The Mission: Impossible series is now something akin to a comfy pair of slippers for Tom Cruise. In between more serious movies, the ones where he plays Tom Cruise more seriously, he slips into the role of Ethan Hunt, who is a less serious version of Tom Cruise. Around him he gathers a team: a hot chick, some other dude, and Simon Pegg, with Ving Rhames relegated to pint sharing duties.
However, before Ghost Protocol, there was Knight and Day, another movie in which Cruise plays some sort of secret agent, not exactly a “serious” role. So it seems he's not even stretching himself on his inbetween movies any more. He probably stretches more to get a box of cereal off the top shelf in the supermarket.
Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, the fourth in the series seems to fit a pattern. That pattern is that the installments where Cruise sports long hair, are the weakest. See Mission: Impossible 2 for further evidence of this.
It’s surprising really, as I was expecting a lot from Ghost Protocol. It arrives on Blu-ray, riding a wave of critical acclaim, the highest of the series. It has Brad Bird, of The Incredibles fame, behind it as director, and even though it’s his first live action movie, it’s hard to imagine a more capable pair of hands for a spy action thriller.
But curiously, it all feels a bit empty. A lighter tone — helped by an expanded role for Simon Pegg, and hardly anything for series stalwart Ving Rhames — kind of neuters the threat posed by the bad guy. I never thought I’d welcome a film with less Simon Pegg in it, but that’s true in this case.
The action, on the whole, is fine — Cruise scaling a building, Cruise chasing a bad guy through a sandstorm, and a fight in a car park. Wait? What? A fight in a car park? Don’t worry, it’s better than it sounds. Although, not much better. Mainly because the film lacks the emotional heft of Mission: Impossible 3, and most damningly, a credible antagonist.
M:I3 was gifted a truly great baddy in the shape of Philip Seymour Hoffman. He wasn’t as physically capable as Cruise, but he was a sly, surly, intelligent bastard, and impossibly malevolent without ever tipping it too far towards caricature. When he made a threat, I felt as though he meant it.
Ghost Protocol’s main bad guy? He’s played by Michael Nyqvist, the journalist from the original version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. He barely registers. It’s probably not Nyqvist’s fault. He doesn’t get enough screen time to make an impact, and has to make do with a woefully underwritten character, who has maybe about 4 or 5 lines of dialogue for the entire movie. And when he does speak, it’s usually something perfunctory like checking with his henchman that he’s armed the nukes. It’s the villain as MacGuffin, something to hang the action scenes on, and the film suffers for it.
A disappointing fourth outing then. Not the worst in the series, but certainly not the best. Maybe I expected more with Brad Bird at the helm. But there’s a feeling that despite it’s slickness, Ghost Protocol is directed by Brad Bird operating on, no pun intended, cruise control.