You’re going to want to spring for IMAX tickets to “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol.” If Tom Cruise is willing to hang off the walls of the tallest building in the world, where do you get off going cheap?
“Ghost Protocol” is the most action-packed, most jokey and self-aware, most James Bond-ish of all the Cruise “Mission” films.
Animation veteran Brad “The Incredibles” Bird creates a “Here’s what I can do with love actors” highlight reel for the film. And Cruise, as Impossible Mission Force agent Ethan Hunt — sets out to save the world from yet another Russian gone mad, yet another Russian with access to nukes and his finger on the button.
An opening gambit has a slick IMF agent brought down by a lethal blonde assassin (Lea Seydoux). Paula Patton is Jane, the IMF agent who arrives — too late.
“She left him just alive enough for me to see him die.”
Jane wants revenge. But she needs Ethan H. to do that. Conveniently, she and her tech whiz pal Benji (a returning and even funnier Simon Pegg) are sent to bust Ethan out of a Russian prison.
Bird pulls out all the stops in this opening stanza-wowza, from hiding Cruise’s face (Hunt spends his nights triple-ricocheting a rubber ball off his cell walls) to the ways Hunt goes off script — comically staring down Benji on the surveillance cameras (which Benji has seized control of), releasing out block after block of fellow inmates.
That rogue Russian, played by Michael Nyqvist of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” is after launch codes as part of a mad dream of purging the human race and Planet Earth, mass extinction style. Hunt and his team must break into the Kremlin, which irks the Russians. The entire IMF is sent into mothballs — “ghost protocol.” Hunt & Co. are utterly on their own as they dash from Dubai to Mumbai in an effort to head off global thermonuclear war.
Well, on their own with lots of GADGETS, of course. There’s a magnetic levitation suit, a computerized contact lens with face-recognition software, a magic mask-making machine and a futuristic BMW, for starters.
And Jeremy Renner. The “Hurt Locker” star is an analyst sucked into the mission where he’ll have to prove his mettle with the rest.
Patton (“Precious”) makes a seriously credible butt-kicking spy bent on revenge. Pegg, whose character has to leave his computer behind and take up arms, on occasion, is comically out of his depth. However, our villain is barely sketched in and barely worth the fuss (See “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” “wimpy-villain problem”).
Renner, in essence being groomed to take a bigger role in future “Impossible” missions, is most interesting in his man-of-mystery early scenes — a guy who wonders how this or that Ethan Hunt trick comes off.
“Why would that work?” he wants to know as Hunt pulls off some wildly improbable-if-not-quite-impossible escape.
But Cruise makes us feel the stakes here. Time and again Hunt shows his mortality and hesitates — looks before leaping, never more so than when he tackles one of the film’s signature moments — the one in all the TV commercials — scaling the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, in Dubai.
The few static scenes seem more clumsy than planned moments of reflection and character development. The action beats are breathless, violent and visceral blurs. And Bird lets this go on too long, not lobbying hard enough to kill off a “Let’s wrap this up” epilogue. But “Ghost Protocol” shows Bird passing his audition for a career as a live action director, and it more than makes its bones as an argument for why Tom Cruise should continue in this role as long as his knees and his nerves hold up.
MPAA Rating:PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence
Cast: Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Michael Nyqvist
Credits: Directed by Brad Bird, written by Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec. A Paramount Pictures release. Running time: 2:10