Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is the most impossible of all the Mission Impossibles.  With a Ziplock bag of loose-leaf Twizzlers and other sundry Christmas stocking candies in pocket, I attended the screening of the 4th installment in the Mission Impossible series with a fair amount of anticipation due in large part to J.J. Abrams’ previous addition to the series.  Ghost Protocol is as humorous and light-hearted as its predecessor is dark and serious, though certainly to the benefit of both films.  There’s an element of comedy thrown into the mix along with the action; a combination one might find in Pixar’s The Incredibles, which was also directed by Brad Bird.  Bird’s resume’ up until now has gained its notoriety from Pixar films as he’s also directed Ratatouille and the highly reviewed, The Iron Giant.  The comedy style that I speak of is one of a cartoon nature where a character disguised as a shrub freezes when his counterpart is looking in his direction.  As soon as the counterpart looks away, the shrub creeps ever closer.   Simon Pegg and Tom Cruise break into the Kremlin and sneak down a guarded hallway using an iPad-powered projection screen that reflects exactly what’s behind it, basically making everything behind the screen invisible and greatly resembling, logistically at the very least, the shrubbery scene described above.  As the guard looks away the 2 spies creep forward.  When he looks down the hall, they stop.  There is both suspense and humor in this scene and the effect not only works well here, but all throughout the film.
Speaking of the iPad, the Apple product placement in Ghost Protocol is relentless.  But then again, what other product could they possibly use?  A Blackberry?  Now THAT would be a mission impossible.  Imagine if they showed some hi-tech piece of spy equipment doing something you’ve never even dreamed of and at the core of its power source is a Blackberry.  It would be too unbelievable and the audience would never buy it.  However, if you put an iPhone in the shot, then the audience would be more than ready to accept the idea of it powering almost any computer nick-knack or hi-tech device.
The opening prison break scene is a great way to setup the tone of the film.  Ethan Hunt is in a Russian prison where we see him bouncing a rock off the cell walls as the other prisoners’ doors open and, skeptical; they escape and begin to fight each other.  The light-hearted tone of the film is established as we see Ethan look into the security cameras at the tech-savvy, Dunn (Simon Pegg) and mimes for him to open other doors.  As Hawk exits his cell he puts his rock, which has fulfilled its purpose of killing time, back into the hole in the wall where it belongs.
Easily the most nausea-inducing and suspenseful scene in the film is when Ethan scales 11 stories of the Khalifa Tower.  Already 100 stories up, Hunt makes the audiences suffer just so that his now disavowed IMF team can break the hotel’s firewall undetected. The feeling is not lost on those who watch this scene through the cracks of their fingers.  I don’t normally make noise other than laughing while watching films, but when Hunt fell several stories I uttered an audible gasp somewhat resembling a 3-year-old getting her ears pierced.  This was shot so well that, for a split second, I thought I was falling with him. 
I’ll close my review with what I think are some really good decisions made by the filmmakers.
Good Call
Good call not using the masks.  In the first 2 films, it seems that the filmmakers couldn’t wait to start the pomp and circumstance of ushering in the masks.  In true tongue-in-cheek fashion, the mask making machine breaks down so the team has no choice but to NOT use them.
Good call not having Jeremy Renner’s character be a mole or traitor, though the character is a rather effective red herring.
Good call taking what would have been a normal, mundane foot/car chase scene and adding a vicious sand storm to up the intensity.
Good call dressing Tom Cruise up in a BEAUTIFUL blue suit (costumes designed by Michael Kaplan) just to destroy with sand and car wrecks.  Great costume design all around.
2011 in film has been a year of nostalgia sentimentality and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol contributes its fair share with an emotional, yet fitting ending that addresses the fate of his wife from the 3rd film and neatly ties it into the underlying sub-plot of this film.  James Bond take note.  The last two Mission Impossible films have greatly increased the legitimacy of the franchise.  J.J. Abrams rightfully went dark.  Brad Bird, with a steady hand, brings some humor into the mix and it’s a brilliant follow-up.  It always helps when the underlying story is interesting, yet not overly complicated.  There’s nothing fancy about the plot of Ghost Protocol.  There is simply a nuclear scare involving the Russians and that’s all that I need.
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