Movie Review: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

January 23, 2012

Entertainment, Lifestyles, News

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is the Casino Royale of its franchise. This statement seems odd, given that this fourth Mission: Impossible is cartoonier than the others. But Director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille) shows more maturity than Brian De Palma (Mission: Impossible), John Woo (Mission: Impossible II), and J.J. Abrams (Mission: Impossible III) by embracing the inherent wackiness of Ghost Protocol.

Not only did Casino Royale revive the James Bond franchise, it was by far the best Bond film. Great action sequences and screen badass Daniel Craig helped make this true, but the film’s self-awareness of Bond’s pop icon status sealed the deal. This self-awareness was best summarized by the scene in which Craig’s Bond is asked whether he wants his martini shaken or stirred. Craig’s response, “Do I look like I give a damn?” went beyond our expectations of “shaken, not stirred,” and told us we shouldn’t take Bond for granted.

An early scene in Ghost Protocol has a similar effect. Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt approaches a phone booth to get his mission from a voice recording. As in other Mission: Impossible films, the last part of the message informs Cruise that the recording will self-destruct in five seconds. Cruise walks away from the booth but stops when he notices the recording hasn’t self-destructed. He turns around and approaches the booth again to bang his fist on the phone, so that the recording will blow up.

Ghost Protocol thrives on this type of cartoon logic – or simply, Murphy’s Law. It took an animation master like Bird to recognize that Mission: Impossible works better as Looney Tunes. The previous Mission: Impossible films had their share of insane stunts and devices, but they were never aware of how silly they were. The honest silliness of Ghost Protocol has greater rewards for us. As we balk at the absurdity of a nearly 50-year-old man scaling the world’s tallest building with gloves that stick to anything, we sympathize with Cruise when the batteries for one of the gloves start to go out. Technological failure affects all of us; why shouldn’t it affect a hero like Hunt who always relies on technology?

The mission in Ghost Protocol gets more and more impossible. The stakes never seemed as high in the previous films. Remember the mountain climbing sequence in Mission: Impossible II? It was a great stunt by Cruise, but with no villainy or race against time to speak of, the scene was meaningless – nothing but movie star pageantry. The Ghost Protocol building climbing scene, in contrast, is nerve-wracking, despite its cartoonish quality.

Like a cartoon, Ghost Protocol keeps things simple: Cruise and his team attempt to thwart a madman’s quest to start a nuclear war. Simplicity eluded the original Mission: Impossible – I still can’t parse the movie’s plot, 16 years later. The second and third movies were not as hard to follow, but they clogged their stories with insipid melodrama.

The top priorities in Ghost Protocol are action and comedy, though the movie suffers slightly from a subplot involving the murder of Cruise’s wife. Thankfully, this subplot is laid to rest with the ending. Cruise faked his wife’s murder and maintains distance to keep her safe. Most people would call that a spoiler; I call it a distracting detail you should know upfront.

Much like the final shot in Casino Royale of Craig holding a large gun, the final shot of Ghost Protocol is fitting. After Cruise listens to a mission recording, he walks into fog and disappears. Ironically, the imagery only tells us the Cruise/Hunt pop icon isn’t going away.

Jed Pressgrove is a technical writer and master’s student in sociology at Mississippi State University.

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One Comment on “Movie Review: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”

  1. Karl Says:

    Great review Jed. I agree with most of your fine points. I will say that MI3 still has the best opening, with Philip Seymour Hoffman terrorising Cruise in the strapped in seat. The performance, the intensity, how unnerving!


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