Mission Impossible — Ghost Protocol
Directed by Brad Bird
Starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton
133 minutes

As the newest instalment of the Mission Impossible series, Ghost Protocol leaves little to be desired. When renegade agent Ethan Hunt and his team of specially trained IMF operatives are disavowed after an operation at the Kremlin goes disastrously wrong, they are forced to act alone. The threat this time is a nuclear scientist with access to launch codes that could trigger the start of world war three. In a global game of cat and mouse which takes us from Dubai to Mumbai in a thrilling race against time, it is up to Hunt and his team to, well, save the world. Sound impossible? Not exactly. Throw in a few beguiling turns from a talented young cast and you have a very entertaining movie which doesn’t take itself too seriously.

When you consider the combined critical and commercial success of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol since its release in Dubai on December 7th, having within a month already secured the second highest box office haul of the franchise so far – sure to increase exponentially as DVD sales are added to the tally – it’s not difficult to see how the phrase “cruise control” could take on a whole new significance. If the box office success of Ghost Protocol is hardly surprising, what is exciting about the film is the almost exclusively positive reception it has received.

Responding to Brad Bird’s total cinema approach and Cruise’s dogged determination and impressive work ethic, Rotten Tomatoes posted a score of 93 per cent fresh on the tomato meter, virtually unheard of for an action movie. The review aggregate site said: “Stylish, fast-paced, and loaded with gripping set pieces, the fourth Mission: Impossible is big-budget popcorn entertainment that really works.” If the success of the series initially seemed to some improbable, that’s okay. Cruise is more interested in the impossible. So “improbable” or “unlikely” is a walk in the park.

In a recent feature on the actor, Empire magazine tried to pin down what it is that keeps Tom Cruise so passionate about what he does. His ability to evoke empathy from an audience is uncanny and is likely a part of what makes him such a popular presence in Hollywood, both in front of and behind the camera. In an interview with new co-star Paula Patton on working with Cruise, it’s clear that what drives Cruise to keep pushing himself for new challenges is also what encourages his colleagues to go the extra mile with him.

“He’s very compassionate; he can read a room and see who in the room needs something,” says Patton. “Because of that, working with him inspires you. You can be feeling lazy and then you look at him and are like ‘Why are you being lazy? Look at what Tom Cruise is doing! He’s on his second workout of the day and he’s got more money than God!” It is this passion for what he does that fuels the success of the Impossible franchise and has audiences coming back for more.

Tom Cruise has charisma pouring out of him; no-one denies his star quality. After all, nobody does what Tom Cruise does quite like Tom Cruise. However, you might be forgiven for not always taking him seriously. But you’d be foolish to underestimate the man. As Empire affirms, with their no-nonsense approach, “There are idiots who say Tom Cruise can’t act. The world’s best directors disagree. As do audiences: his movies have taken more than $7 billion at the box office.”

So when Cruise insisted that a director with no previous experience in live action take the helm of one of Hollywood’s biggest franchises, the bigwigs at Paramount pictures were in no position to argue.

For each new instalment of the popular spy series Cruise has insisted there be a new director with new ideas, with something different and exciting to bring to the party. In the first of the series, Brian DePalma’s slick and sophisticated suspense thriller gave us a traditional spy game with a whole host of iconic set pieces that would set the film apart from genre competitors. The first film had a tone and energy that John Woo would build on in the sequel, taking the series in an exciting new direction, leaving an indelible mark on the franchise in his own inimitable style, fusing beautifully choreographed stunts with an atmospheric soundtrack and stylised visuals. In the third film, fresh from the success of his hugely popular TV series LOST, director J.J. Abrams shook things up with an altogether more visceral and hyper-realistic take on the action.

In Ghost Protocol Brad Bird takes us right back to basics, with a traditional spy thriller which has wit enough to revel in the popular tricks of a tried and tested formula, keeping the dialogue light but sincere and allowing Cruise’s mind-boggling stunts — including scaling the outside of the world tallest building in Dubai (which the actor performed himself) — to steal the show.

From a breathtaking sequence which sees Cruise scale the Burj Khalifa and an exhilarating chase through a desert sandstorm, Ghost Protocol has everything you might expect from a spy movie at the top of its game, as well as a few things you definitely wouldn’t expect. Cruise set out to bring us the best of the Mission Impossible series so far. By the prodigious talent of director Brad Bird, whose mission it appears to have been to take the “Impossible” to heart, we have an action movie that is 100 per cent pure, unadulterated entertainment. All in all, that’s Mission accomplished I’d say.

Ronan Wright blogs about films from Belfast at Filmplicity.

Ronan Wright is a graduate in Film Studies from The Queen’s University of Belfast. As well as contributing to MercatorNet as a film critic since March 2011 he has run Filmplicity, a Belfast-based film...