I am fascinated by enduring film franchises led by aging stars that somehow get better with more sequels (see Fast Five). A nearly 50-year-old Tom Cruise proves once again what he's been doing for over thirty years, he's a bonafide movie star. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is a nice addition and first true sequel in the M:I franchise.
Produced by M:I-3 director J.J. Abrams and directed by animator Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille), making his live action debut, Ghost Protocol features thirty minutes of glorious IMAX footage. The action is sublimely choreographed and directed with a fiery pace. Despite some awe-inspiring action sequences, most notably in Dubai with Cruise hanging off the Burj Khalifa tower (the tallest building in the world), I couldn't help but feel a slight lack of insane production value compared to the excess of previous films.
The film is noticeably stripped down in plot elements, troupes, and elaborate set pieces (mostly for the better) compared to the previous entries. I kept waiting for the franchise's two trademarks: the face mask making technology and wire hanging scene (there are clever nods to them). Everything about the script seemed to feel like a biproduct of relatively economical blockbuster filmmaking. Bird definitely saved all the money for lengthy and key international action sequences even setting a car chase in a dust storm to make for easier mise-en-scène.
There are basically only a few characters outside of the four-man team (above) that makes of the disavowed IMF (Impossible Mission Forces). Everything minimal is a part of the story. Simon Pegg adds a ton of humour and character, reprising his small role from M:I-3, being promoted to a field agent in over his head. Jeremy Renner's Brandt sidekick character is far too much of a coincidence in the story to exist and lacks the same fun energy of the other characters..
The weakest part of the film is the villain, a Swedish radical and nuclear terrorist played by Michael Nyqvist, whose entire existence is essentially a MacGuffin. He serves only to propel forward the terrorist plot line. The IMF agents seem to run into disaster at every turn instead find a new solution to a different problem.
I know I live in Vancouver and was aware they filmed here, but it was hard not to notice the similar backdrops throughout the international thriller. If you are at all familiar with Downtown Vancouver, you will recognize how parts of Dubai and Mumbai resemble the plazas, towers, hotels, and convention centres of the Waterfront area. The film's end coda takes place inexplicably in a "Seattle" marketplace filmed on Granville Island.
Ghost Protocol is a very entertaining, tightly paced thrill ride and simply beautiful in IMAX. However, I felt a noticeable letdown from the top notch Mission: Impossibe III, where story, action, and character were better balanced with popcorn fare. Ghost Protocol is still a nice, more stripped down effort by Bird with Cruise re-establishing his action credentials.
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