Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (PG-13, Paramount)

 

film migp_75The movie has all the right ingredients to be a thrilling, intense, fun-filled spy adventure, but still somehow left me feeling like I hadn’t actually watched anything.

 

film migp_500

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) just can’t catch a break. After years of covertly saving the world from one impending disaster or another, he’s now got a whole new challenge on his hands: convincing the international spy community that his beloved Impossible Mission Force hasn’t gone rogue.

A bomb destroys most of the Kremlin after Hunt’s team has to abort a mission there that’s gone awry. Since the IMF is the most likely culprit to those in the know, the president shuts down the secretive spy organization and disavows their actions. Hunt and his small crew have to clear their names. But, to do that, they have to chase down a nuke and the lunatic who stole it before he sets off WWIII.

Now, here’s the part that I hate. It’s the part where I have to explain how Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (from here on known as MIGP) has all the right ingredients to be a thrilling, intense, fun-filled spy adventure, but still somehow left me feeling like I hadn’t actually watched anything. And I saw it inIMAX, people!

I suppose I’ll start by going over all the things director Brad Bird (most recently known for his work at Pixar, here making his live action debut) seemingly did right. First off, the film looks amazing. We’re treated to gorgeous Russian architecture, lush Indian vistas, and the exotic, glittering skyline of Dubai. We see grimy foreign prisons, sandy souks, and lavish galas that are likely a cinematographer’s wet dream to shoot.

The story manages to offer up some nice twists, nod to past events in the long-running series, and avoid some typical moves of films like this (nice surprise there). It’s also complicated enough that you have to pay attention without veering into convoluted-story-alert territory. Screenwriters Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec even found ways to inject some levity into the proceedings without it feeling forced.

Action sequences in modern films may not be easy to stage, but any movie worth the price of a ticket will make it look effortless in all the right places, and MIGP was no different. There’s an epic chase through a blinding sandstorm, a riotous prison break, and a mighty creative scene in a very modern parking garage that help fill the screen with almost nonstop action. Sure, some unrealistic stuff happens (Hunt gets a wee bit blown up by that Kremlin explosion; he comes out a bit dirty but doesn’t even lose so much as his hearing), but not to the extent that it stops you dead in your tracks.

There are lots of pretty people up on the screen and they all do solid work throughout the film. While it’s true that Hunt, Jane (Paula Patton), Benji (Simon Pegg), and Brandt (Jeremy Renner) aren’t exactly fully realized individuals, they don’t need to be. Highly trained (and dangerous) government operatives are the closest we can get to having actual superheroes among us. That’s how we usually see them on screen, and that’s fine.

So, what went wrong? I think it’s got something to do with the fact that I never felt that any of the good guys were in real danger. They came up against some mean scrapes and tough opponents, but there was never a heart-stopping moment where I thought someone in Hunt’s corner wasn’t going to make it. Films like MIGP without tense times like that can leave you feeling a bit cold afterward.

I don’t think I was alone, either. During the screening there were precious few of the ooohs, ahhs, and ohmygods that usually accompany action-laden stunt spectaculars. We need to be invested in the safety of the characters or the movie just sort of washes over us. I can’t pinpoint what should have been added to give the audience that feeling, but I do think it’s correct to say that Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol cut itself off from us by playing it a bit too safe. | Adrienne Jones

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