At the movies: *Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol*

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol 
Mystery/Suspense, Action/Adventure (2011), rated PG-13
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg
Directed By: Brad Bird
Written By: Josh Applebaum, André Nemec

Synopsis, via RottenTomatoes.com:

This is not just another mission. The IMF is shut down when it’s implicated in a global terrorist bombing plot. Ghost Protocol is initiated and Ethan Hunt and his rogue new team must go undercover to clear their organization’s name. No help, no contact, off the grid. You have never seen a mission grittier and more intense than this. — (C) Paramount

When you’re part of a super-secret government mission force to begin with, how secret do you become when the government cuts you loose? You don’t officially exist, and if you continue carrying out your mission, it’s under a “ghost protocol”–official rules of operation for those who don’t officially exist that go well beyond “plausible deniability.”

(There’s my explanation of the title of the newest film in the Mission Impossible series, extrapolated from the actual explanation one character gives to another about halfway in.)

This isn’t a movie franchise I’ve kept up with; I don’t think I’ve seen any of them since the first one, and I don’t remember much about it except for all the masks. But in any case, the trailers for this one looked intriguing and Tall Paul and I are Simon Pegg fans, so we decided to accept this mission.

Ghost Protocol is the first live-action movie directed by Brad Bird, best known for his work in animation (including Pixar’s The Incredibles and Ratatouille), and it’s highly entertaining without being cartoonish or overly convoluted–the pace is good, there are some riveting action scenes, the plot isn’t confusing for confusion’s sake, and the masks are not overused.

I tend to appreciate non-superhero action movies where the hero ends up looking very beat-up by the end (Die Hard/Bruce Willis style), and I especially appreciated seeing that happen with a hero as well-known for his good looks as Tom Cruise–turns out he does bloodied-and-grubby pretty well.

However, I think what entertained me most here were the elements that reminded me of other J. J. Abrams projects (he directed the previous MI film and is a producer here). There’s a Lost connection: it was lovely to see Josh Holloway (speaking of the good-looking–I miss you, Sawyer!), but his part was too small. Simon Pegg is the obvious Star Trek link, and a reminder that the next movie in that series needs more Scotty. It was the Alias references that I especially enjoyed, though. That spy series definitely shares some DNA with MI–the gadgets, the disguises, the foreign intrigue–but for me, what stood out were the ways in which Paula Patton’s Jane sometimes channeled Jennifer Garner’s Sydney Bristow at her butt-kicking best; there’s even a slight physical resemblance. (Come to think of it, I kind of miss Syd, too.)

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol doesn’t do the impossible, but it did accomplish something remarkable–it engaged and entertained me far more than I expected it to.

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