Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

The line “Blue is glue, red is dead” will forever stick to your ribs when it comes to the Mission: Impossible franchise, especially the 4th installment Ghost Protocol. Solely because of the implications behind the line and the sequence that follows.

To set the scene, returning IMF agent and lead character Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team including William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Jane Carter (Paula Patton), and Benji Parker (Simon Pegg), the latter becoming a reoccurring role and given an expanded responsibility to the series are in Dubai for a handoff of nuclear codes and diamonds. But that’s not the thrilling part. The handoff is set to happen at the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in which the IMF team is planning to intercept said codes.

For Benji to access the serves of the building and hack effectively, the server room can only be accessed from the outside forcing Ethan to scale the side of the Burj Khalifa using these gloves when lit blue, he’s safe and will be stuck to the building like glue, but when lit red, the power is lost, and Ethan could plunge to his death from 130 stories up. Being that Ethan is beating all the odds since M:I, there’s a good chance he survives the ordeal to continue the fight against the man known codenamed as Cobalt or Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist).

Hendricks as the villain is just another megalomanic in line to cause the destruction of the world via nuclear means. His background and motivations never matter as the film starts fast and only speeds up from there.

What makes the Burj Khalifa scene in particular stand out is credited to Tom Cruise. For one, It’s Tom, risking his life, performing his own stunt in scaling the building, finding the server room and catapulting himself back into the room after running vertically down. Of course there are a couple of hiccups along the way, Ethan loses a glove and upon propelling himself off of one end of the building to get back into the suite the rest of the IMF team is working out of, Ethan nearly plunges to his death only to be saved by a combined effort from Jane and William.

It’s a sequence that accomplishes 1 key thing for the M:I franchise as a whole. It’s a sequence that separates Ethan Hunt from his spy counterparts James Bond and Jason Bourse. Of course, both respective franchises have outstanding action sequences and stunt work, but nothing compares to climbing and descending the Burj Khalifa. The sequence also is pure adrenaline wrapped around a high anxiety / tension fueled roller coaster ride. During which you have to remind yourself to breath, over and over again and be happy that gravity exists, and we live so close to the ground.

And how does Ghost Protocol follow that? By creating a highly tense atmosphere in a completely different way. What follows this breathtaking scene is the handoff and a chase sequence through a blinding sandstorm that showcases the films commitment to being bold and taking risks in the spy thriller genre. At any point during these outstanding sequences, any character could perish – there is no guarantee of safety – even Ethan.

Written by Josh Applebaum and André Nemec and directed by Brad Bird in his live action directorial debut, Ghost Protocol in all aspects is a revitalization of the franchise. I would argue M:I:III is the turning point from being mediocre to serious contender in the conversation for best spy thriller franchise going. Even Bond has more valleys than peaks in its decades spanning run. Ghost Protocol is given a facelift. Yes, a mask is used and joked about several times but as a martini, shaken not stirred is to Bond a facemask is to Hunt. There are several moments the gimmick of a facemask is mentioned to appear and smartly, Ghost Protocol doesn’t fall victim to its overreliance.

Also given a much-needed facelift is the mission itself. This time there’s no mysterious alluded to macguffin to chase down leading to false stakes. The threat in Ghost Protocol is real and time is running out fast for Ethan and his disavowed team. The world is on the brink of nuclear war after a bombing at the Kremlin and it’s the United States that Russia blames. Besides the gloves, any back up support or beyond our means tech for this impossible mission is M.I.A. Also M.I.A. is Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), only appearing in an uncredited cameo. Aside from Tom, Ving has made a consistent appearance in all for installments but Luther’s absence during the mission is sorely missed and noticeable.  

Usually with these spy thrillers, consistency is key, previous films director J. J. Abrams is still attached as producer however returning to score this film is Michael Giacchino, who also scored the Brad Bird animated features The Incredibles and Ratatouille. Giacchino once again elevates a M:I film with high energy weaved into his music. The theme’s from the Mission: Impossible series by Lalo Schifrin pops and the pulse of the film is quickened 10-fold.

Ghost Protocol has everything an action junkie could hope for in a film. The action sequences are unmatched, featuring the scale of a globetrotting adventure but still boasts an intimacy between the ensemble cast of characters. Bird’s ability to not compromise one aspect for the other showcases his talent outside of animation especially when it comes to the climatic moments of the sandstorm chase and Burj Khalifa scaling. But for all the action, violence and rapid-fire dialogue, there is genuine humor to cut the tension at the right moment, never overstaying its welcome.

At the center of the humorous moments is Simon Pegg who hits the comedic timing when called upon. And he’s not too far behind as far as the action is concerned. All involved have great chemistry but it’s the lived in performances by now vet Simon Pegg and Tom that standout. Don’t count out Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton, both are welcomed additions and successors to Maggie Q and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

For its impressive aspects all around, Ghost Protocol hits the mark – stylish, ferocious, sexy and full of substance that will fill the adrenaline meter, the franchise hasn’t begun to scratch the surface with where it can go. Tom Cruise has no fear, giving the fans an authentic one-of-a-kind experience when it comes to IMF agent Ethan Hunt.  Judging by the progression of the franchise, the next big stunt will only dwarf what he does in Dubai.

Screenplay By: Josh Applebaum & André Nemec

Directed By: Brad Bird

Music By: Michael Giacchino

Cinematography: Robert Elswit

Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist, Vladimir Mashkov, Léa Seydoux

Where to Watch: Paramount Plus

Edited By: Paul Hirsh

Release Date: December 16, 2011

Running Time: 2 Hours 13 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

Based On: Mission: Impossible by Bruce Geller

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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