Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) Review

Expectations are everything when it comes to being disappointed with a film, but that doesn’t necessarily make the film a bad one. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is one of those movies that can’t live up to its expectations – at least not completely. Nevertheless, it’s an undeniably competent offering; it just doesn’t offer enough of what audiences want from this type of movie and comes off a bit too much like television.

IMF agents Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and teammates Benji (Simon Pegg) and Jane (Paula Patton) are all disavowed and the agency is shut down when a bomb blows up the Kremlin directly after a botched IMF operation. Now hunted as a very public enemy of Russia, Ethan and his team have one last chance to clear their names – find the real culprit, discover his motives and stop his actions. They discover that the enemy is nuclear war-obsessed Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) who believes peace can only be achieved if the world’s population shares the consequences of annihilation equally. Ethan adds newcomer data analyst Brandt (Jeremy Renner) to the team and together they travel to far off places like Dubai and India to intercept Hendricks before he destroys the world.

The Mission: Impossible films in recent history have all maintained a minimum threshold for seriousness and over-the-top action. Ghost Protocol observes half of those limits. The action is very good. The stunts are appropriately death-defying. The fisticuffs are choreographed to be exciting. There are even a few innovative and clever sequences, like when a character has to get to the bottom of a parking structure in a jiffy. The seriousness, however, is lacking. While comic relief is always nice to have once in a while, too much of it can spoil the mood for action movies. Regrettably, that’s what happens here. There are too many reaction shots and throwaway one-liners right after a brush with death. If it isn’t direct comedy, it’s indirect with characters barking dialogue during fight sequences or undergoing a verification process while dodging oncoming obstacles. Ghost Protocol is probably the most “fun” of the recent Mission: Impossible films, but the tradeoff is that audiences will rarely fear for any of the characters’ lives.

Overall, Ghost Protocol looks great. The locations are exotic enough to feel broad and the screen comes alive with a nice pastiche of culture. Audiences will also get a kick out of the technology employed in the film. One of the highlights is when a fake wall has to be constructed and inched down a corridor to bypass a guard. It would be a shame to spoil the method here, so suffice to say that audiences will be genuinely surprised, which is rare in film. Finally, the actors also fit their respective roles well. Patton offers the right amount of sex appeal for a field agent. Pegg is reliably dorky, but perhaps overdoes it at times. Renner, despite having a limited role, manages a bit of depth and adds a nice bend to his character arc. Of course, Tom Cruise carries the film with ease, though the role seems to be more physically challenging than anything else this time around. Still, he looks fantastic for his age, but he may want to start transitioning to less physical roles in the near future.

For everything the film does right, there are some bad choices that detract from the overall experience. First and foremost, the intro credits basically act as a trailer for the entire film, sneaking glimpses at future scenes in between cast and crew names. It may be innovative, but how can audiences feel suspense later when they know a character has to survive a threatening situation to appear in a later scene? Secondly, the villain Hendricks is almost non-existent throughout the entire film. Intellectually, it’s understood he’s a threat, but there’s no emotional fear of him. Finally, the writers tried to cram too much into the script. Jane has a score to settle with another character. Meanwhile, Brandt has a deep seated secret that could affect his relationship with the IMF team. The end of Ethan’s marriage from the previous film also comes into play. None of these subplots are really necessary to tell this story and only succeed in creating an overly long movie.

Ultimately, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol feels like an extremely high budget season of television compressed into a two-hour film. In that context, it’s easy to understand why inconsequential characters are developed so much – that’s their “episode” within the film. Ghost Protocol isn’t a bad film; it just tries to do too many things and misjudges its audience. Nevertheless, it will definitely provide the fix for explosions, fights, sexy women and cool gadgets to tide audiences over until next summer.