This retrospective on the Mission: Impossible film series starts with the fourth installment. A strange choice you may think, but Ghost Protocol is a far better representation of the franchise’s current form than any of the first three entries.
After taking a five-year break following the somewhat disappointing box office results of Mission: Impossible III, this fourth installment gave the franchise a whole new lease of life and arguably acts as a soft reboot. Although there are a few nods to previous films sprinkled in, Ghost Protocol sees the formation of a new IMF team and assumes very little prior knowledge of the franchise.
Indeed, the film’s opening action sequence feels tailor made for newcomers to the series, quickly establishing the individual character traits of Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), as well as his new associates Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Jane Carter (Paula Patton). A fresh-faced Jeremy Renner joins the action slightly later, but makes up for lost time with an engaging performance packing a few surprising moments.
Ghost Protocol brought with it not only a new cast, but also a brand new focus on death-defying stunts. Seven years later, the jaw-dropping sequence set outside the Burj Khalifa is just as extraordinary as it ever was, arguably worth the price of admission all on its own. Seemingly not satisfied with just the one spectacle, director Brad Bird delivers a number of other set pieces that range from a dramatic chase through a sandstorm to a quietly brilliant stealth scene set in the Kremlin.
Despite high stakes throughout, the film takes moments of brevity to pay respect to the campier roots of the series. It finds inventive ways to feature the franchise trademarks of ridiculous fictional spy technology and, of course, face masks in abundance.
Hopping primarily between Russia, Dubai and India, Bird does a phenomenal job at utilising the assets of all three distinct locations, with help from cinematographer Robert Elswit. Beautiful landscape shots are frequent and the action sequences are captured with similar expertise. Shaky cam is a welcome absence in favour of satisfying and superbly choreographed set pieces which are consistently entertaining throughout.
The plot revolving around a bizarre plan to trigger a nuclear war sometimes takes a back seat to the action, but has just enough substance to keep audiences engaged in its ludicrously high stakes.
Had it not been for Ghost Protocol, it seems unlikely that the Mission: Impossible series would still be going strong a full twenty-two years after the original film debuted. For his first foray into live-action, Brad Bird was tasked with modernising an ailing franchise while still staying true to its humble origins. Needless to say, mission accomplished.