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Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Through sheer force of will, Tom Cruise has made the Mission Impossible franchise a series worth following.  Starting off well, if not superlatively, with the first Brian De Palma helmed film, the series took a huge nosedive with John Woo’s woefully overcooked, convoluted follow up.  However, it wasn’t until J.J. Abrams took the reins of the franchise with the third installment that the series really felt vital and exciting.  I was a great fan of the third film because it took its cues from the first film in not devoting so much time to the “MacGuffin” providing a fleet footed, excitingly paced action film.  The latest in the series, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, continues along that thread showcasing amazing thrills and visuals without trying to outthink the audience.

The film leaves any opportunities to be clever to its action sequences and leaves the story to be as simple as it can be.  If anything, the story feels a bit too simple at times leaving the villain of the story, played by Michael Nyqvist, with little to do.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman was given ample time to chew the scenery and let himself go, giving an entertainingly villainous performance.  Here, Nyqvist is merely a prop for our hero to beat on as we come to the exciting conclusion.  The fact that I can barely recall if he was given a name in the movie shows how little the film actually cared about what he was doing with nuclear arms codes.

It’s the action sequences and exciting capers that entertain and thrill here.  Brad Bird, making his live action feature debut here, makes an effortless transition from the world of animation to live action giving the film a lively visual flourish.  The rules of action in animation are as true in live action and Bird takes those to heart.  He keeps the film in constant motion from one exciting set piece to the next.

Much has already been written about the eye popping scene of Cruise scaling the tallest man made structure in the world but the breathtaking scale of it is only enhanced when watched in IMAX.  If given the chance, do not hesitate to see the film in this format.  In a way that 3D just simply cannot live up to, the IMAX format truly enhances the experience, engulfing the viewer in the scale and excitement of the action.  With 3D there is always that barrier where the glasses live but with IMAX, I can imagine some viewers getting a slight case of vertigo as Cruise scales that monolith in Dubai.

Another element that the film delivers on that Abrams started with the previous film but just did not go far enough with, was making the it more of a team picture.  While Cruise is still most definitely the star, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, and Paula Patton are more than capable of holding their end of the movie, giving Cruise ample time to rest up.  Ideally, the Mission Impossible films should act as heist films giving each player their proper due and role in the game and Ghost Protocol comes closest to that mark.

While the characters themselves are slightly undercooked, the performances keep in tone with the film.  Light and fun is the name of the game here and the performances reflect that.  Ably delivered snarky lines save an otherwise clichéd and overwrought script where character back story is concerned.  There is a certain mystery held about the background of Renner’s character and once revealed, it becomes a bit laughable and silly.  Pegg is expert at the off the cuff wit and delivers on that front.  Patton gets to look beautiful and angry at the same time throughout but she’s given a few good scenes to work with but is otherwise a utility player through the entire enterprise.  It’s been rumored that Renner’s casting is meant for him to be groomed to replace Cruise on the franchise, but this installment gives little indication of that since Cruise still gets all the choice action beats.  It may be more of an ensemble picture this time when it comes to the capers but it’s still a Tom Cruise movie.

Brad Bird has made an able transition to the live action realm with this picture.  While absent is the heart and soul of the usual Pixar picture that Bird is accustomed to, Ghost Protocol is a lively and fun picture that begs to be seen in the epic sized scale of IMAX.  The film is more alive and fun than all three Transformers pictures combined.  Bird keeps tongue firmly in cheek and never lets things get too serious and maudlin for their own good.

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