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Mission: Impossible 4 – Ghost Protocol Reignites the Tom Cruise Franchise

Posted on the 16 December 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Mission: Impossible 4 – Ghost Protocol reignites the Tom Cruise franchise

Tom Cruise on the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa, at the Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol press conference in Dubai.

The Mission: Impossible franchise has deep roots, all the way back to the 1960s TV show, but recent incarnations have turned on the waning star power of its lead actor, the sometimes weird Tom Cruise. That didn’t necessarily bode well for this latest installment – which is also, incidentally, directed by a man who has never directed a live-action film before.

Fans of the franchise needn’t worry, however: Critics seem to agree that Mission: Impossible 4 – Ghost Protocol stands shoulder to shoulder with the best action movies of the year and, under the deft directorial hand of animation legend Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille).

The plot sees IMF (that’s “Impossible Missions Forces”, not “international Monetary Fund”, sadly) operative Ethan Hunt, played once again by Cruise, on the run after he and the rest of the agency are blamed for the terrorist bombing of the Kremlin and the President initiates the dreadfully ominous-sounding “Ghost Protocol”. Hunt, working with a shady team of fellow IMF fugitives, including Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner, must clear the agency’s name and prevent nothing less than the nuclear destruction of the world – and he’s got to do it by climbing the world’s tallest building, surviving epic car chases and exploding speedboats, and conducting all manner of action movie-ness.

Bird brings it. It was a gamble to put Bird at the helm, but “[t]he bet pays off. And then some,” cheered Keith Phipps at The AV Club. Though the plot is a bit convoluted and Cruise’s Hunt lives solely on the actor’s charisma, it’s Bird’s direction that “puts the film over”. “Bird brings a scary amount of assurance to Ghost Protocol. His action scenes are clean, coherent, thrilling, and visceral, never more than in a mid-film sequence in Dubai that piles setpiece atop setpiece as the action moves in, around, up, and down the Burj Khalifa skyscraper—the tallest building in the world. As Cruise clings to the side of the building using malfunctioning equipment, and a sandstorm looms in the distance, the question shifts from whether Bird can direct an action film to whether there’s anyone out there who can top him.”

Cruise is a bit more vulnerable – and it works. Though Bird brings a much-needed levity to the franchise, M:I4 is mostly about Cruise, 49, an aging and fading action star hurtling his body through a series of every more impossible action movie stunts, wrote Manohla Dargis at The New York Times. “Unexpectedly, though, his age and inescapable gravitas work for ‘Ghost Protocol’, partly because they invest the outrageous stunts with a real sense of risk. Mr. Cruise’s primary job in the ‘Mission’ series is to embody a not-quite-ordinary man whose powers are at once extraordinary and completely believable, a no-sweat feat in the first few films.”

‘Most exciting action flick of the year’. Andrew O’Hehir cheered Cruise’s return to the role and Bird’s directing, noting, “Bird’s direction has such brio, and Cruise’s performance as the unkempt, long-haired version of Ethan is so relaxed and charming, that even when ‘Ghost Protocol’ resorts to empty showmanship it feels like good fun rather than pure pandering.” Ultimately, he wrote, “This is pure escapist cinema at its best, without morality or apology or guilt.”

Good fun, but soulless. Calling the film “immaculately structured”, meticulously crafted from explosions and breath-taking stunts, Elizabeth Weitzman at The New York Daily News nonetheless declared, “The only thing that’s missing, in fact, is a soul.” Still, despite how “stiff and inhuman” the actors appear, how two-dimensional the direction, you probably won’t notice amidst all the satisfying explosions.

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