There is a telling moment in Brad Bird’s version of Tom Cruise’s version of Bruce Geller’s Mission: Impossible when our protagonist, Cruise’s IMF agent Ethan Hunt, is dangling outside the world’s tallest building in Dubai by the fingertips of some seriously souped-up gloves when he and we notice something ominous in the reflection of the spotless glass. It is a gargantuan dust storm bearing down on the city. Except – and here’s the telling moment – the dust storm won’t factor into Hunt’s scaling of the building. No, the approaching dust storm is actually setting up a second action sequence to be featured a little later. The critical point, though, is that Hunt’s scaling of the Burj Khalifa already has so much derring-do they decide to save a gargantuan dust storm for later.
There is a second telling moment that happens well before this first telling moment. This is when in the midst of breaking into the Kremlin in an effort to locate information that will reveal the identity of the person responsible for the killing of a fellow IMF agent, the obligatory technical wizard Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) offers his condolences in regards to the unfortunate death of Ethan’s wife. You remember his wife, Julia (Michelle Monaghan), from the third film, the J.J. Abrams version. Turns out she was killed and Ethan possibly offed a few people that he wasn’t supposed to in the name of revenge which is why he’s wasting away in a Moscow prison when Benji and Jane Carter (Paula Patton) bust him out at the beginning. The critical point, though, is that crucial plot information is relayed in the midst of a BREAK-IN AT THE KREMLIN.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, the fourth feature in the Cruised-up series that began back in 1996, pays just as much – if not more – devotion to detail for its suspenseful set pieces than to the precise particulars of its plot. And in the realm of straight-up action flicks, this is a very, very good thing.
Cobalt, it turns out, is Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist), a nefarious Russian looking to get his hands on some nuclear launch codes to initiate an all-out global war. The Russians, see, have decided the Kremlin break-in was an undeclared act of war by America which causes the U.S. to initiate Ghost Protocol, which “disbands” the IMF but doesn’t, you know, disband it so that Ethan, Benji, Jane and Brandt (Jeremy Renner), a mere IMF analyst (or is he?), can go and get those launch codes before Hendricks.
That single paragraph, however, spends as much on the time on the story as the movie does because director Brad Bird and his writers Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec would prefer to simply hurtle us from one sticky situation to the next with foot firmly on accelerator. It’s a tricky balancing act, shoe-horning your whole story onto a line as thin as the one Tom Cruise puts to good use in a tough spot by employing its services via his belt (this, kids of America, is why you should always wear a belt), and more often than not MI:4 succeeds.
Sure, the villain is so bland and ultimately forgettable that this writer had to look up his background info for the purposes of this review and, like many films of its genre, the big third act showdown almost feels like a letdown, especially when compared to the extended passage in Dubai, opting for the classic duo of mano-a-mano duels happening simultaneously (although points should be rewarded to the filmmakers for the inventive way in which Ethan goes about attaining just what he needs right there at the end) and the enticing possibility that our hero of all four films might just have colder heart than we ever could have expected is at the last second……
But let’s not give it all away. And let’s not quibble. It’s a ripping good yarn with the coolest pair of cinematic gloves you’ll ever see and the only car chase primarily viewed via an “iPhone” at a movie this year. It aims to entertain, not resonate. It is, shall we say, a wine and cheese Bourne Supremacy.