Director: Brad Bird
Cast: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, Michael Nyqvist
Watch Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol online in the UK: Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / iTunes / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
With Mission: Impossible – Fallout in cinemas this week, your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to revisit each of the Mission: Impossible films. Click here to see our mission progress.
“Light the fuse,” says Ethan Hunt (Cruise) at the start of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, cueing that iconic Lalo Schifrin theme tune. Then he starts running. It immediately sets the tone for Brad Bird’s entry in the franchise: action-packed, over-the-top, and it absolutely knows it.
In any other film, opening with a riotous prison escape to the tune of Ain’t That A Kick In The Head might seem ridiculous, but Ghost Protocol’s only just getting started. Within a matter of minutes, Tom Wilkinson has turned up, all government suit and world-weary accent, and someone has said those immortal words: “We’re going to break into the Kremlin.”
Some entertaining Russian accents later, and a bomb’s destroyed half of Moscow, the IMF has been disbanded and Ethan Hunt and his team are branded terrorists. Of course, it’s all the work of Michael Nyqvist’s evil nuclear arms nut, so Chief Analyst Brandt (Renner), Agent Carter (Patton) and techno-whizz Benji (Pegg) head to Dubai for a heist within the world’s tallest skyscraper. While Tom Cruise climbs up the outside.
That single idea on its own results in an inspired set piece that justifies the price of admission. The scale of the building, Michael Giacchino’s playful riffs on Schifrin, the superb camerawork – it all combines with Cruise’s charismatic presence to make what is arguably the best action sequence of 2012, and, even on the small screen, still gives you vertigo.
Bringing his knack for visual composition to the fray, The Incredibles director helms the live-action, cartoonish blockbuster like a seasoned pro. But what he and writers André Nemec and Josh Appelbaum achieve on top of the thrills is a sense of humour that has been missing from some of the previous outings: every step of the mission, Hunt just falls short, something that’s played for laughs as well as suspense. A lot of the other giggles are thanks to Simon Pegg, who’s clearly having a ball. “Do we get to wear the masks?” he keeps asking eagerly, pleased to be a part of the series’ most audacious set-ups yet.
Of course, that’s part of the problem. Once you’ve seen Spider-Cruise jump out of a window 103 storeys above ground, nothing else seems impressive. And that includes the final showdown. Even the psychotic Swede Nyqvist fails to make an impression – Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s M:I:III baddy left a big hole to fill. Only a brutal girl-on-girl punch-up really hits home.
But Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol just keeps on trying. It tries so hard it goes on for an extra 30 minutes, chucking in a couple of cameos to help. One of them works surprisingly well, developing Cruise’s character in a matter of seconds, while crucially allowing Jeremy Renner’s foil room to grow from a potential Cruise replacement to a valuable sidekick. The relentless blockbusting may get a bit much – but even after four films, Cruise can still run like no other star, and as long as inventive directors can keep bringing new energy to the track, he’s got no reason to stop anytime soon.