As a rule of thumb I try to avoid films that have a colon and a dash in the title. Fortunately this, the latest outing for secret agent, Ethan Hunt, is a film directed by none other than animation impresario, Brad Bird (of Pixar fame). This is Bird’s first live action film and his flair for storytelling elevates Ghost Protocol to new levels of action and excitement.
For this particular impossible mission-which Hunt inevitably decides to accept-a rogue Russian nuclear strategist must be stopped before he detonates a nuclear warhead designed to ignite global conflict. The hokey spy film premise is merely an excuse to string a series of increasingly outrageous and thrilling action set pieces together.
Some of the sequences are genuinely exciting and Bird takes special care to distil a distinct sense of peril and suspense. In one scene the audience is subjected to the dizzying heights of the Burj Dubai with Tom Cruise dangling precariously from a sheer window pane. In the next Hunt’s team is engaged in a daring double impersonation in an attempt to con the bad guys. The fact that the execution of these crazy stunts is entertaining is a credit to the editing and production design.
No secret agent would go to war without a horde of whiz-bang gadgetry to aide him in his work. The ‘Mission: Impossible’ series is notorious for it’s outlandish devices. Thankfully the confusing face-mask disguises of previous entries have been largely abandoned here. Bird evens winks at the audience when the mask-making-machine malfunctions. The film is much better for it. Still, at times the technology takes giant leaps toward science-fiction territory and it can be distracting although this is tempered, somewhat, with some playful sight gags. (Hunt’s rogue sticky glove comes to mind)
I enjoyed the characters. Simon Pegg appears to have typecast himself as ‘Scotty’ in two major franchises now. Paula Patton smouldered on cue. Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise. Jeremy Renner, on the other hand, continues to impress me. He possesses a raw intensity and assured confidence that makes for compelling viewing. His role seemed a touch superfluous but his presence is undoubtedly an asset.
This is ultimately an unashamed action flick and the action works because the villains as well as the heroes are smart and capable. All the exhilarating special effects and hair-rising stunts are merely tools in service to an intelligent and thoughtful film-maker.