Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
“Light the fuse” *cue theme*
Tom Cruise faces the audience when he says this early in the film. It comes off as a statement to the audience. ‘Get ready for the ride’. This film was a long way coming. Three films of questioning identity, wavering quality, comes the first true expression of what this series can be a - Mission: Impossible.
Let’s start with Brad Bird, this film flies off the screen in his live-action debut He retains all his quality from his animated career. His attention to detail is still here in full motion, his animated style emboldens this picture. His framing is wide and confident. His action is edited as smooth as butter, and they are brilliant with visual setups and payoffs. This film has an aura of simplicity to its set pieces. They always seem grand but never confusing. I could talk about them all in detail. The Russian prison escape. The Kremlin heist. The Burj Khalifa climb. The dust storm chase. And even Hunt's IMF team has some fun in India. It all even wraps up in a great parking deck sequence. Each one of these, though they might vary in quality, are all a blast to watch. And going further in detail would just ruin the scenes if you haven’t seen them yet.
I especially enjoyed the fight choreography in this film as it is a league above the rest in speed and impact. The punches and kicks feel believable and precise. Bird and his Cinematographer Robert Elswit clean the image from the last film. They remove the harsh glares and neon blues and oranges. Instead, they employ a more elegant style when it comes to its color pallet, nothing is exaggerated, and everything is refined. The shot design even feels explicitly storyboarded and thought out.
Michael Giacchino is back again, and he is simply stunning this time around. The score gorgeously adds depth, tension, and drama to the film. It is pound for pound at the level of ‘The Incredibles’ or ‘Ratatouille’ Which is a huge compliment.
Another big thing I noticed and loved was the sound design and editing, there is a nice zing to all the sound effects. Every punch, crack, snap, and pop echo with a hint of surrealism, seemingly a touch from birds animated work.
And let’s not forget about the action star Tom Cruise. He finally, FINALLY! nails the spy. His performance is pitch perfect this round. He’s subtle and lowkey, he shows emotion but there's a nice muteness to it. Which really sells his veteran skills in this universe. His turned down performance makes him likable. It even cements his emotional range, so later in the film when he is panting and panicked, it has an impact. Plus, the fact that cruise does nearly all his stunts is truly legendary. It lets Bird get dangerously close to the subject and it projects a realism that you cannot fake. No other action star since Jackie Chan (that I know of) compares to Cruise, he truly defines an Action Hero.
Another wonderful thing is that his crew is finally used in a thorough capacity. Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, and Paula Patton are his main IMF team and they are easily the best team so far in the series. Each of them performs fantastically opposite each other and off Cruise. It's also refreshing having scenes and segments not with Cruise. It gives the audience a nice bit of time to breathe and refresh before getting too much of him.
And the last thing I want to talk about is the screenplay. The story this time adds a great deal of depth and world building to the franchise. The script also truly understands what the film is wanting to be. A fun action-packed ride and it smartly gets out of the way from clogging that journey with too much plot. It gives Hunt a nice emotional arc gently tucked in the background. They even tie Renner's character with it which is a nice touch to bridge them together. Pegg’s character is even moved forward in the series. His comedic relief is great without being dumb or cheesy. The female agent is written smartly as well. This series has down pretty well with woman spies. Rarely do they ever look down upon them and they never need saving from men. Plus, she kicks serious ass, and her emotional arc is nicely implanted and capped off. All in all, the screenplay like most everything else is a new high mark for this series. The only major complaint of the entire film is the villain being weak and barebones. We never learn much about him, he doesn’t have an arc of any sorts and there’s no real reason to understand or to fear him. If they could’ve nailed the villain like they ‘almost’ did in MI:3. Then this film could’ve seriously reached new heights. They at least handle the final fight scene with an intriguing and satisfying set piece.
So In ending,
This is the ‘first’ Mission: impossible to satisfy the promise of impossibility. The stunts are stunning, the action is riveting, Tom Cruise finally becomes Ethan Hunt, his team is utilized, the tech, the story, the comedy, the music. This film is phenomenal and thoroughly enjoyable. Every set piece and action scene are infused with Brad birds seemingly animated style. Truly the beginning of what will become a legendary series.