At a time when the fourth movie in a franchise is either the reboot of the series or a luckless, last-ditch attempt to flog a dead horse, the Mission Impossible franchise was actually finding it’s feet. The first film was a great spy thriller, the second a mindless action movie and the third a mix of the two. Ghost Protocol decides to stick with what worked and improve further on the elements that worked best.
To that end we get Tom Cruise back as a more focused, “real” and noticeably older Ethan Hunt who is beginning to sigh when given a task rather than just jump straight in regardless. Simon Pegg returns as the one of the best additions from the third movie, this time with a much larger and more influential contribution and the action sequences, as they rightly should, have gotten much bigger.
There is only one central set-piece in the movie. The climb up one of the world’s largest buildings in Dubai. It is a breathtaking and thrilling stunt and even manages to find time to add a clear vein of humour in amongst the peril. This is one of the smaller elements within a larger mission, that includes some nervous exchanges between hero and villain, good gadget use, kick-ass hand-to-hand fighting and a creative chase through a sandstorm. The whole sequence is the best part of the film and also contender for one of the best parts of the franchise.
It helps that Ghost Protocol becomes less about Ethan Hunt and more about the team. The whole team is important here and the finale relies on everyone completing their part of the mission successfully, not just Tom Cruise being able to defeat the villain.
This means that the support has to be good as well and unlike the third in the series, the IMF team in Ghost Protocol are actually interesting, well-developed characters. Paula Patton gets her own sub-plot involving revenge and flexes her femme fatale/ass-kicking skills. Jeremy Renner is the better addition to the cast though. He offers more here than you would expect, being the “extra” action hero and adding a fantastic comedy element that you wouldn’t usually attribute to him. The scenes involving Renner and Pegg are some of the best and it makes for by far the funniest Mission Impossible in the series.
The final piece that is necessary for the movie to work is a decent story and it has some very good elements. It’s still nowhere near the double-crossing, thriller based tale at the centre of the first movie but there is plenty to enjoy here, with sub-plots for each character building to something bigger.
It’s a shame that the villain doesn’t quite live up to standard set in the previous adventure. Michael Nyqvist is a capable actor but has so little to do here than stare menacingly. He gets to flex his muscles in a scuffle with Hunt at the end but this feels like it stretches credibility slightly too far considering the athletic and skill difference we have been led to believe.
When I reviewed this film originally, I struggled with the finale and felt like it let the movie down. It’s amazing what a difference some time and a different environment can make. I enjoyed Ghost Protocol much more the second time around and it sits firmly in second place in the franchise, comfortable with what it is doing and what kind of film it is trying to deliver.
Overall, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is a great fourth movie in the franchise. It doesn’t try to do anything too different which for once is actually a good thing. The best characters return, joined by welcome and diverse additions, the action sequences are great and story focuses much more the team rather than just Cruise. It’s just a shame that the villain doesn’t quite match the team he is up against.
Rating – 4.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)