Keep your Bonds and Bournes, Ethan Hunt is my action manor choice. Fifteen years after Brian de Palma’s curveball hit Mission:Impossible, and some 45 since the original, lacklustre TV series, Tom Cruise has kept busy playing the taciturn character. Highly intelligent, crime fighting, yet in many ways a real jobs-worth; doing the insane jobs that no one else is willing to touch, and all for our amusement. The this time last year, MI4 blasted on to our screens, becoming both the most highly praised and most lucrative flm of the series. Everyone saw it, except for old muggins here! That is until now
Unlike J.J. Abrams MI3, Ghost Protocol doesn’t pussyfoot around a with a baggy romance subplot, there’s barely even a thread of substantial story. After breaking out of a Russian prison, Impossible Missions Force agent Ethan Hunt is sent the details of his next death-defying mission. With back up from the sassy spy Carter (Paula Patton) a cautious CIA analyst Brandt (The Avenger‘s Jeremy Renner) and expert hacker Benji (Simon Pegg), Hunt leads the Fantastic Four on a hunt to find a sociopathic terrorist called Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) intending to save humanity by destroying it with the threat of nuclear war.
The first live-action feature from the Pixar luminary behind Ratatouille and The Incredibles Brad Bird balances visceral action conventions with cerebral espionage, proving that he is not just a serviceable director, but an enthusiastic hopeful out to prove everything with his first “real” picture. Whilst exposition isn’t on the top of the priorities list, there’s enough meat on the bone, dazzling stunts and comic relief for it to sustain our enthusiasm over the 135 minutes.
The ensemble make for IMF sidekick performances are impressive – particularly Pegg as the bumbling English nerd Benji. If the film does have a problem, it’s that it doesn’t have a genuinely menacing or even memorable villain, with The otherwise brilliant Nyqvist given nothing to do in Lah’s script, apart from stand in background grimacing. Furthermore, the final ten minutes of the film is tawdry to say the least, a flat episodical ending where I was almost expecting the South Park boys to bounce into shot and for Stan to claim ‘Well, I learned something today…’. (Fortunately, that doesn’t happen.)
The biggest reason for the success of this box-office breaking franchise is Tom Cruise’s tenacious attitude when it comes to stunts. He treats them all like missions, turning any slacker criticism that these films are Cruise-by-numbers and shaking them into submission. Everything we see Ethan Hunt do, Cruise is right there in his shoes; from freeclimbing over the world’s biggest building in Dubai, to the gritty Russian prison brawl of the prologue. It’s quite easy to forget how Tom Cruise has become the world’s most bankable movie star, until you see him back on the big screen and quite literally throwing himself around in the role. At 52-years-old Ghost Protocol (and, to a lesser extent, Jack Reacher) prove that the buff patron saint of scientology has still got a few more missions left up his sleeve. With Ghost Protocol being the best in the series so far, let’s hope we get more of Cruise’s brilliant mindless popcorn entertainment.