I am old enough to remember enjoying “Mission: Impossible” as a 1960s TV series, with its team of agents traveling across the globe to thwart Cold War agents in unnamed Eastern European and South American countries. Its great theme music, taped messages that self-destructed in 30 seconds, and lit fuse worked well to keep me on the edge of my seat for an hour.
However, I have not been a fan of the movies. The TV show was all about the IM Force working as a team. The movies seemed simply to be star vehicles for Tom Cruise as an action hero. In addition, spy movies haven’t been as much fun since the end of the Cold War.
I was intrigued when I heard about the fourth installment of the movie series because it is the first live action feature directed by Brad Bird, the great director of animated movies (“The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille”). Also, “Ghost Protocol” was receiving unexpected good reviews. So I checked it out.
I’m happy to report that “Ghost Protocol” is very entertaining. First of all, it’s more in tune with the TV series. Even though Tom Cruise is clearly the star, this episode is a lot more about a team working together than the other installments of the movie series. The opening sequence in which Ethan Hunt (Cruise) breaks out of a Russian prison, aided by computer geek Benji (Simon Pegg, in an amusing performance) to the music of Dean Martin singing “Ain’t that a Kick in the Head,” is worthy of the best of the James Bond films, suspenseful and funny at the same time. Other great sequences include Benji and Ethan breaking into the Kremlin aided by the beautiful Jane (Paula Patton) and, of course, Ethan scaling the world’s tallest building in Dubai, with a sand storm looming in the distance.
The plot, about a rogue spy trying to detonate a nuclear weapon and begin a war between Russia and the United States, hardly seems to matter. The movie is more a series of extravagant scenes in which the IMF team (including Jeremy Renner and Brandt, an analyst with a past), thwart the bad guys. Like a combination of the well-made Jason Bourne movies and the best of the James Bond series, the action seems to be fast, exciting and highly entertaining. A climactic sequence in which Ethan pursues the villain, with the detonation codes in a brief case, through a multi-leveled auto shop/garage in Mumbai is ingenious fun. Even if there’s a slight let-down at the end, it doesn’t dampen the overall effect of the movie.
The majority of current Hollywood action movies are hugely expensive, with a lot of noise, car chases, comic book heroes and computer-generated special effects. They try to impress on their big screens, but after a few minutes they are mostly boring, and not any fun. They could learn a lesson from director Brad Bird and the makers of “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol.” It’s true to the original, yet endlessly inventive, with an attractive cast. Bird and Cruise have taken an old franchise and made it fun and exciting again. As Dean Martin would say: “Ain’t that a kick in the head!”
Tom Condon, OP