Review of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

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The fourth film in the Mission: Impossible film series, "Ghost Protocol" stars Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner & Simon Pegg. When a terrorist bombing destroys the Kremlin, the U.S. government initiates a black ops "ghost protocol" and disavows the entire Impossible Mission Force. Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his team are to be blamed for the attack, but are allowed to escape as part of a plan to enable them to operate in the dark, outside of their agency. However, Hunt is warned that if any member of his team is captured during their mission, they will be charged as terrorists planning to incite global nuclear war. Ethan is then forced to work with ex-IMF agent Brandt (Renner), who knows more about Hunt and his past than even Hunt himself.
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"Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol"

-- Rating: PG-13 (sequences of intense action and violence)
Length: 133 minutes
Release Date: December 21, 2011
Directed by: Brad Bird
Genre: Action/Adventure/Thriller

Ethan Hunt is back in action in a big way-a really big way-in "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol," the fourth in the series of hugely successful films based on the 1960s television series. The latest edition of Hunt's super-spy adventures brings in a largely new cast of teammates (with only Simon Pegg returning in a principal role), but it delivers all the intrigue, dynamic action and globe-trotting excitement that characterized the first three films.

As for the really big part, the film also features a scene of Hunt (Tom Cruise) scaling one of the world's tallest buildings, a heart-pounding sequence made all the more impressive by the fact Cruise did not actually use a stuntman. That's him on the building.

That's just one of the thrilling parts of "Ghost Protocol," which moves at a fast pace, alternating big action scenes with colorful and often amusing character work showing the team forming and executing a mission that-in keeping with the series-seems impossible from the outset.

While "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" is very much its own story, it finds ways to tie into the past films, especially events that occurred in its predecessor, "Mission: Impossible III." It kicks off with Hunt stuck in a Russian prison filled with scary characters. Hunt doesn't seem too concerned, of course, because he's dealt with far more dangerous situations. Indeed, he's sprung from the prison in short order, bringing another inmate along for the ride in a dazzling opening sequence.

Bird and his screenwriters waste no time ramping up the stakes as Hunt finds himself at the center of a conspiracy that not only results in the termination of his agency, the Impossible Missions Force, but the complete obliteration of the Kremlin in Moscow. Yes, the Kremlin goes boom, with Hunt and his cohorts barely escaping in time, and that's barely one-third of the way into the film.

Hunt and his new team finds themselves working to defeat a plot involving the theft of Russian nuclear launch codes, a mission that takes Hunt's new team on an around-the-world chase to exotic locales such as Dubai, where Hunt scales the Burj Khalifa skyscraper, and Mumbai.

This time, Hunt is working with a very skilled set of stragglers left over from the IMF dissolution. Pegg returns from "Mission: Impossible III" as the crafty Benji Dunn, with the "Shaun of the Dead" star delivering all the comic relief and tension-cutting humor you'd expect. New additions are Jane Carter (Paula Patton, "Déjà Vu"), whose incredible sex appeal is just as potent as her fighting skills, and William Brandt, a gritty spy who has a mysterious connection to Hunt's recent past.

Brandt is played by Jeremy Renner, who has quickly become Hollywood's go-to action star following his Oscar-nominated role in "The Hurt Locker." He's been rumored to be a possible replacement for Cruise in the series, though Cruise shows no signs of slowing down in any of the action scenes that run through "Ghost Protocol." If anything, the interplay between the two characters is one of the film's many strengths, and another film featuring the two would be welcomed.

The "Mission: Impossible" movies are known for changing their tone and approach with every new film while retaining the general themes, and "Ghost Protocol" fits the bill. The first film was big on suspense and intrigue, as would be expected from director Brian De Palma ("The Untouchables"). The second had highly stylized action and artistic visuals, trademarks of its director, John Woo ("The Killer"). For the third film, director J.J. Abrams (2009's "Star Trek" reboot) delivered the kind of fast-moving action, humor and intricate plotting his films and television shows are known for.

Abrams stayed on as a producer for the latest film, but "Ghost Protocol" recruited Pixar director Brad Bird ("Toy Story 3") for the director's chair. Bird delivers the sensibilities of big adventure mixed with humor and thoughtful storytelling that Pixar films are known for. Even when the stakes are high and the suspense builds to the boiling point, it's always mixed with a sense of humor and bright, charismatic performances.

While "Ghost Protocol" focuses on a specific mission throughout its running time, it also makes sure to touch upon important events from the preceding film, particularly in a closing scene after all the action has wrapped up. It makes for a satisfying experience that ensure the fourth "Mission: Impossible" film is in a league with its predecessors.

Rating 4 out of 5