Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

‘nother new film, ‘nother new review. It’s a slight change from the norm as I went to go and see this at the nearest IMAX cinema. It’s the first proper feature film I’ve seen on one of those honking great screens and I must admit, it was pretty damn impressive. It’s not more “immersive” though in the same way 3D isn’t. I will concede that certain shots do have a considerable wow factor to them though. What I didn’t like was the IMAX adverts beforehand, telling you how fucking special it all is. There’s even some pseudo-scientific “calibration” bit, booming things like “Readying 12,000 watt digital speakers” and “Preparing audience for maximum enjoyment” like it was Space Mountain or something. At that moment, in a cinema in the fucking freezing Cardiff Bay, where a mishandled Coke cup had resulted in a sticky, wet sock-shaped dose of reality, this crap had no place.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
Quick! Name a spy series. If this question was asked in the street and not under a feckin’ poster for the latest Mission: Impossible, you’d probably name the Bond films. After that? Probably Bourne. Chances are the Mission: Impossible franchise would be pretty low down the list, despite having three previous films,  each helmed by prolific directors and all starring perpetual A-lister Tom Cruise. Now, since I can’t be arsed to write full reviews for the previous entries (for now) here’s a quick rundown, so you know what to think when asked about them:

Mission: Impossible (1996)- A bit too convoluted for its own good. Betrayal a major theme. Has that super-famous scene where TC is lowered in like a Thunderbirds puppet with half its strings snagged on a nail. Entertaining enough. Tom Cruise runs away from: water in that bit where he blows up a fish tank

M:I -2 (2002) – Fun, but completely fucking ridiculous. Really decent action beats. Tom Cruise has distractingly long hair. Tom Cruise runs away from: a decent barber and doves in slllooooww moootioon.

Mission: Impossible III (2006) – Same notes as for M: I-2 except slightly less ridiculous, obeys most of the laws of physics this time round and Cruise has had a haircut. Philip Seymour Hoffman steals scenes.Tom Cruise runs away from: a massive bridge explosion, slamming him into a car.

“That’s it. Next time, I get to seduce the rich guy.”

After being framed for a bombing of the Kremlin, IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team of Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and the mysterious Brandt (Jeremy Renner) are disavowed and IMF are shut down. However, the team learn of some stolen nuclear weapons codes by a man named Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) and so have to race to stop him causing nuclear war, all without the safety net of backup. Whilst I liked the fact that the IMF team had to work without creature comforts like the masks etc (although they do still have rather a lot of impossibly cool spy shit) the plot was as hackneyed as they come. Countless films, books and games have covered the Russian nuclear war angle and I wish they’d have had a stronger, more original story to pad out the fun team dynamic and the action set pieces. Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise, Paula Patton was pretty good, Simon Pegg is funny, but nowhere near as funny as the film thinks he is and Jeremy Renner made me glad he’s playing Hawkeye in The Avengers. It was also weird to see Blomkvist from the Millennium trilogy playing a bad guy.

Plot isn’t exactly the M:I series’ strength, but I liked the ambiguity of the Rabbit’s Foot MacGuffin in the third film. This was all too laid out from the beginning, with no real intrigue. Plus, Hendricks’ motivation is fuzzy. There’s a video of him giving a speech explaining that nuclear war would level the playing field for the human race, but it seems a hell of a step to go from pie-in-the-sky, philosophical musing to actually stealing nuclear codes. I found myself only really paying attention when the team travelled to a location I’d seen in the trailers, and therefore knowing some shit was about to go down. The film opens strongly with a prison breakout that manages to kick things off nicely. The Kremlin infiltration scene is very well done and reminded me why I liked this series in the first place. It’s slicker than your average spy fest. There’s a great bit involving Pegg, Cruise, a massive screen, a camera and an iPad to watch out for too.

Of the numerous money scenes, the clear stand out is Ethan’s scaling of the Burj Kalifa tower in Dubai aka the tallest building in the world. This scene in particular is where the IMAX shone, with the bigger screen giving a real sense of scale to the scene and giving me a real sense of vertigo. It’s one of 2011’s best action sequences and amazingly tense. The film also scores some originality points for being the first film (to my knowledge) to have a scrap in one of those futuristic automated car parks.

As for my famous nit-picking, I only have one real complaint. This film might as well have been called iMission: Impossible. I haven’t seen this many Apple logos since last September’s Pretentious Wanker convention. The mucky fingerprints of Apple product placement are all over this one. Almost the full range of Apple products are on display, with the aforementioned iPad, everyone having iPhones (although Ethan can apparently answer a call on one without needing to touch the screen at all), Benji having a Macbook and the film even ending with Ethan plugging in his iPod. This isn’t the worst offender for product placement by a long shot, but as I stared at the illuminated 6 foot logo on the back of Benji’s laptop (massive screen remember), I caught myself wondering exactly how much money changed hands for it to be there, rather than how our loveable team of rogues were going to avert nuclear disaster.

“This message will self-destruct in 5 seconds.”

Anyway, Ghost Protocol is a perfectly fine popcorn flick. It hasn’t got as much heart as the third one, but it’s got a fun team dynamic and some real standout action scenes. It’s reinvigorated the franchise and if rumours are to be believed, Paramount are already fast-tracking a Mission: Impossible V. See it in IMAX if you can too. Oh, and since I’ve now finished this review, let me summarise it like I did the others:

Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol (2011) – Fun, if lacking a decent plot. Dubai sequence truly amazing. Needs funnier Pegg lines. Tom Cruise runs away from: an exploding Kremlin and a sandstorm.

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