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Zach Manges
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Plot is uninspired, but action is state of the art
Ethan Hunt and his agents are on the run.
Ethan Hunt and his agents are on the run.
January 14, 2012

Directed by: Brad Bird

Release date: 2011

Length: 133 minutes

Rated: PG-13

The Mission Impossible series has returned for a fourth outing of slick action and over-the-top  escapades. While sporting a few irritating flaws, Ghost Protocol delivers everything a viewer could want in the genre and is my favorite action movie of 2011.

The adventure follows Ethan Hunt and his team of agents, who are on the run after they are framed for an act of war against Russia.  Working quickly to clear their names, the team discovers the danger is much greater than they could have imagined, as a brilliant nuclear strategist has plans to blow up the civilized world and start again from the rubble.

The plot itself is one of the movie’s few disappointing elements.  It’s solidly paced and never confusing or overly convoluted; the problem is that it’s simply far too familiar. The last decade or so has seen a plethora of action flicks toying with the idea of re-emerged Cold War issues leading to a nuclear holocaust, and at this point, it feels like the “safe” plot device to generate tension in the movie.  Ghost Protocol carries it off without a real hitch, but again, it’s getting just a tad predictable.

The acting isn’t stellar but gets the job done.  Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt, and he’s just as dark, serious and brooding as ever.  There’s not a whole lot of depth to the character, but there doesn’t really need to be, and Cruise’s fearless protagonist is an easy one to root for. Simon Pegg as tech expert Benji Dunn, star of the comedy-horror flick Shaun of the Dead, is entertaining and provides a comedic counterbalance to the stone-faced Ethan.  His joking can feel a little out of place in some of the movie’s tauter scenes, but it’s still appreciated. Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton fill out the ranks of the team nicely.  Michael Nyqvist as the dastardly Kurt Hendricks is criminally underutilized in the plot; he’s given so little screen time or background information, he aesthetically becomes a robot, particularly during the fizzling climactic battle.

Despite these niggling issues, the film’s action almost single-handedly saves it from being simply average.  High-octane car chases, escape sequences, and stomach-flipping acrobatics are present in massive volume, and all are polished to a beautiful sheen.  In particular, the mid-movie set piece where Ethan scales the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, is thrilling and liable to make some viewers nauseated.  The film’s climax is the only weak spot. Ethan has a final face-off with his nemesis, but it devolves quickly into a comical game of hot potato with a nuclear launch device, which will no doubt cause some realism fans to roll their eyes.  Still, for action lovers, the rest of the movie’s explosive goodies should make this one nitpick easy to overlook.

The look of the film deserves brief mention.  About half an hour of the movie’s key sequences were filmed using an IMAX camera, which allows for a brighter, crisper image, and it absolutely pays off in terms of eye candy.  The variety of locations, from a sun-baked desert to an exotic Indian palace, offer excellent backgrounds for the secret agent goings-on.

From top to bottom, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is a fantastically fun action/adventure romp that pulls out all the stops to make your eyes bug out and your hair stand on end.  Small issues of a clichéd plot and cardboard villain hold it back from achieving true action-movie nirvana, but this isn’t even so bad, because what’s presented is of undeniable quality.  Newcomers can easily grasp the drill, and if you’re a fan already, this will be a mission you should choose to accept.  I’d give it an 8 out of 10.

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