Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is the fourth installment of the of the series, but outside of a few mainstays (Ethan Hunt, premise), this film is remarkably different in its direction and vision. The aforementioned Brad Bird makes his live-action debut after stamping his fingerprints all over three animated classics (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille). And much like his previous work, there is an unrivaled poetry in the action sequences: foot chases amid a sunset-inducing sandstorm and fist fights through car escalators mark two scenes where our heart pounds while smiles on our faces. For most of Ghost Protocol, I honestly felt like I was watching an animated film. Its colors are stark and vibrant, a breathtaking visual masterpiece (and even more so in IMAX).
The plot itself is a messy, implausible one. Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is brought out of a Russian prison to intercept nuclear codes that has predictably wound up in the wrong hands. But after a bombing at the Kremlin, the U.S. is forced to disavow the IMF and place the blame on Hunt’s team. Now running rogue and without backup, they embark on clearing their name and finishing their mission. How does a team of four caricatures (badass leader, vengeful woman, computer geek, wild card) break into the Kremlin, scale the walls of the Burj Khalifa, and stop a nuclear war? If you’re asking these questions, you’re watching the wrong movie. A more accurate portrayal of secret intelligence is the splendid Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy released earlier this month. Suspense in Ghost Protocol is not built through revealing conversations in a gray room; they’re built in a car chase in the streets of Mumbai. Plot twists are not told through subtle hints in the screenplay; they’re given through a closeup of masks being taken off. Ghost Protocol doesn’t try to be anything than what it is — something ridiculous, something absurd, something preposterous. But their trump card? It’s always something fun.
It’s only when Ghost Protocol takes a breather from its chartered path of stunts and explosions and comic relief that it begins to falter. It suffers when it becomes uneven in its pace and tone, when Hunt’s team is locked in a room to discuss their backstories and their next move. The character payoff is disappointing all across the board, and we’re screaming for them to get back into the now. Fortunately, these moments don’t last for long and Hunt is back in the present mission, and we’re back to munching on our popcorn and gasping when our stars makes a near-death leap to save the world. Mission Impossible:Ghost Protocol is what summer and holiday blockbusters are supposed to be. And for that, I approve.