuclear war from a maniac who desperately wants it.
And while the film doesn’t break new ground, content to follow more of a James Bond style formula in a sequel story by making it more of a standalone film than following M.I 3, Bird does something that three other directors didn’t do: making it a brilliantly designed action thriller.
This is a film made for IMAX theatres and previewed the weekend before exclusively in the format, obviously, but it wasn’t purely for the elevated box office gross for one reason only: they look spectacular in this particular format. Bird has taken what he’s learned from the realm of animation in crafting action sequences for that format and brought it to live action; everything is perfectly put together like a piece of furniture. The film’s action sequences are its calling and they deliver more spectacularly than in any of the previous sequels.
The problem is that the film’s overall story feels like a perfunctory Bond sequel more than anything else. No major character of significant dies, only a government official (Tom Wilkinson) whose death ultimately fuels the film’s storyline. It’s more of Tom Cruise’s usual aerial insanity and some judiciously amusing action sequences.
The film, like the rest of the series, has a terrific villain. Michael Nyqvist may be best known for his role in the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but he’s quickly finding a niche in Hollywood as a villain of choice. After earlier being the only good part in Abduction, he gets a much better film to be involved in and commands the screen for the few moments he has on screen. Bird makes the film much more about Ethan’s story than it is a true action spectacle in a similar way he’s done with animated films in the past; there isn’t much time for a villain, just the hero acting to stop him, and as such he gets short-changed in screen time. When he is given substantial time he’s a delight to watch but the film’s big failing is that it feels like a large portion of Nyqvist’s time has been cut to get the film close to its two hour running time.
Ghost Protocol, then, remains an entertaining sequel due to its remarkable action but doesn’t do much more beyond that.
Director: Brad Bird Notable Cast: Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Michael Nyqvist, Tom Wilkinson Writer(s): Josh Appelbaum & Andre Nemec