Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol review


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.