Brad Bird has made a name for himself directing fantastic animated family films such as RATATOUILLE and THE INCREDIBLES- so to make a leap from emotionally resonate animated family film to high octane action that’s not tailored towards kids seemed to be risky. The extra challenge is to direct a sequel to another well received sequel in a franchise with a pretty good track record. I don’t want to be the person that says I never had a doubt, but after watching MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL I can’t think of a single good reason I would have ever had a doubt that Bird could direct a great adult oriented action film. MI4 isn’t just the best MISSION IMPOSSIBLE movie in the franchise- it’s one of the best action movies of the year.
The short synopsis of MI4 is that Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is given a team of IMF agents that include Jane (Paula Patton) and Benji (Simon Pegg) to retrieve nuclear launch codes before a crazy extremist can intercept them and initiate global nuclear war. Expanding a little further, once a few things go wrong the team adds another member Brandt (Jeremy Renner) who is an analyst that might have a few secrets he’s hiding. Together they are forced to try and stop the nuclear threat after they have all been disavowed with no outside assistance.
The tension throughout MI4 is excellent throughout. The action is loud and fast paced, but the added complications of situations that never go according to plan and factors that are constantly changing during the action sequences left me breathless. One second you are taking a sigh of relief that the team has escaped the situation they are in and then you are jolted by an unexpected gunshot, explosion or another extremely loud outside force. Bird keeps the action moving and ensures that the brief moments there are to catch your breath are just as tense as the action sequences themselves.
For an action movie the performances are good enough but there isn’t anything here that blew me away in terms of acting in fact there are some that are a little forced and unconvincing at times. Cruise, Renner, Patton and Pegg have some really great chemistry though so with them at the center of attention the film succeeds and overcomes any of the weaker elements.
Given how high the stakes are for the characters and the threat of either death by the foes they are trying to thwart or nuclear war itself, being labeled terrorists by their own country if they are caught and being thrown endless curveballs through each mission, the film is surprisingly funny. One would wonder how you can find so much time to make wisecracks when you are on the verge of nuclear war, but the occasional joke here and there were quite refreshing.
Bird has been able to bring a striking visual style to his movies and moving to live action offered an extra layer of difficulty given the effects have to blend in realistically with actors in the real world. I can’t say that all of the effects are seamless but the film is still extremely impressive in the effects department even if some of the more heavy CGI sequences had hints of being a bit cartoonish. The action during each effects sequence is so exciting and visceral it was pretty hard to even take notice to rather or not the CGI was up to par, but the effects work is still top notch and do nothing bit add to the experience.
Bird has to be commended for putting together a film that has some extremely well shot, staged and choreographed scenes of action. Especially on the IMAX screen the sequences are quite thrilling- you can nearly feel each punch, get rocked by every explosion and jump at every unexpected crash or bullet collision. On a pure visceral level the film is an exercise in endurance with all the hard hitting impact moments from car crashes, explosions and gunshots. The sound design and effects are just as impressive as the CGI and complement each other perfectly.
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL is exciting, explosive and a ton of fun even if it is just a little too long. The film is edited together in a way that makes the time go by relatively quickly, but given the unrelenting nature of the tension I can’t help but feel like a little trimming may have made the film even better. There are a few emotionally charged moments that are not terrible done, they just feel a little forced and a few moments that feel a little drawn out. Given the quality of the film and its immensely high entertainment value, length complaints are little more than nitpicks. The rest of MI4 movies like a freight train and with all the visceral thrills if the film has done its job right you will, like me, feel like you’ve been hit by a freight train- but in the best possible way.