Monday, August 6, 2018


In 2006, audiences thought they had seen the last of Ethan Hunt, but little did they know that just five years later a new mission would begin that would change this franchise forever.  Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol was a shot in the arm for this seemingly dead franchise, and much like with Fast & Furious, this fourth installment has brought with it a new found life and a series of fantastic sequels.
It’s evident from the beginning that these movies are shifting to a more action oriented focus, which is a much bigger draw for general audiences, as action films, even subpar ones, tend to do better than heist films.  The Mission: Impossible series has definitely carved out a much needed space in this genre, and Tom Cruise continues to excel in the role of Ethan Hunt.  Director Brad Bird breathes new life into this franchise, which goes to show that just because a director is known for mostly doing animated films (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille) doesn’t mean he can’t also excel at live action, and he does that in spades.

On a side note, Brad Bird also managed to sneak in a couple A113 references.  For those unaware, A113 is an inside joke created by alumni of the California Institute of the Arts, referring to the classroom used by graphic design and character animation students including John Lasseter, Tim Burton and Brad Bird.  It has appeared in many Disney films, including every Pixar film, and it was fantastic to see it/hear it in this one.  The A113 reference pops up in two spots (that I noticed), once spoken by Ethan as a code ("Rendezvous Alpha 1-1-3") and then shown on Hanaway’s ring (as seen below).

Ghost Protocol starts off in a very familiar way, with Ethan being framed for something he didn’t do.  This is a classic trope for these films, but unlike the others, this isn’t a corrupt higher up putting the blame on Ethan.  Still, he is blamed for a terrorist attack on the Kremlin, resulting in the entire IMF agency being disavowed by the U.S. government. Forced to go "off the grid" -- left without resources or backup -- Hunt must somehow clear the agency's name and prevent another attack. Complicating matters even more, Ethan must undertake the impossible mission with a group of fellow IMF fugitives whose actual motives are suspect.  This entire scenario allows the film to move in a different direction, one that pushes this franchise into being one of the best action franchises of all time.

The film starts off with an IMF agent (whose name we learn is Hanaway, and who is played by Josh Holloway) who, while on mission, is taken out by an assassin.  This took me off guard as I was expecting him to be part of this film.  I loved him in Lost and Colony, so when I saw him, I just assumed he’d be a member of Ethan’s new team.  But instead, they pulled an M:I-3 and killed off the actor I knew right at the beginning.  And even though I was shocked and a little bummed, this sequence set the tone and pace for the rest of the film.

We then move on to Ethan and his new team, as they are in the midst of breaking Ethan out of prison.  Obviously a whole lot has gone down since the last time we visited these characters.  Ethan has his long hair again, but with a completely different attitude now (which is good, as the last time his hair was long was in the worst film in the franchise).  They’re very vague about what happened in between this and the previous film, at least at first.  Ethan’s story had seemingly ended.  He and Julia were happy and heading off to their honeymoon.  So what happened?  Well, Ethan is in prison and we are told Julia is dead, but there’s much more to the story than that.   Once Ethan is retrieved from his cell, the film really takes off.  We get one of my favorite heists in the entire franchise with the hallway hologram scene.  It’s such a cool piece of tech, and seems like it could be real.  It even has a fault, which is shown in the movie, proving that technology isn’t always perfect.

Simon Pegg returns as Benji, but this time he’s actually a field agent, allowing him to be a bigger part of the movie, and they are joined by newcomer Jane, played by Paula Patton.  It’s great to see Pegg back, as I loved his small role in M:I-3, but it saddened me that Ving Rhames wasn’t the go-to tech guy on Ethan’s team as he has been for the previous three films.  However, he does pop up at the end for a quick scene, so at least he did make an appearance.  Then we have Paula Patton, who is absolutely wonderful in this film.  She’s a welcome addition to the team, and I love that there is zero sexual tension between them, not even a hint.  We learn later on that Jane was Hanaway’s handler, and she takes it pretty hard, especially when faced with Hanaway’s killer.  You can see the anger in her, it’s palpable, and Patton plays it perfectly. 

We eventually meet Jeremy Renner’s character, intelligence analyst William Brandt, who travels with Ethan’s team to Dubai to stop the sale of the nuclear launch codes taken from Hanaway at the beginning of the film.  Renner is a badass, whether it’s in the Marvel films, The Bourne Legacy, or here.  He is a true action star and it’s a shame he doesn’t get the chance to headline more things.  Even in the 2018 comedy Tag, he showed off some action skills.  He is a great fit for this team, and building a strong team is the way to go.  We saw three films of Ethan doing his thing, now it’s time to see Ethan and his team working together to get the job done.  And as you see in this film, Ethan would die without his team.

This is a great action film, and the perfect start to this new set of Mission: Impossible films.  It surpasses the previous ones in every way and sets up something interesting at the end for the next one.  And don’t worry folks…Tom Cruise does even crazier stunts in the next two films.

The Merc’s Score: 9/10

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