Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol movie poster

Mission:Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol poster
No number.

I thought there were two separate Tom Cruise movies at first – the Mission:Impossible sequel and Ghost Protocol, because there are now so many sequels in the franchise that they’ve started to dispense with the numbering for fear of putting people off.

The franchise is showing signs of becoming long in the tooth, but Ghost Protocol is still the best of the sequels. Director Brad Bird (yes, he of The Iron Giant and Pixar fame) put a stop to trying to be a James Bond wannabe and delivered a fast and frenetic action flick that doesn’t take the super agent/secret spy thing too seriously.

The premise: a misanthropic idealist nutter Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) thinks that blowing up the entire world with the stockpiles of nuclear weapons accumulated by the Americans and Russians will rid the Earth of the scourge of humanity, allowing the planet to start anew. (Nevermind that the radioactive half-life will basically make the planet uninhabitable for thousands, if not millions of years.)

Meanwhile an IMF team are attempting to track down and identify a mysterious terrorist codenamed “Cobalt”. After the assassination of one of their agents, they extract Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) from a Russian jail to help. He leads them in an audacious raid on the Kremlin for information, but things go awry and the good guys are implicated in a simultaneous terrorist attack on the building by Hendricks, which causes the Russians to assume that the Americans have declared war and forcing the United States government to put the eponymous Ghost Protocol into effect, disavowing any knowledge of the IMF and cutting off support.

I found it strange that the scriptwriters found it necessary to spell out to the audience exactly why the odds are stacked against Hunt and co. at this point, because you know there’s no chance of them failing. The ideal of an M:I story should be more about showing a situation where we gasp and think to ourselves “how the hell are they going to get out of this?!” instead of being told right from the beginning “it’s impossible, but if you fail the world will end OMFGBBQ!” It takes all tension out of the overarching plot, and relies purely on the visceral thrills to deliver.

Speaking of thrills, there wasn’t much “Impossible” in the movie – all of the gadgets and gizmos showcased are pretty old hat (or at least would be if you stay abreast of science and technology news like me):

  • Microsoft Surface
  • Gecko Gloves
  • Hi-res 3D screens with eye tracking
  • Passenger avoidance HUD
  • etc.

All of these have been talked about in scientific journals and technology news sites for a while now, so I found myself feeling very “meh” rather than amazed about the whole thing.

But those criticisms aside, the movie feels “comfortable”. It could very well be the rehashing of the old Cold War trope of Russians vs. Americans (has the Middle-East-as-bad-guy finally fallen out of favour?) and the spectre of nuclear war, bringing the M:I back to the era where it originated from. And at the end of the day that’s the point of a franchise, isn’t it?

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