I went to see Mission:Impossible: Ghost Protocol with some reservations regarding the film. The Mission: Impossible movie franchise has been one of Tom Cruises’ most successful projects, but I didn’t think the series truly earned its stripes until Mission: Impossible III. The first film in the series, 1996’s Mission Impossible was a decent action movie, but suffered from a third act twist that did a major disservice to one of the TV series’ most popular characters. Mission: Impossible II (2000), directed by John Woo, seemed more like one of his ultra-stylized Hong Kong thrillers, such as The Killer, than a Mission: Impossible movie. Once again, there were great stunts & action sequences, but both films seemed to have little in common with the original series.
When J.J. Abrams (Lost, Alias) directed Mission: Impossible III (2006), he delivered the goods with a solid spy thriller that took its inspiration from the TV series, and featured more of a team-based adventure, with Cruise’s Ethan Hunt & his IMF crew facing off against a villain played by Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman. Fast forward to 2011; Abrams takes the producers’ chair and turns the directing reins over to Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles). No more reservations here: Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol is a thrilling, well-produced action movie, one of the best of the series.
This time around, Ethan’s in a Moscow prison and is broken out by the IMF (why he was there is explained as the story unfolds). He’s recruited to help identify a nuclear terrorist code-named Cobalt. But an operation to infiltrate the Kremlin’s archives goes wrong, and a terrible explosion is blamed on the team. The President disavows the entire IMF; Ethan & the crew must stop Cobalt, and clear their names. As rogue agents, they’re operating outside normal channels, and will have no help accomplishing their mission.
The film jumps from one thrilling action set piece & location to another, as the crew tries to stay one step ahead of Cobalt and stop his plan to initiate a nuclear war. There are some amazing stunts, including Cruise's climb on Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, widely seen in the film's trailer & advertising. Bird, directing his first live-action film, successfully applies the hyperkinetic energy of his animated movies to the M:I franchise. The plot has some good twists and turns, and some members of the team seem to have a hidden agenda as the adventure unfolds.
The cast features Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg (returning from the third film as tech expert Benji Dunn) as Hunt’s crew, and Michael Nyqvist (well known from the Swedish film adaptations of the "Dragon Tattoo" novels) as Cobalt. There are also a couple of neat cameos toward the film’s conclusion. Most film series are slowing down by their fourth entry, but this one seems to be revving up. The film is currently in theaters, and a fifth film is reportedly in the planning stages. Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol is one of the best action films of 2011.